What They Say
Birdy is a jaw-dropping, pin-up sensation with a secret. Under the cover of darkness, this dream girl becomes a bad guy’s worst nightmare. Birdy dons her crime-fighting costume and hits the street as a lethal, interstellar federation agent charged with nailing the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy. Her latest case involves a gang of extraterrestrial terrorists and a stolen space weapon that could nuke every living thing on Earth. Birdy’s got the moves to stop them dead in their tracks, but there’s one big problem: she’s got a nasty habit of going berserk, and somebody always gets hurt. Yeah, Birdy may be dreamy, but she’s also the only thing more dangerous than the bad guys.
This series contains a bilingual presentation with the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps and an English 5.1 adaptation encoded at 448kbps. The stereo track is pretty good overall with a fair bit of directionality and impact to be had from it in the action scenes and some nicely placed dialogue elsewhere that gives it a decent life. The action and music is what ramps things up, but it’s far more noticeable in the 5.1 mix where a bit more bass is applied to give it more oomph. Both tracks convey the material well, though I find more appeal in the Japanese track since it was designed to be in stereo. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this first season of this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The first season ran for thirteen episodes and is spread across two discs here with seven on the first and six on the second. A-1 Pictures has a great visual design for this series and the transfer here captures it very well. The colors have a softer palette to them overall but when it shifts into something vibrant, usually science fiction oriented, it stands out beautifully. The animation has a really good feel to it with some very smooth action scenes and a generally problem free look. Some of the darker scenes at night may have a bit of noise to it but even that’s fairly muted overall with the way the show looks overall.
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is done with standard FUNimation packaging where it has a thin cardboard slipcover to hold two clear slim keepcases inside. The front of the slipcover has Birdy in her basic uniform stretching her arms over her head, which means her body is quite shapely (and not quite human!) as she stands there with a big smile on her face. It may not be entirely anatomically correct, but it looks good and sets up the kind of sexuality she does exude. Placing it on a white background only adds to the attention her form gets while the logo is kept along the lower left side and done on its side as well. The back of the slipcover is done sideways with the logo along the top and two strips showing off various widescreen style shots from the show. The summary doesn’t go into too much detail but sets the tone well as it’s placed against a mild action pose of Birdy. The technical information is placed along the bottom of it but it’s done with a greenish-gray color with white text that makes it hard to read.
Inside the slipcover, we get the two slim cases which are done with a really minimal approach, much to my dismay since the show has such great character artwork. The front covers for each of them is just the series logo with the disc number on it and that’s it. The back covers are really nice though as each of them features a full panel piece of Birdy in her suit, one of them a close-up and the other a stylized design shot with each of them using just a basic solid color behind them. On the reverse side of the cover, the left sides are given over to the episode title listing while the right side has a strip down the middle with shots from the show done through a color filter that’s different for each one.
The menus for this release are somewhat surprising with how minimal it is. The main menus are all black with just the logo in the middle which takes up a fair bit of real estate. Each disc has a different color applied to it and the navigation itself, which is minimal, is just below it. Everything about it is smooth and problem free, but for a show like this it feels far too restrained since it doesn’t set the mood of the show well. It’s easy to navigate though and the language submenus default to English with sign/song subtitles instead of reading the players’ language presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based off of the seinen manga reboot of Birdy the Mighty, which was originally a shonen property, Birdy the Mighty: Decode is a two-season (13 episodes and twelve episodes) series of which we get the first season here. Directed by one of my favorites with Kazuki Akane for A-1 Pictures and Aniplex, the series takes a rather basic storyline and wraps it up in some great looking animation and a plot that focuses more on investigation, mystery and politics with a good dose of action rather than an action monster of the week angle. It also manages to use a few creative tricks in order to make the duality of the main characters in a fun and engaging way.
The series offers up an interesting take in these thirteen episodes as we’re introduced to Birdy, nicknamed the Berserker Killer, who works for the Space Police Federation as one of its investigators. She’s a skilled and well-known investigator but her latest mission has her chasing a criminal who ends up on Earth because of an accident she’s involved with. The opening focuses on her investigation into Geega who she’s pursuing as she spends her days as a magazine model in order to make money go get the food she needs because of the amount of energy she burns. While we see how she’s adapting, we’re introduced to the human cast in high school student Tsutomu, who is a pretty good kid that’s just now living on his own since his parents are relocating for a short-term job change. His older sister, who isn’t in school, checks on him once in awhile but isn’t the continual presence you’d expect.
Tsutomu does have one quirk that we see though in that he likes to explore dead buildings, something that confounds a female student he knows named Hayamiya who looks out for him. This doesn’t go well here as they end up caught up in the investigation Birdy is engaging in and Tsutomu becomes separated and… killed. By Birdy no less. This sets up the main hook of the show in that she takes his consciousness into her body, which allows them to change places and appearance as well, while his body is repaired for the next few months. When one of them controls the body, the other can communicate with them though not through telepathy since that could bond them too closely. What’s nice is that the visual trick used is to have an inset show up next to the active person. It has an appeal with how it’s portrayed that really clicks.
Of course, Birdy and Tsutomu don’t exactly get along beautifully at first and he has to process a lot of information. Even more so when she returns to headquarters for a bit and he gets exposed to numerous animal themed aliens. That’s interesting enough in itself for the designs we get here and the world which is vaguely Earth-like, but it also gives us a setting with a lot of politics infused to it and a fair bit of history with ethnic issues and dead planets. This added element expands the way the show feels larger than it could be otherwise if they kept it to just focusing on Birdy on Earth with only the aliens that are there. And it is amusing that they mention there are quite a few aliens living on the planet which is considered a backwater of the galaxy.
While the show starts off with the main investigation, something that is wrapped in a fair bit of mystery, it adds a larger piece to it when more of the truth is revealed and a powerful weapon is involved. This puts Tsutomu in the place of having a dog in the game for what she’s doing which helps their relationship. What works really well for the show is that it spends its time doing some manner of investigation, both through external leads such as bits learned back at headquarters but also from other sources on Earth. With a focus on this side of it, such as skulking around buildings and spending time with the other side to see how they’re running their game and the creepy things that come from some of the aliens, it has a great feel. It doesn’t come across as cartoony and outlandish without any thought given. It has a more serious feeling, though humor does enter the show from time to time. This plays out more as a decent science fiction piece than something aimed at a younger audience needing more continual stimulation.
Birdy the Mighty: Decode has a great visual design to it courtesy of A-1 Pictures. While not every project they do is a winner, their work here really is firing on all cylinders. The character designs here are really striking in some ways with a more serious approach given to them, even when Birdy is in her transformed space cop mode. Her minimal outfit doesn’t seem too bad considering and there’s a lot to like with her hair design and the colors for it. The human cast is a bit predictable in some ways but they all stand out on their own. The alien cast is a bit more defined by the kind of creatures they are, which Tsutomu amusingly points out (oo, look, dog creature!), but they have some nuance to them that helps give them a good bit of detail and character. The layouts and backgrounds also feature a lot of detail, using a slightly softer look similar to the characters, which gives it a very interesting feeling. There’s a lot of detail to it when you get down to it, and a lot of character to the buildings and settings, but the Earth-based scenes have a very authentic feeling to them. When it shifts to the other worlds, it has the same kind of feeling to them which is impressive as they make it feel like a real world with creatures living and moving about it.
While I enjoyed the OVA series that came out in the 90’s, especially since it fits the mood of the market at the time, Birdy the Mighty: Decode stands leaps and bounds above it. What we have here is a far more polished and interesting show than what came before. This first season of the series introduces a lot of groundwork and helps to flesh out the characters with a bit of their backgrounds. The stronger focus is on the investigation and mission itself with a healthy dose of character interactions, from Birdy and Tsutomu themselves and the various supporting cast that come into play. Some subplots seem a bit too obvious at times but as the threads to all of them are pulled together, it works well and keeps you very entertained and wondering what trick will come next. With great visuals, fun characters and a solid pace that keeps you engaged, this is definitely a show worth spending time with.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 30th, 2010
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.