So it’s about time I did another one of these… now with 42% less smarm.
The show: Birdy the Mighty: Decode (2008 – ’09)
How to watch it: The program is out of print on home video, so you’ll need to look up a second-hand copy for purchase. Here’s an example listing, but you’ll obviously want to try and find it for much cheaper. As for streaming, it is not available anywhere outside of sub-only videos on this decrepit YouTube channel, but I’m not even sure if it’s legal.
What’s it about? Tsutomu Senkawa is a high-school student who apparently explores abandoned buildings in his spare time. Birdy Cephon Altirra (seen in the enclosed picture) is a professional bounty hunter working for the Galactic Federation. Together, they… well, it’s complicated. Birdy’s doing her thing one night and Tsutomu accidentally wanders into her destructive path. To make a long story short, he got pretty much killed, but was assimilated into Birdy’s body, and now they both work together to stop an biological weapon called the Ryunka from wiping out Earth as they know it.
The meat of it: From the director of The Vision of Escaflowne and the studio behind… well, tons of great shows from the last decade (take your pick) comes this anime. It’s science fiction with several tantalizing twists. For one thing, the action rarely ever leaves Earth, only going to Birdy’s home planet of Oriotera for a handful of episodes. We get to see space aliens from many different races working together to further evil, and Birdy must stop them! But not always.
As for what I’m sure you’re now thinking of… yes, Tsutomu does still go to school regularly, even if whatever Birdy’s doing might be more important. The two are not usually at war with themself in the same body, but various complications arise from such an interesting predicament. And to make matters worse, Birdy herself as another alternate identity as Shion Arita, a space-themed idol character who is gladly accepted by the local populace, though they have no idea she’s actually from somewhere else. Having to juggle these two personas alongside Tsutomu might seem like the high-concept plot of a bad Disney Channel sitcom, but trust me, it makes for good drama… and occasionally humor.
The show is divided into two seasons. In the first, the Ryunka is up for grabs and some dude named Shyamalan wants to take advantage of it as a means of “cleansing” the Earth. The second pivots from the premise of the death weapon and focuses more on a few figures from Birdy’s past. It’s pretty dark, baroque, and probably won’t be as appealing to most people (not to mention, watch out for the off-model animation), but I like it all the same. Now, what really makes the show work in my eyes is the composition. I find myself drawn to shows with episodic plots because they’re easier to digest on the whole, but a show that’s only serialized stands to lose my attention after a while. Basically, me likes variety, which this show provides. For season one, the Ryunka gets heavily involved with one of Tsutomu’s classmates, and her inability to understand what’s going on, as well as her own ability to completely fuck up the planet, makes for some truly fantastic scenes. The tension piles on top of itself like a nice sandwich; Birdy tries her hardest to prevent the destruction, Tsutomu himself can’t bear to imagine the consequences of what he did (spoiler alert), and the end of the first season provides for an action set-piece that is almost outrageous in scope, but also hauntingly beautiful when it climaxes.
There are also some nice short-form pieces. One multi-episode arc in the first season involves a terrorist plot on Oriotera… we meet Birdy’s friends and co-workers, and then we go straight into the dark, seedy underbelly of their society. There’s a presumably Jon Lovitz-approved bar brawl with aliens falling an entire floor into parlor tables; great choreography there on the whole, and that’s before you see one get their arms ripped off. And then we meet the actual terrorists. While their means and ways aren’t horrible, it’s all positioned in a way that provides for great action. There’s another one-off story involving a cursed marionette (think this show’s version of robots) that just wants to be loved… it loves back, and hard. It provides for a wonderfully creepy tale. I actually rewatched it in preparation for publishing this review.
Sadly, being effectively owned (though the studio as) lock, stock, and barrel by Aniplex means you probably won’t be able to buy this show legally for a long time, if not ever. But should you be able to seek it out through legal means (or just pirate it… I’m slightly more accepting in this instance), you’ll be rewarded with an excellent show.
This show is for… those who like their sci-fi cerebral and free of fanservice. Well, almost.
What it means to me: Well, maybe I would come down on this a little bit on the show if it weren’t OOP, but it’s at least a hidden gem of a show I think more people should watch.