Politics, terrorism and long held grudges dominates the second and more personal season of Birdy the Mighty: Decode.
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. Contains episodes 14-26.
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 second season of this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The second season ran for twelve episodes and the special in-between episodes which are 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 a serious looking shot of Birdy from the chest up that works very well. The more subdued look is very appropriate for this season of the show and sets the mood quite well. Placing it against a white background draws the attention to her face more than her chest which isn't a bad thing and works well with the softer colors of her hair and outfit. The back of the slipcover is done sideways with a 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 Birdy striking a pose with some serious confidence. 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, one of them with her looking at Violet when she was younger and another where she and Tsutomu are looking away from each other. These are really nicely stylized designs 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)
The first season of Birdy the Mighty: Decode worked very well for me, though I tried to not let myself get too excited by it less I get disappointed with the second half of it that aired a few months afterward. The first season introduced Birdy and her world as a Federation police officer who ended up on Earth hunting criminals who had a very powerful substance in their hands, one that caused a planetwide calamity some time ago elsewhere. The situation went south and Birdy found herself sharing her body with him while his was being restored back in the Federation since it was all her fault. That season ended with Tsutomu getting his body back buy sacrificing it in order to stop the ryunka material that was being used in a very close friend of his.
This season takes us forward a couple of months from there where the two are back in the same position of sharing the body as his is being extensively reworked after his sacrifice. Birdy and Tsutomu do manage to get along well and with little friction, though her acting and modeling career blindsides him every now and then and causes trouble with his friends since he can't make certain events with them. Because of what happened in the city at the end of the first season, a lot of people died and a large portion was ruined, which has caused refugee camps in the city now and a growing talk of terrorism and alines among other things. The city is tense but there are numerous problems ongoing because of what happened.
What's intriguing about this season is that it builds upon the first and takes it in a direction you don't expect. While the ryunka story had a lot going for it, it left other pieces unanswered with who was fronting things and nods towards a woman named Revi from offworld who is key when it comes to issues between the Federation and the Union. Revi doesn't appear and is very much a phantom menace here, but that allows the show to focus on its real villain, the terrorists. And it's an interesting group of terrorists as while there are those that are definitely violent within it, most are attempting to extract justice based on past incidents as well as making sure they won't be found and killed themselves. They're not living in fear but they want to make sure they're not going to end up on the wrong end of someone's justice by hunting down the people who know what they were up to.
The show starts off a little awkwardly as Birdy and Tsutomu get things rolling and he's coping with the loss of Nakasugi. For her part, Birdy discovers a childhood friend named Nataru who has fled to Earth with his father and that brings up lots of good memories for her. Unfortunately, there's a lot beneath the surface that starts to come up as his father was known as the Blue Fang in the terrorist group that caused the tragedy of the Citadel Tower Incident that ended up causing Altan's to be ostracized from society. Some of this was seen in the first season when Tsutomu ended up in Federation space, but it was such a whirlwind and without detail that it flew by leaving you wanting to know more.
And more we get to know this time around in an interesting fashion. Because of the position that Birdy and Tsutomu are in, one fight they're involved in causes Birdy's consciousness to be pushed down and has Tsutomu becoming the primary in her physical body. This was a potential issue in the first season as well, but it happens here and in order to try and get Birdy to gain control again, he has to relive important parts of her life. Over several episodes, we see her younger days with Nataru, the truth of Violet and her introduction to the Federation police force. So much time is spent on the social issues, the bottom class nature of Altan's and of Ixiorian's like Birdy herself that it becomes immensely fascinating. And not at all what you'd expect from this series even after the first season. There's a level of seriousness to this that's so well handled and interesting that they could easily do two seasons worth of it to tell the story of the conflict between the Federation and the Union and the race issues that come up.
While a good portion of this series deals with these events, most of it is Earth based and has the pair either tracking down the remnants of the terrorists who are trying to keep themselves alive or dealing with Nataru and his issues. Because of his being an Altan, and a defective Ixioran who never gained his powers, there's a lot going on there and the terrorists coming for his father only adds to it. His relationship with his father, Birdy and how he deals with the arrival of some very serious killers has him conflicted and tortured. I did appreciate that they didn't really force a romance there between the two even though they were childhood friends, but there's definitely something more than just friendship there from then.
Because of the tone of this season, the animation continues to work really well and it manages to not make the science fiction elements feel really outlandish. The blending in on Earth is treated well, though you have to ignore some of the ways they alter their appearances. What gets me about this show, and really highlights its seinen roots, is how it handles the violence. It doesn't shy away from a nasty moment where the people fighting go at each other intensely with bloody results, but it doesn't glorify it either. Combining that with the great choreography with the fight sequences which has a real sense of controlled, tight power behind it, the whole animation production really helps to elevate this show to the next level.
The first season of Birdy the Mighty: Decode was really quite good but I felt as though it hadn't quite reached its full potential. With this season, it showed more of its true colors and became a layered, detailed and intriguing world that balanced out all the elements in a way few series of this nature really manage to. It didn't embrace action as its sole reason but instead gave us characters that have a rich history to them that merit a lot of exploration. The show actually has a good amount of nuance to it that makes the choices they make difficult even if understandable. This season is very strong and when taken into context of both seasons together, Birdy the Mighty: Decode is a must see modern science fiction series.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 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.
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