Sunday, 22 February 2009 02:57

Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode (TV, 2008)

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One could certainly say that Tsutomu is falling for Birdy...

It’s a rough life, being a high school student in Japan.  I mean, with the unnerving frequency of unpleasant things we anime fans witness happening in schools, I don’t know that I’d ever want to set foot within the educational boundaries of the Japanese school system.  With all the super powers, tsundere female martial arts masters, random evil guys plotting to take over the world or at least get their last test scores upgraded a bit – and don’t forget the alien teachers - it could be a rather unhealthy proposition.  Especially when the teacher’s little sister shows up.  Unfortunately for Tsutomu Senkawa, school grounds aren’t the only dangerous places out there, so when he indulges in his hobby of exploring abandoned buildings, only to find out that the building isn’t as empty as it first appeared...  Well, let’s take a look at Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode, and find out what happened.

Fields USA Info Japanese Info Image
Title Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode The question is, is she upside down, or are we right side up?
Alternative 鉄腕バーディーDECODE (Japanese)
Dates 2008.07.04 - 2008.09.26
Company A-1 Pictures Inc, Aniplex
Creator Masami Yuuki
Director Kazuki Akane
Genre Action, Gender Swap, Sci-Fi
Related Tetsuwan Birdy (Manga), Tetsuwan Birdy (OVA)


This is... going to hurt, isn't it?

Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode is an update of one of anime and manga’s classic series.  It tells the story of Birdy Cephon Altera, a police officer of the intergalactic Federation, and Tsutomu Senkawa, a high school student living on earth.  In the course of an investigation into a weapon of mass destruction called the Ryunka, she lands on Earth and tracks one of the criminals, named Geega, to an abandoned building where he’s overseeing an experiment of some sort.  Now, I should explain something about Birdy.  See, she has a nickname.  Birdy the Berserker Killer.  Now, with that in mind, consider that she – regularly – bashes THROUGH things, like stone walls, and spaceship hulls, with her bare fists, and that she is somewhat… how to put this politely?  Impulsive.  Focused on her task of capturing Geega, she doesn’t notice through the clouds of dust raised by their fight when Geega grabs Tsutomu and throws him at her – not until her Guardian, the floating robot Tute – tries to stop her from attacking.  It’s a little too late, unfortunately – Birdy’s attack lands – with enough force that we see Tsutomu’s body ripple like a sheet.  It’s bye bye birdie...

There are worse things than sharing a body with babe like that.

Or maybe not, as we see him wake up, apparently unharmed – and suddenly no longer needing his glasses.  No, he hasn’t turned into Spiderman.  However, as he quickly discovers, he’s no longer quite so alone with himself…  Turns out that Birdy, desperate to save his life after killing him accidentally, has hosted his consciousness in her body.  They can swap back and forth – lucky bastard, with how much she enjoys her long baths... – and remain aware while the other is 'in control'.  Needless to say, neither is vastly overjoyed with the new situation.  At first, anyway.

Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode is a fairly equal parts mixture character driven and action driven.  Birdy and Tsutomu's situation has all the makings of the worst case of room mate homicide possible.  They're polar opposites – Birdy is loud, brash, self-assured, hot-blooded and completely naive to human ways.  Tsutomu is quiet, withdrawn, fairly shy – and not particularly happy about having been killed, even if by accident.  Add on top of this that Birdy is still focused on seeing the job done, and that she has to maintain the appearance of her human alter-ego, Shion Arita, a rising video idol, and, well...  It's a classic opposites attract setup, honestly.  Sort of an interstellar Lethal Weapon with Birdy playing the part of a less suicidal Riggs and Tsutomu a rather hapless Murtough, only without the experience.

It's not a harem series.  Honestly.

With Birdy and Tsutomu as the main cast, the story grows to encompass Tsutomu's friends at school, as well as Birdy's superiors in the Federation.  We watch as Tsutomu tries to cope with his new shared life, and starts to take an interest in Birdy's investigation.  Their odd-couple relationship really starts to hit it off in the fourth and fifth episode, as Birdy returns to Federation HQ for an update on the status of Tsutomu's body, which is being rebuilt, and to attend the trial of a smuggler who was helping Geega to escape.  We learn more about the main storyline too, as a member of the elite Echelon descends to give us new information about the Ryunka, and the threat that it poses to Earth.  Actually, it's a pretty good little mystery, and while the Ryunka storyline is straightforward and honestly rather a bit blunt, this first series was also meant to plant the seeds of a deeper, and much longer running storyline.
The series animation was really a bit brighter than I'd have expected it to be.  It's nothing incredible – there's just plain better series out there when it comes to visual style.  With that said, I actually rather enjoyed it.  It felt like a partial throwback to older, 90's era animation.  The CG is pretty good, not waxy, and the combat is nice and fluid, essential for an action series like this.  The character designs are pretty damn good too, and Birdy's various outfits are rather nose-bleed inducing.  It doesn't hurt that she's stacked like a lumberyard, of course – only alien technology could possibly keep her from slipping out of the seamless unitard she wears.  I'm not kidding, folks.  Take a close look at it.  You realize that there's nothing holding the back to the front.

Does it count as cheating on your test if the person giving you the answers is in the same body?

On the voice acting side of things I'm pretty happy overall, though some of the dialog honestly felt a little wooden and forced.  I'm not quite willing to blame that all on the voice acting cast – this is a TV rewrite of a manga rewrite of the original, abandoned series that first appeared in the 80's, folks.  Some wonkiness is to be expected, even welcomed.  For what they were given, I thought that the VA's really did a good job, and they got better as the series continued.  The music side of the series is... average.  It's not horrible, but I wasn't exceedingly impressed with it.  The opening theme is a rather manic, cheery, friendly theme that provides good earworm bait, but the ending was alright.  It's not bad.  Really.  Just not great.


-Mutter- Lucky bastard Tsutomu...

Eh, what can I say, I always loved Lethal Weapon as a kid, and Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode shares enough with that archetype to pass as being a member of the 'buddy cop' genre.  While the start can be a bit rocky, the series starts to even out and pick up pretty fast, and the character dynamic that emerges between Tsutomu and Birdy, especially after one particular event, is a good solid one.  The Ryunka story arc is pretty tame in terms of generic story ideas, but as I said, much of this first season is about setting up the longer-ranged conspiracy that featured in the manga and introducing the characters.  A number of important characters are introduced – some of whom should have been wearing signs reading, 'Conspiracy Member' just in case it wasn't blatantly obvious.  The animation is pretty good, and the voice acting is decent for dialog that's a rewrite of a rewrite.  Let's call it worth a look if you enjoy sci-fi and odd-couple type stories.

Additional Info

  • Format: Television
  • Animation: Groovy (+5)
  • Writing: Groovy (+5)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: Groovy (+5)
  • Soundtrack: Groovy (+5)

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