Region: 2 - UK
Volume: 1 of 2
Length: 295 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Birdy is an interstellar space agent sent to Earth to investigate the appearance of aliens under the secret identity of a popular Idol. A frantic late night mission causes her to catch an innocent schoolboy in her deadly line of fire. Thanks to a special space technology, Birdy knows a way to restore his life by joining their two bodies into one. Now Tsutomu and Birdy must share the same body, mind and adventures while his broken flesh slowly heals.
I'll make no bones about the following: I love Masami Yuki's Birdy The Mighty. I've covered the original before and when I learned that there would be another go at the series, I was hopping to see it. For those who don't know, Birdy The Mighty follows the adventures of Galactic Federation officer Birdy Cephon Altera as she attempts to apprehend criminals across the galaxy. One such mission takes her to Earth where she accidentally kills high school student Tsutomu Senkawa. Normally this would be the end of the story but instead, Birdy merges with Tsutomu's brain while his real body is being repaired. Meanwhile Birdy and Tsumotu have to work together to bring in the criminals Birdy was chasing while the lad has to deal with school at the same time.
Now, I realise that there are problems with the first OVA and I've understood where the cracks are in adapting a single volume manga into a 4 part animated series. But nevertheless, I decided to tackle the TV series. And I'm kinda glad I did. First up, the story seems to be based upon the expanded volumes that Yuki went back to redo the story in 2003. This means the story has more reach and allows for greater development of the characters. the OVA used more gags and only got really, REALLY serious in the final episode. The TV series has humour but the serious tone helps keep things in focus. Characters experience loss and heartache and struggle on. This might have something to do with the TV series being helmed by Vision of Escaflowne director, Kazuki Akane. Also, the series animation brings the speed at which Birdy moves over the city to life in a way the OVA's never got a chance to do. Finally the feeling I got from the original Birdy is still present but I'll go into that in a bit.
First up, I like how this Tsutomu doesn't come across as much of an edjit as the original version. He actually has a life and a good home and school life it is too. He's just trying to make it through the day. His curiosity gets the better of him and then it gets him killed. Luckily, a hot space girl was on hand to administer a band aid and he was sent merrily on his way. So he deals with it despite the fact that people think he's nuts for talking to himself. The background characters are nice with Tsutomu's friends being a good mix. In the original he just has his girlfriend to stress about and his parents constantly walking in on Birdy while she's a: taking control of Tsutomu's image and b: when she's naked. In the new update he's got no parents around (they leave in the first episode) so the dynamic is different. This time around, Natsumi is his friend but not his girlfriend and has no reason to be so. This, I welcome the break from the endless "wants to be more than friends" trap that anime falls into with alarming regularity. Chigira and
Sudou are nice male foils to Tsutomu and help give balance by being both sides of Tsutomu's demeanour. And Birdy, well, I go all fanbot about Birdy. She's sexy, strong, can hold her own and has awesome pink hair (note to female readers: if you have pink hair and approach me to talk I WILL pay abnormal attention to you). She's given a different mission in this version but she's still trying her best. Also, she's got a secret identity on Earth before the accident with Tsutomu but she doesn't completely ditch it. One thing that always bothered me about the original Birdy OVA was that she was an alien and just eat normally like a human despite having super human strength. Now to take you all on a trip into memory lane. In the live action TV series of DC Comic's The Flash, Barry Allen (our hero), after becoming super fast, suddenly finds that he has to eat an enormous amount of food to replenish the energy used in his crime fighting adventures. And I always thought Birdy should have to do this. Turns out the people behind Birdy thought the same thing. Birdy's Federation allies are a similar eclectic bunch. From her original OVA superior Megius to the new ally/pain in the ass Nechla the new Birdy will have enough in terms of cast for both fans of the first version and the incoming cohort.
Next, as I said before, the animation is different. MADHouse dealt with the original and to be fair to them, in 1996, it looked as good as it could, given the budget. In 2008, however, animation has gotten slicker. So, Birdy jumps, and I'm talking Superman style jumps, across buildings and smashes into roofs and cars with gleeful speed. Quite what the city cleanup squads the day after is anyone's guess! The hand to hand fights are nice and meaty without resorting to Black Lagoon levels of destruction. The later episodes in the first series have a slightly weird pastel look to them that I didn't notice with the opening ones. Maybe it's my eyes. But it's either a budget issue which I don't believe or the directors in the hot seat chose that look. With four different directors in the seat for the final third, it's a guess who made the artistic decision. But that doesn't stop the series from it's pacing so it's a minor issue. The series takes another big step by having Birdy, with Tsutomu in tow, travel off world for the first time and the Federations worlds look good.
The rogues gallery has been expanded in the new version and it helps the series define itself against it's older sibling. The new rogues include aliens, humans and battle droids. Plus it's nice to see original bad guy Gomez back looking as 1980's as ever. One thing, the main bad guy in this: Satyajit Shyamalan. First up, I get the use of his first name. In Hindu, roughly, it means the Truth Winner. Once you see the series, you'll understand the irony of the name. But Shyamalan? You named the character after the worst one trick pony (aside from Michael Bay) in Hollywood? Why? QUERY NOW OVER.
Voice acting wise the cast in both do great jobs. I'm trying to avoid doing many indepth analysis on voice acting in my future reviews as I don't think I'm giving the English language cast a fair shake. So, unless I feel the English dub for something is trash or worse, then I'm not really going into them anymore. Miyu Irino as Tsutomu is excellent and not too whiney as is his English language VA, Micah Solusod. God, anyone could do a better job, English language-wise, at Tsutomu than his OVA voice actor: Justin Thompson. The guy sounded like he was in pain when I watched the CPM DVD's. Gah! On the other side, Saeko Chiba does a capable Birdy. But as always, my leanings for this Birdy owe more to the English VA and former ADV girl, Luci Christian. Sorry Ms, Chiba but Ms. Christian will always win out.
Birdy The Mighty always felt like a story that Hollywood should have licenced instead of trying to catch lightning in a bottle with Akira. The setting, the idea and the characters all felt like something a US studio could handle without screwing it up too much. I always have a nice mental glow around me whenever I watch Birdy. It might have something to do with the review Helen McCarthy did about it in Manga Max (an English anime magazine long since consigned to history). Helen found the show kind of lacking but I was fascinated. When I finally tracked down the out of print DVD's from CPM, I wasn't disappointed despite worrying that I would do the whole "I've waited to see this thing for so long, I refuse to believe it'll be ANYTHING BUT GOOD!!!" thing. I didn't and still can enjoy the original even if I notice the problems within it.
Extras wise on the DVD, nothing. I don't know what Funimation's expectations for Birdy were going to be but they obviously didn't want to invest too much into it. Manga did a great job in the port over and the cover art looks great.
I love Birdy but then I suspect I always will. The plot might sag in places and there's the weird thing with the animation in later episodes but still there's a winner here. I'm looking forward to the next season in September.