Birdy the Mighty Decode 2 Series Review

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With spring impressions out of the way, I’ve got some time to finish up the previous season’s anime. First up is one of the best shows of the winter season, Birdy the Mighty Decode 2 but before we get there, I wanted to mention a couple new additions to my series review posts starting with this one.

Both of these additions stem from a past series review that caused a commenter to question my score. After rethinking, I decided to stand by my score but realized I needed to add something to give potential viewers of the series more information to help their decision-making process. The first thing I decided to do is add a secondary score covering just the ending of the series and how well it resolved the plot and if it was a satisfying ending. The second score that was added is a rating for the overall animation quality of the series. This isn’t a score of the animation style but of the quality of the animation so shows like Kaiba that had a “simple” style but had a very high animation quality would get a very high animation score. There’s no mathematical formula as to how these scores relate to the overall score but obviously a show that has a bad ending will not score as high as a show that has a good ending and likewise with the animation.

Final Series Score: 12/12 Perfect
Rewatchablity: med-high
Ending: 4/5 – Excellent; Satisfying and hardly left any unresolved plot threads
Animation: 3.5/5 – Very Good; Fight scenes often switched to a hyper-fluid / low detail style that took awhile to get used too but overall very solid with nice backgrounds
Pros: characters feel more real this season, great character development, engrossing plot told in a way to feel authentic by being unflinchingly realistic, above average animation and exciting fight scenes, Senekawa’s situation is explored more fully this time around
Cons: animation style during fight scenes is a bit jarring at first, might be too violent for some

Awards given to this show by this blog

  • Best Female Main Character – Winter 2009 Season
  • Runner-up for Best Action – Winter 2009 Season
  • Best Plot – Winter 2009 Season
  • Runner-up for Best OP – Winter 2009 Season
  • Ranked #2 in Overall Top 7 Anime of Winter 2009 Season

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Story

The story of Birdy season 2 picks up several months after the events of the first season. Senekawa, the male high-school student and main character, is still sharing a body with Birdy, a female intergalactic police officer, while a new body is grown for him. Senekawa continues to try to live a normal high school life while Birdy is put on a new case involving escaped alien criminals who have come to Earth. These criminals happen to be tied to the development and deployment of the device from the first season so both Senekawa and Birdy want to capture them to help unravel the mystery to the person(s) that have been using Earth a test site for deadly mass weapons. While on the trail of these criminals Birdy meets a childhood friend, Nataru, who’s taken refuge on Earth and works as a male nurse.

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Thoughts and impressions

The first season of Birdy the Mighty Decode was good but it did have a few small problems that prevented it from being truly a great show. As a result I was only mildly excited about the sequel because I figured that the best case scenario was only a small drop in quality. It really didn’t enter into my mind that the second season could be even better partly because the ending of the first season felt like a real ending and a sequel didn’t really seem needed. However, I was surprised as the second season unfolded at how well the plot was integrated into the plot of the first season as well as bringing in many new elements. Now at the end of the second season, I’m really hoping for a third season not because the ending of the second season left much unresolved but because there was a few hints over the two seasons at an even deeper plot at work and I’d really like to see how this gets developed as well as getting the chance to see the characters back in action.

Viewers of the first season will probably agree that the biggest thing that hurt the first season was the characters where a little wooden and sometimes came off as emotionally flat. This gave the show a bit of the feeling that the characters where just along for the ride as the plot unfolded. For example, you wake up and find that you’re sharing body with a woman and you’re a normal male high school student – shouldn’t you be truly freaked out by this? – I would be but Senekawa didn’t seem to be. This didn’t really intrude on the enjoyment of the series but it did leave the viewer asking themselves at times what it would take to get a real reaction from them. The second season turned this around; the characters, their decisions, and their relationships with each other pretty much drove the plot. The result was a plot just as good as the first season and a much more interesting cast of characters. Some examples of developing the characters and enriching the plot are: Birdy’s past, her friendship with Nataru, what happened to Nataru when the events of season 1 unfolded, why Birdy seems to have superhuman strength, even Senekawa’s experience with love from the first season was used.

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If the sharp increase in quality of character development was a surprise, almost as surprising about the second season was how unflinchingly violent it could be at times – it never pulled it’s punches. A string of revenge murders take place during this season and,as you’d imagine when the killer is out for revenge, the deaths are not pretty with copious amounts of blood, bodies acting like rag dolls, and decapitations (including aliens that look like human children) all being included. You can be sure this season would never be on American television. However, I never felt the animators where being gratuitous about the violence; it fit the circumstances and the characters involved as well as displaying exactly how bad the events of the first season impacted the lives of just normal people that had nothing to do with anything. I know this will turn some off about this show but I felt it added to the realism and plot of the show because this was something I would imagine happening in reality.

Thankfully, there was a bit of comedy mixed into the show to help lighten the seriousness. There were several sources to the laughs. One area was when Senekawa had to pretend to be Shion, Birdy’s cover identity on Earth, and do all the things that models have to do. Another area came from a patient of Nataru’s, a young girl that liked Nataru and didn’t like how close Nataru and Birdy where together. And also Senekawa’s classmates but they’re not in the show that often this season.

In conclusion, if you don’t mind the violence and aren’t overly sensitive to different animation styles, there’s no reason not to watch this great show. I highly recommend this show and hope a third season is forthcoming soon.

Essential Information

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16 thoughts on “Birdy the Mighty Decode 2 Series Review”

  1. I liked Birdy simply because I really liked the original OVA. Unfortunately, the really lazy and cheap animation, particularly during the “action” scenes was an insulting turn-off.

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  2. This season was a lot deeper than the first and actually improved the plot of the first season as well. This gives a lot more character depth, we actually find out why Birdy has the nickname “Beserker Killer” too, the type of childhood she had to live because of her species, and the reason why the Alterians are pretty much the whipping aliens (boys) of their society. Nataru was great too, being raised as one of the abused Alterians and becoming a refugee on Earth, getting to know human beings and fitting in, then becoming enraged with the inconsiderate condescention of the alien organization that intended to experiment with Ryunka on earthlings.

    I was a little disappointed with some of the fight scene quality at times but in certain circumstances it fit, such as when we were experiencing Birdy’s childhood memories, the animation design was simplified a LOT, but held a bit of symbolism as if we were seeing the events unfold through a childs eyes and emotions.

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  3. I recently watched this season, and the animation style during some of the action was a bit annoying since for some of the scenes they had a full action already drawn (I saw it in a beginning of an earlier episode), but it was never used, I am guessing because they changed the story mid-draw so it couldn’t be used. This would also explain the poor animation during these parts. Its like they used story board slides and just animated it out, which if they shifted gears mid production may of been required to make deadlines.

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  4. Who else thinks that Senkawa and Birdy might have a love interest with each other? I feel like as the story progresses more and more they understand each other more than the other characters the originally liked.

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  5. I’m watching it again now, and reminiscing about how Birdy was my favorite show of 2009. You can tell they really put a lot of effort into every aspect of it’s creation, from script to animation. I absolutely LOVED the animation style in Birdy, and I can’t really remember feeling disappointed by it’s production in either season. Just because it doesn’t look like every other big-budget Bones or Production IG extravaganza doesn’t mean it’s “lazy” in any way.

    Some people are just way too pompous about production values, it seems. When Shinbo Akiyuki screwed around lazily with Bakemonogatari’s production, it was somehow “awesome”. But when Kazuke Akane put some serious ass into Birdy, it was “ugly”. The difference? Shinbo made a slideshow of lovely images, Kazuke focused on visceral animation techniques.

    I actually preferred Birdy’s style to big budget-eaters of the time like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Darker than Black 2, or even Bounen no Xamdou. It’s choreographic and cinematographic flair was just consistently awesome, despite using artistic license to cover up it’s low budget in places. I hadn’t been so impressed by the sense of style of any anime since Casshern Sins. I truly hope they can get a third season going with the same production staff.

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  6. Some people mixup picture quality with actual animation
    Birdy2 animation is better than typical anime, with a lot of handwork put into it.
    Maybe it sacrifices details but features much more movement and frames per sec.
    Also its no way cheap. Birdy budget was quite high.
    Great show overal, great revenge story.

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  7. The artwork and colors in Birdy seems strange given the surprisingly adept animation and combat styles used. Analysis right after I finished.

    I’ve seen and studied a broad range of weapons and weapon tactics from H2H range to strategic missile limitations. The fights in Decode 1 just made sense. The people with range weapons keep their range. Those that can only attack at close range, attempt to close the range so that they can attack and finish the threat. There’s not a lot of illogical and internally inconsistent frames where you have characters at a certain distance for no tactical reason other than they need to “talk” about something.

    Also, there’s some anatomically specific damage being described. I can’t quite help but suspect that the original material was amazingly specific in what kind of damage was being done by each attack, including the disadvantages and advantages to each attack or defense. Usually authors have done great research on this, and while their vision may not exactly correlate with equivalent military doctrine, it has an internal consistency that makes it seem real and applicable. Far more than if somebody that did not understand the rules of that world could have been able to manufacture.

    So long as a fight has an internal consistency, nothing happens to break the veil of illusion. Unlike certain other anime (Bleach), I don’t have to figure out why there are glaring logical inconsistencies going on. Just because there are magical powers, does not mean the explanations suffice.

    Shows like Baccano and Legend of Galactic Heroes, I love the killing and gore in them. It never gets old. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that my friends are like those depicted in such shows, but it’s not quite a far stretch either. To a certain extent, there are a great many similarities and rather than finding such people odd or blood crazed or too violent, I get along quite well with them. There’s nothing to fear when what you do is like what they do, in the end. And there’s much commonality going on. That doesn’t seem like it was intentional given the expectation that most people in shakei or society is not familiar with violence or intentional infliction of death, but for me that’s how it ended up one way or another. And while the narcissistic “I am God” personalities in Baccano and Death Note were hilarious, I would definitely have a hard time dealing with those. I would understand them better than most people, but understanding is not the same as approving of their methodologies.

    The only real issue I have with Decode 1 is that the main character was too passive at the end there. He knows she’s in danger and the main villain is planning something. But he won’t do anything about it for fear that this might set some other faction off on her. So what. Things are already going to hell anyways. You might as well play one faction against the other and hope to triumph in the end. But that kind of simple political analysis and play just isn’t considered. Maybe the source material had a better explanation for this guy’s passive acceptance of events, but it categorically was too prolonged in the end.

    Then there’s the reset ending, which is a real ending, but also not a real ending so to speak. It’s more like a reset than an ending. It’s because usually I expect characters to keep their experience given the trials they face. The only legitimate reason to have it reset is to create a dramatic tragedy, so to speak. But Decode 1 wasn’t very strong on the tragic elements, although there were some quite good base material it seemed to work with.

    I like the series best if it can have incredibly high comedic value and incredibly low sad scenes and tragic deaths. Now that would be cresting the wave high and low. Code Geass would be the immediate example in mind.

    Generally I felt better about the action scenes in Birdy 1 than the emotional scenes. It’s unfortunate they couldn’t have found a better balance. The plot and series composition was pretty good in terms of time usage and focus. There never felt like something was out of joint. Except the fact that the dramatic impact of certain scenes seemed off the rocker for their implied source material.

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  8. Birdy 2 was one of the best-storyboarded shows I’ve ever seen. I can’t remember a single scene that didn’t mean something, there was copious use of subtle symbolism, camera angles ranged from interesting to phenomenal, action scenes were fluid and eye-leading even in the fastest and most confusing moments, the tactics and actions being taken were surprisingly raw and gritty, the body language and movements of characters were fluid and felt real, the physics and feeling of raw power was impressive, and the villains were all unique and well-developed.

    There’s really very little I can say that’s bad about this show, except that they ran out of time and budget when it first aired, and so the DVDs fix some of the messier action scenes by replacing the “stand in” animation cues with actual animation. There are a few rather off-model “weird” scenes, but for the most part they work to convey the emotional feelings intended and rarely seem out-of-place unless you have no appreciation of artistic merit. Rather than being overly detailed, the character models were minimal and well-animated. Hair flails around, body language is well-conveyed, people move like they aren’t dolls, and it’s common to see he entire character model being animated in a scene rather than just the mouth and eyes. It doesn’t feel cheap at all. With such attention to detail, I wonder how it would have turned out if it had the budget of a more popular crappy anime like Railgun?

    The soundtrack is just awesome; the sound effects rarely feel “stock” and actually suit the action, the music is epic and cued in an interesting movie-like manner, and the voice acting is generally top-notch and emotionally convincing. The non-plot moments, and high-school scenes all work as much-needed relief from the tension of what’s going on, and never really feel out of place or superfluous – indeed they are often genuinely moving, as they are exploring the consequences of the first season’s finale.

    If anything, it’s a shame they stuffed all of this into only 12 episodes rather than weaving things into the first season a little more efficiently. If they introduced some of the characters earlier, and let us get to know them a little more, then things would have had even more emotional impact. Even the various events fluidly tie into one another without feeling like they’re “random”, but rather like the story is evolving organically and realisitcally.

    But what really struck me most were the emotionally-charged scenes: by all rights, they should not have been as moving as they were. There was enough non-verbal communication and subdued storytelling that you didn’t feel spoon-fed, and though the concepts were fairly cheesy I still found myself surprised and moved by how raw the experience felt. Even the villains felt sympathetic for the most part, more like victims of circumstance at times.

    It’s odd that a show about genocidal aliens and the scantily-clad police girl chasing them is more moving and realistic than most of the dramas of 2009, a year that had quite a few emotionally-charged anime.

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  9. @Hogart: That’s interesting about the DVDs, I did not know they went back and tweaked the animation. I’ll definitely have to check that out, Birdy was one of the best anime of the year, as you say.

    @ymarsakar: About the source material, I was reading scans of the birdy manga as they were coming out for awhile and I remember being struck by how different the anime was compared to the manga. I don’t know if more of the material seen in the anime came from much later in the manga but I had the impression that it was practically two different stories.

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  10. The animation change in the fight scenes were definitely weird. Although anime is so abnormally weird that it has to do something very strange to make me break the veil of illusion. Simply having stock art style in a combat animation isn’t enough.

    Btw, I have to plug Planetarian since I just finished it. It’s a pretty good short story set in post-apocalyptic times. Really dramatic. Only took a couple of hours, like 1/4th of a 13 episode anime season.

    For people that want to start on VNs, but cannot imagine what would be worth putting in the time/money, Planetarian can indeed act as the gateway product.

    Back to Birdy Decode 2. It was an interesting story. It reminded me of Kirikuno the Cyber Slayer that was going around taking out cyber martial artists in the underworld of a Chinese urban city. The heroes in both stories were going down the toilet themselves the more they killed for revenge. A sort of metaphysical quandary on the self-corrosive elements of vengeance, fukushou.

    You could also say Sasuke is another anime rendition of the same archetype. From Naruto.

    The backstory done on the motivation was quite well. You had the police vs the old tribal vengeance perspective. The ending, however, didn’t make much sense in terms of motivation. People changed their fundamental core positions too fast. Theoretically, it could happen that somebody with the intent that was shown could simply do a 180. But that wasn’t going to come simply by hearing the words of a stranger. There is no epiphany. Regardless of what the end game character felt that was powerful enough to change his positions so dramatically, I didn’t see it.

    That’s just a failure of dramatic license and transmission.

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  11. @ymarsakar: I love post-apocalyptic stories since I was a little kid (probably because I grew up reading so much SF of the 50’s/60’s from my Dad’s collection), so I’ve been interested in Planetarian when I found out about it. I’ve put it off, though, under the assumption that KyoAni will be adapting it soon and I’d rather be a tabula rasa for the eventual anime.

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  12. There’s not enough material for an anime, to be honest. Nor even a manga.

    There’s only one character, apart from the protagonist. A movie length OAV or 3 30 minute OAVs would finish it. Especially if Unlimited Blade Works people did it. They know how to compress stuff so that the missing stuff isn’t obvious.

    On another note, the way the Japanese often take to adapting novels to shows and what not seems to me to be that they don’t try to tell the same story. A lot do, but some like to change it up. And amongst the change ups, some are good, others are mediocre (Chrome Shelled Regios though some episodes were rather good), and then there’s the train wrecks (Utawarerumono).

    So even if they made an adaptation of Planetarian, the experience you get from the VN is still going to be unique. And I’ve read Clannad (still reading Afterstory, which is why I don’t comment on the anime adaptation of it) and I’ve seen Clannad the anime. Both are unique experiences in their own because of how the animation studio set things up.

    If one truly loves the character and settings, then watching it be done in another quality release setting can only add to the experience, not detract from it.

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  13. Btw, Planetarian is part of the short novel or kinetic novel media type. Anime studios have only been adapting light novels, games, mangas, and VNs for anime from my observation. It may just be recent, can’t say, but there it is.

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  14. I only give 5 out of 5 stars to series like Seirei no Moribito. Complete internal consistency and an ending that somehow wraps up both the fates of the characters as well as the world. It also has to have great emotional weight throughout the series. Whether it is fun or sad, so long as the effect is strong and lasting and durable, then it qualifies.

    Scrapped Princess almost made it, except for the unfortunately incomplete ending episode.

    I mention Seirei because I rewatched the first fight scene to compare it with Decode 1/2. To a certain extent, both are consistent within the world that they are in. Seirei is simply more familiar to me because it deals with human, not alien, anatomy. The problem I see with Decode 1/2 is that there are explanations for the technology and fighting. They just aren’t necessarily in the series at the right time. For example, I was wondering why people didn’t turn to ice at one point in the story. And then in Decode 2 they explained that it was due to personal biological shields. Well, that would have been nice to know in the last season.

    Finding out the “exact” limitations and uses to the biological shielding tech could have been a mini easter egg plot line all by itself. It’s one of the benefits of science fiction, to let the reader discover new powers and uses to technology.

    As a reference, here are the things Seirei did right in the first fight scene.

    1. When fighting multiple opponents, escape the circle by breaking through. Check.
    2. When fighting for real, there isn’t a lot of talking. Breath is used for surviving. Check.
    3. When chasing people, beware not to get too far ahead of your group otherwise the enemy will make an attack while you are separated from allies. Check.
    4. When fighting multiple opponents, run in one direction and then attack the fastest one behind you. Check.
    5. Attacks using body weight and momentum have consequences, thus if the spear misses, the body will be heading in the same direction. Check.
    6. A full body hit across the neck causes unconsciousness by interrupting blood flow to brain. Check.
    7. Getting hit by a rock that has a full person’s jump momentum behind it in your temple/head causes unconsciousness and a concussion. Check.
    8. Warriors fight regardless of consideration for personal damage, focusing solely on taking out the threat. Check.

    Whoever wrote Seirei’s fight scenes and details knew their human anatomy and the consequences created by attacks.

    For Seirei, I don’t need to have all of that explained to me using words. The consequences are easily shown right afterwards. But for a science fiction universe like Birdy, I am going to need far more detailed explanations of why a certain attack is the way it is and why defenses operate the way they do.

    For example, when humans lose their leg like that and get injured that badly, they either pass out from shock or they just die from loss of blood. To a certain extent, alien physiology can account for the differences, but it’s an assumption that shouldn’t be allowed to stand on its own for long. Cause it is flimsy. Any kind of explanation would be better than just a blank.

    Also, it was a bit too weird to have the healing tank be used so that the person being healed is now able to fight the protagonist. That just doesn’t feel right in a plot sense. I can ignore some inconsistencies if it isn’t explained badly, but too many starts my brain working to get to the truth. That’s usually a bad thing as it destroys the veil of illusion.

    The world Birdy is in is quite detailed. A lot of interesting politics and what not going on. It seemed to me like the studios were focusing on too much at once. Especially given the rather complicated plot setup of Decode 2. Regardless, I liked both seasons. They just didn’t have a complete feeling all in all. It was about love then it wasn’t about love. It was about action then it wasn’t about action. The flow was rather unstable.

    Btw, I wonder if I mentioned this before, but Birdy gets a lot of damage done by precise striking well. People use fists like a weapon, hits a vulnerable region, and it takes damage which creates a logical malfunction. Especially at the beginning of Decode 1 where the fugitive uses a deception ploy and says he’s going to attack, then he throws a decoy at Birdy. Then the image cuts to Birdy’s perspective and what she sees is a threat, the fugitive attacking, so she attacks. That’s very accurate and got the checkmark right there.

    I liked the first person perspective in Decode 1 the best. I didn’t get too sad of an impression concerning Birdy’s background in Decode 2 since the people she directly worked for cared for her as family. So it didn’t look to me like she was fighting for an alien and ruthless federation, but for her family.

    In the end, science fiction stories that result in the universe shattering or changing, the planet shattering or changing, the time-space continuum shattering or changing, are what impress me the most. It’s why those stories often end up with 5/5 from me, if they don’t fail on anything major.

    If I had to grade Birdy 2, it would be 4/5. I may soon see whether the Manga improved on how the universe is portrayed or not.

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