Tetsuwan Birdy Decode is an anime from late 08 based off of a manga from the mid to late 80s. It was originally written by Yuuki Masami. The anime was handled by A-1. Yes, them again. And this one came out before Kuroshitsuji too. Which will officially make it the earliest A-1 anime I’ve reviewed. I don’t know what to expect since their quality is so variable. Let’s have a look.
We open with our titular Birdy in pursuit of some criminals. Turns out she’s a federation security agent and yet she doesn’t wear gold. In any case, she captures their getaway driver but they scarper. Cut to some time later, Birdy and her squid friend have tracked the criminals to Earth. Because of course you have to set things on Earth instead of an alien civilisation. It just makes things so much more interesting when we see the usual scenery. Also, much easier than developing an alien culture. Any way, they manage to confront one of the crooks only to have him play operation human shield with a random civilian, thereby getting said civilian sliced in half. They transfer his consciousness into Birdy’s body while they fix his and the misadventures of these two swapping places and clashing begins.
Let’s start with the biggest narrative problem, the aesthetic. This series takes itself pretty seriously while including some really goofy content that’s actually impossible to take seriously. For example, the main characters sharing a body and having to swap control and forms, because I guess Birdy can shape shift. That’s an element you’d expect to see used for goofy sitcom style shenanigans, but this series largely tries to use it for drama. Including having situations where people die or get hurt because these two find themselves in an awkward predicament. Then we have one of the major antagonists, Shyamalan. This dude looks like he’s intended as a stand in for M Night Shyamalan & happens to completely unsubtly have the same family name. Again, this is something that could be great in a comedy. A criminal Shyamalan parody who sets up dumb twists for his crimes. Robs a bank while taking hostages, turns out the small children in the crowd are his accomplices and they pull out comically large weapons that would only be legal to buy in America. He hijacks a plane but it turns out that he owns the air line and he’s technically allowed to have one of the planes go somewhere else, it’s just terrible customer service. That could be hilarious. But this series just plays him as a subdued, narcissist and tries to have some serious scenes with him that you can’t actually take seriously because he’s a fucking M Night Shyamalan stand in.
There are also a lot of little plot details that don’t go anywhere. The undercover modelling career Birdy has for, like, an episode and then doesn’t get mentioned again. The whole issue where Tsutomu’s mind might envelop hers but it never really becomes an issue. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on these in general since there is a second series. Maybe that one actually does something with them.
With that being said, the series does have some interesting stuff. What little we actually see of the alien society is pretty neat. The narrative has enough intrigue to keep it compelling, even if impossible to take seriously. To be honest, I am kind of interested in seeing the second series. The big climax has some strong moments and I do appreciate that they resolve the major conflict of the series and leave a more minor thing that crops up as the sequel bait.
The characters in this, at least the major and important secondary ones, are largely pretty decent. Shyamalan is kind of your generic “I am super important and therefore can do what I wish for my goals” types of villains & a lot of the class mate characters are pretty dull too. There are also the “mysterious” characters who may get some development in the second series but are just vaguely cryptic in this one. Our main pair has some complexity to them. I appreciate that the series doesn’t push a romance with them, giving Tsutomu a different girl he likes. Because it’s just really stupid when a series goes “we pushed these two characters together with some contrivances. Now they’re in love.” Hayamiya is interesting. Tuto has his moments. I kind of like that he puts on the guise of super flamboyance and seems to enjoy himself doing it but has significantly more to him. There are too many characters out there who are just flamboyant.
The artwork is nothing spectacular. In general, it looks fine and the stylistic way they do action for it can really work but the characters look a bit plain and the backgrounds are just functional and kind of bland. Like Mito, the aliens are largely just animal people but this series does put considerably more effort into making them look interesting. I actually kind of like the alien designs, when they don’t just look human. Pity you see so little of them.
There are some good performances from Chiba Saeko, Sakamoto Maaya, Irino Miyu, Itou Kanae & Kawada Shinji. Even the actors who voice less than interesting characters do pretty darn well in their roles. The music from Kanno Yugo is quite good.
Tuto is, I’m pretty certain, not straight. Him aside, none of the other characters really come across as being romantically interested in anyone of the same sex. It’s like the exact opposite of the stories I write in that regard.
Tetsuwan Birdy Decode has some pretty severe problems. It has elements that would only work as comedic but played far too seriously. Its characters range from mundane to pretty good and its art has a lot of meh to it. Overall, it’s not a bad anime by any stretch but I can’t call it a good one either. It’s an average work that had the potential to be so much more with some effort and thought. So, I give it a 5/10. Next week, I’ll go back to Wednesday reviews. Starting with Pokemon: Mewtwo no Gyakushuu.