Archive for August 22nd, 2008

Tetsuwan Birdy Decode: Is it Bodyswapping? Is it Split Personality?

Better question: Do we care?

More important question: Why aren’t you watching this?

So I’ve watched seven episodes of Tetsuwan Birdy Decode (also known as Birdy the Mighty Decode) without any prior experience with the original OVA series (a two-episode deal based on a prototype of the Tetsuwan Birdy story that later became a full manga that Decode is based on), and it’s been surprisingly enjoyable. I still kind of waffle back and forth on it, depending on the episode (the two-episode Alturia arc, for instance, was extremely bizarre for me, despite Wakamoto Norio giving his best James Earl Jones impersonation as a giant anthropomorphic lizard with a mask [that was the best part of the whole “arc” and Lizard-Norio needed to show up more]), but overall it’s incredibly entertaining, even if it is somewhat on the fluffy side. But fluff never bothered me much. Especially not when it’s fluff authored by one of the minds behind semi-underground hit Mobile Police Patlabor: Yuuki Masami.

The whole premise of Tetsuwan Birdy is fairly simple: boy, Tsutomu, accidently stumbles into a dilapidated building where alien crime boss Geega is doing Evil Things and alien investigator Birdy is trying to stop him: Long story short: Birdy, living up to the English title of “Birdy the Mighty”, tries to punch Geega with her blazing fist of fury and instead hits (and kills) Tsutomu, and the audience has Minky Momo flashbacks Birdy is left with no choice but to merge Tsutomu’s consciousness with her own, while his body is shipped back to Alturia to be reconstituted for his consciousness to re-enter. I love alien technology.

Of course, Tsutomu is carrying on a totally normal school life (he even has a girl he likes!: Nakasugi Sayaka), but Birdy also can’t let her investigation slide, as Geega is involved in a massive plot involving the Riunka, or “invisible death”, which, basically, is a weapon capable of destroying all life on Earth. However, nothing is as it seems (this is anime, okay?) and there are some rather inventive plot twists thrown in, and things don’t always seem to progress the way you’d expect them to.

In fact, Tetsuwan Birdy Decode is one of those series that interweaves several interconnected plot threads (there’s what’s going on with Birdy, there’s the Riuvia conspiracy from the point of view of the perpertrators, and then there’s the reporter chasing after Birdy in an attempt to get under mysterious goings-on in the city) that all happen to crop up at the least convinent moment for various characters. In episode seven, for instance, Birdy is investigating a string of murders connected to the Riuvia when she’s spotted by the journalist after her, and must escape by turning into Tsutomu in a private moment–which, of course, is noticed by the gosurori robotic mannequin of one of the conspirators. It’s moments of “oh, shit” plotting like that that keeps me coming back to Tetsuwan Birdy Decode for more, much more than the fact that Birdy’s super-armor doesn’t even cover half of her body (it’s a seriously hot piece of armor, but I seriously doubt its practicality, but I assume that its lack of practicality is explained away by the magic words Alien Technology).

It also doesn’t hurt that Tsutomu and Birdy have good chemistry as co-body-inhabitors, and both are likable–Tsutomu isn’t a passive, useless male lead (or, at least, not as bas as he could be), and Birdy, well, Birdy can punch cracks in concrete at point-blank, and frequently does. Because she’s Birdy. The, uh, Mighty.

There’s actually some interesting things working underneath the surface, especially pertaining to certain spoilers revolving around Naksugi Sayaka (who, despite, or because of, the nature of the spoilers involving her, is moe as hell), but in the interest of not ruining the series for you (since I presume some haven’t seen this series yet, and am trying to  sell it to you. Badly, yes, but sell it nonetheless) I will likely just save for after the series ends, if it’s still there.

And, if not, well, the series will still probably hold on me better than Birdy can hold her alcohol. (This scene should have devolved into naughty and possibly naked lesbian moments with Tsutomu’s sister for extra psuedo-incest points, but, alas, it’s not that fanservice-y of a show)

All in all, though, it’s a series I passed off initially as sort-of dull, but it’s grown on me, to the point that I’m thinking about checking out the original OVA, just to see where the differences are. Although I must say, Decode Birdy > Original Birdy. But that’s just an art aesthetic thing.

And, yes, there is going to be a season 2. I don’t know how that will work, but there’s at least 17 volumes of manga to pull from, so it’s all good.

Xam’d: Lost Memories: I Still Don’t Know What’s Going On Here

But I’m pretty sure that’s the point of it all, and I care less as time goes on.

Considering how precious little we actually know about the world Xam’d takes place in, and the fact that we’ve essentially been dropped into the middle of a story, in the thick of the action, without any real exposition given to us to explain what, exactly, is going on, the series is still somehow utterly compelling and addictive to watch. I’m mostly going to chalk it up to the writers, who are, essentially, sitting behind the TV screen with a full deck of cards, in sequential order, explaining what’s going on in Xam’d in elaborate detail, and are presenting the viewer with a card, seemingly drawn randomly from their deck, at erratic intervals.

The way they’re handling it actually seems to contribute to the enjoyment of the series. I was slightly skeptical of the series upon seeing the very first, very short trailer released for the series, which was essentially a montage of random chaos set to really cool chaotic music. The more I watch, though, the more impressed I am. Chaos seems to be the order of the day, as expressed in the preview trailer and also in the fantastic OP, “SHUT UP AND EXPLODE” by the BOOM BOOM SATELLITES. When I checked the ANN page before watching the first episode I saw the name of the OP song and said “Oh, man, if that song is half as awesome as the band name and title make it out to be…” And, well, it was. It almost perfectly captures (along with the OP animation itself) the essence of the series, both musically and through its title. It’s a fairly chaotic song–but, like Xam’d itself, it’s not chaos without order.

The appeal comes from the fact that Xam’d, to me, seems like organized chaos. Everything feels like you don’t really know what’s going on–you’re given just enough to be able to appreciate, but there’s that ever-present “I need to know more” urge prompted by the writers’ haphazard card-tossing. Other series create the “I need to know more” feeling, of course–Urasawa Naoki creates entire series based around his readers dying to know more–but few seem to be able to do it in quite the way Xam’d is. I’ve seen six episodes, and the more I watch, it seems, the less I actually understand–yet, also, the less I understand, the less I actually seem to care that I don’t understand. Xam’d is on a 26 episode rip-rolling jet ride and you’re strapped to the back of the jet via a rope, and the jet is going at Mach 3.

The feeling of watching Xam’d (or, at least, my feeling watching Xam’d) might be hard to put in words, but there is one thing I can say: I can’t stop watching. I want to keep watching. If you ask me, this should have been BONES’ 10th anniversary series, and not Soul Eater. Nothing wrong with Soul Eater, mind–I still like it—but Xam’d feels much more like an anniversary show with all the stops pulled out.

And, of course, topping off the appeal of all the organized chaos is the very simple and easy-to-understand appeal of  Haru Nishimura:

She is going to kick some rogue Humanform Weapon posterior next week. I will be in bliss.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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August 2008