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Birdy the Mighty
(Tetsuwan Birdy)
genre: SF / Comedy-Drama / Action
Birdy is an elite, if somewhat unorthodox member of the Space Federation Police Force, assigned to track down an intergalactic fugitive on Earth. But things get a little complicated when a bit of carelessness gets an innocent civilian killed. The hapless Senkawa Tsutomu was a high school student, going through entrance exam hell. Now, he's a high school student, going through entrance exam hell, and forced to share a body with an officer of the law, just to survive! And things certainly aren't any easier when Tsutomu doesn't always have full control of his body, especially in front of his girlfriend!
Based on a manga series by Masami Yuuki, this somewhat off-beat series is directed by Kawajiri Yoshiaki (Ninja Scroll), and is distributed in North America by U.S. Manga Corp.
Parental Guidance Advised - Several scenes of violence and brief nudity, though of non-sexual, and often slap-stick nature.

Episode 1: 2 Hearts in 1 Body
Copyright: © 1996 Yuuki Masami / Shogakukan / Bandai Visual, © 1998 U.S. Manga Corp.
Length: 45 minutes
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Advised
Format: Japanese Language/English Subtitled (VHS)
Director: Kawajiri Yoshiaki Original Story: Masami Yuuki Character Design: Takahashi Kumiko Writer: Konaka Chiaki

Senkawa Tsutomu is suffering from a severe case of information overload, as he prepares to write his senior high school entrance exams. Unwittingly, he gets himself in the middle of an arrest attempt by Space Federation officer Birdy Altirra Cephon... and even worse, he gets himself killed in the process. Luckily for him, the Space Federation has the technology to bring Tsutomu back to life. Unlucky for him, there's a catch: he still needs a body. And the only one available that would work is Birdy's. Now Tsutomu has to juggle school, family and Birdy's own job of bringing criminals to justice -- all with one body. It might have been nice if someone had mentioned to the young high school student that he's not always in control of his own person...
Birdy is an officer of the Space Federation, tracking down a fugitive believed to be on Earth... a fugitive who was responsible for the death of a person very dear to Birdy, so long ago. The problem is, this fugitive has a lot of help, and most of them aren't human. Luckily, Birdy isn't exactly human either.
It would probably be very advantageous for the folks at U.S. Manga to get themselves an advertising consultant. After all, what's the first thing that comes to mind with a title like Birdy the Mighty? While this series doesn't take itself too seriously, the title really doesn't instill any great incentive to rush out and buy such a video, does it? (At least not here in North America) Here's a case where a title change for North America might have been warranted... Luckily, packaging isn't everything...
There are some really neat things about this series -- for openers, the animation is pretty decent, and action/fight scenes are well choreographed. And then there's the hook. It's an interesting variant of the old 'body switcharoo', but Birdy brings with it its own neat take -- the body switching is really between two independant persons, both physically and mentally. Add to this that the two are of differing ages, differing cultures, and most importantly, differing sex -- and suddenly, it looks like the writers could have a lot of fun with this before the series is done.
And fun is just what this series is about. While we have some pretty stock-looking baddies from another world, and well-choreographed fights, it's pretty much stuff we've seen before. But all this is happening with a sense of humour. How's this for an example: Tsutumo manages to disconbobulate a gelatinous creature with one of the most powerful chemical weapons known to the Space Federation: a bottle of the Japanese equivalent of Mr. Clean. Another thing that's pretty obvious from the start is that the Senkawa family is not particularily clued into what's happening in Tsutumo's life, nor are they particularily helpful... This could be most fun indeed!
Character designs are refreshingly different -- perhaps due to the fact that this series is based on a manga that's more than ten years old. Acting is pretty middle-of-the-road, with the only weak link being the lead character herself. Birdy, played by Mitsuishi Kotono (Misato of Shinseiki Evangelion fame) has an easy voice to listen to, and can do distraught emotions very well, but she isn't so convincing in combat.
While this first episode wasn't something I'd rave about, I think there's enough different material here for a pretty decent series run -- as long as the writers can keep things interesting.
- AN, 1999.04.08

Episode 2: Double Trouble

Copyright: © 1996 Yuuki Masami / Shogakukan / Bandai Visual, © 1998 U.S. Manga Corp.
Length: 25 minutes
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Advised
Format: Japanese Language/English Subtitled (VHS)
Director: Kawajiri Yoshiaki Original Story: Masami Yuuki Character Design: Takahashi Kumiko Writer: Konaka Chiaki

Inspector Yamazaki from the Tokyo Police Department is called to the scene of an apparent homocide. The victim is a 23 year-old male, but he looks nothing like his driver's licence picture. In fact, a later autopsy reveals that his body had been under the influence of several unknown drugs, and perhaps most disturbing: his cerebellum had shrunk nearly one third its normal size, and his hypothalmus had enlarged.
Meanwhile, young Tsutomu has had a sleepless night, nervous over today's posting of successful exam candidates. Not one to pass up an opportunity like this, his older sister Hazumi decides to make a rather public announcement...
But Birdy's hypersensitive hearing has picked up a signal. A familiar signal, from someone she had met before. Unbeknownst to Birdy and Tsutomu, Crystallia Revi has been preparing a new breed of humans to perform her deeds. Revi intends to use Birdy to bench test her new toys, and suddenly, Hayamiya Natsumi, Tsutomu's would-be girlfriend, has become the bait!
Remember the first few episodes of the Ranma 1/2 TV series? Remember our ever-illustrious Nabiki? I guess every Japanese anime family needs the smart-alecky older sister, and in poor Tsuotmu's case, he has Hazumi. And like the Takahashi comedy, Tetsuwan Birdy's Hazumi is equally loveable. Actually, the whole family could very well be a paraody of the typical disfunctional Japanese family, except that one member happens to timeshare his body with an interstellar cop.
Even more humourous is Birdy's hijacking of Tsutomu's body. It's bad enough that she unwittingly takes him all over the city, but things do get very uncomfortable for Tsutomu when his body hugs his friend Natsumi. This is quite departure from the angst-riddled comedies of the past, where young would-be boyfriends and girlfriends kept their distance, separated by a wall of tension. How many times did you want to yell at Kyosuke, and get him to give Madoka a hug or a kiss? Well, not to worry -- Birdy can do that for you.
Action sequences in this series is quite remarkable, considering that this isn't a big-budget production. But as in other Kawajiri productions, the martial-arts action is very detailed, and well choreographed, albeit a bit unbelievable. But hey, we're dealing with superhumans here.
The story itself seems a little thin. We're still at the introduction stage of this series, and the writers are being very stingy when it comes to releasing details of the history of Birdy, and who Crystallia really is. Some of the plot leaves a lot of questions unanswered -- for example, why did Gomez not kill Birdy when he had the chance, not once, but twice? Well, so far, I'm not really into this story for the plot. But the humour is worth the watch!
- AN, 1999.04.10