Testsuwan Birdy Decode: Birdy the Mighty

Birdy the mighty; saluting to American culture. Birdy Cephon is an officer from another planet trying to track down a dangerous weapon (she knows nothing about) and gets caught up with an American boy; Birdy accidently kills him while trying to round up her target. After losing her target to the shock of killing a human; Birdy quickly takes the boy to her planet where they basically extract his consciousness and put it alongside Birdy’s in her body. From here on out we’re going on an adventure to figure out what this Ryunka device is, follow the hilarity of an adult woman and high school boy share the same body, and see if the world withstands “natural” selection. I swear this anime tributes to a lot of classic American movies; the bad guy’s last name is Shyamalan… M. Night Shyamalan is known for his horror, psychological movies; Satyajit Shyamalan was a child that survived a mass homicide and grew up to believe he was a “chosen” one! Coincidence?! I think not!

There is also a sneaking suspicion that this anime inspired Kill La Kill’s wardrobe designs… Birdy the Mighty, 2008: Kill La Kill, 2013; coincidence?! I don’t think so to all those fan theoriest out there! Take a good look at the solid evidence.

Side Effects from Sharing a Body: Character Development

I know I keep referring to the new voice in Birdy’s head as “the boy” but he has a name and it’s Senkawa. These two at first, have a really hard time bonding with each other; they’re both stubborn and extremely opinionated. Nothing spells out trouble faster than the opposite sex sharing a body and not getting along; at least not in the beginning. Senkawa is very adamant with Birdy about not switching without telling him first; which makes sense, he was the guy who enjoyed exploring abandoned buildings (which got him killed in the first place) and had (a) friend(s) that harassed him to death if he didn’t answer his phone. Birdy; of course, was on a mission to gain custody of an item she knew nothing about and to make matters worse she was being watched by a unit within her federation. During the first few days Birdy and Senkawa are fused; Birdy’s best friend dies. He was a robot squid given to her at a young age; Tuto was his name.

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Because Tuto was the closest relationship she’d had for a long time, him dying devastated Birdy; both the federation and Tuto warned Birdy about sharing a mind with someone, if the person stays too long or becomes hard to switch with; Birdy stands the chance of losing her body forever to the other mind; Senkawa. I think after Tuto’s death Birdy cared significantly about whether body was taken over or not, but over time Senkawa curbs her self destruction.

Birdy had been called to a court in front of her federation for capturing the bad guy; Geega; as a witness. During this session a woman steps in and grills Birdy on her competency; Senkawa kindly asks Birdy if he could come out to speak with the council. Senkawa wanted to make it clear to everyone that Birdy wasn’t a bad being for what happened and that it was an accident. The woman; Geeza acknowledges Senkawa’s efforts to defend Birdy and then begins to grill Senkawa about what he knows. Unfortunately neither Birdy or Senkawa knows why the Ryunka was so bad and why Geega having it was such a big deal. Geeze uses her powers to give both Senkawa and Birdy a glimpse of what this Ryunka could do.

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Once the duo are aware of how serious the Ryunka is; these two had to go through some rough changes to become friends, and you can definitely start to see just how deep the affection went after this.  The federation gives Birdy a phone made out of Tuto’s remains and she claims Senkawa as her new ‘buddy’. After the court session; Birdy sometimes helped Senkawa with his love life and made an active effort to make sure he kept contact with his friends; Senkawa does his part by allowing Birdy more executive decision making on when they can switch. It turns out Senkawa’s love interest; Nagasuki; is the Ryunka and this complicates Birdy’s and Senkawa’s relationship for a short time; Birdy had a hard time telling her best friend his girlfriend has to die and Senkawa just plain refuses to accept that his girlfriend may have to die. The entire time these two were bonding, the federation was working on Senkawa’s original body; as soon as Birdy breaks the news to Senkawa about Nagasuki; he overpowers Birdy’s mind and takes over. Senkawa and Birdy is immediately transported to Alteria and Senkawa is transferred back into his own body. Even after the split, Birdy tried to go out of her to save Nagasuki from being killed. Without hesitation we see Senkawa take the risk and withdraw the Ryunka from Nagasuki’s body and request Birdy kill him before it’s too late; the very thing Birdy was going to ask Senkawa to do to save both him and Nagasuki.

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I truly felt the way Birdy and Senkawa developed throughout the show; it was a pleasant surprise that it made sense the entire time. I didn’t think either personalities were over the top, I saw both of their weaknesses, and could determine what could strengthen them as the story progressed… Well into season two.

Props to Yugo Kanno: Music

Yugo Kanno has done music for Psycho Pass, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Kaiji, March comes in like a Lion, and my personal favorite; Ninja Batman. His musical style seems to be intense groove; this man really knows how to make a scene come to life. In Birdy the Mighty; sometimes I felt like I was watching Cowboy Bebop, others I felt Ghost in the Shell. Kanno did such a great job composing pieces that generated an emotional response out of a scene that had no dialogue; he’s definitely a master at implementing different instrument types from different cultures too. This wasn’t primarily a sad anime; the tone was pretty upbeat most of the time which is why I could hear Jojo sometimes while watching (even though Birdy was almost 10 years prior). I highly recommend giving the Birdy the Mighty: Decode soundtrack a good, long listen.

See more Side Effects on Other Side: Directing

Sharing bodies after Birdy basically murdering a teenage boy was a pretty big plot point in this show; she had a huge mission to accomplish and it became more complicated by this major inconvenience. Tetsuwan was only 13 episodes; I think the director did an excellent job translating this manga into a television series. There was so much to Birdy and Senkawa’s personalities, interactions, and story; I don’t read manga and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to the point where I will, but I can tell when an anime brings its source material to life nicely. The director; Kazuki Akane; took two episodes to setup us up with Senkawa and Birdy; the script explains who they are, how they “meet”, and the conflicts they’re going to have together and separately. Akane and his team really captured the humor in a boy and woman sharing bodies without making it sexual; which I must say is impressive. There were a few scenes where we see Birdy in the bathtub and the script between her and Senkawa was mostly about Senkawa’s concern of getting caught. In fact even though Birdy’s “uniform” left little to the imagination, my eyes never really focused on that during battle scenes; I was mesmerized more by the fight between her and an android more than how good her butt looked in a fighting stance. The fanservice; if you can even call it that; was so subtle, but it could also be that I’m used to powerful, drawn women not having much to wear; ex: comic book heroes.

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To add in a opinion; I did feel like this show could have gotten away with being  10-11 episodes long. Episodes 5-7 felt like fillers; for some reason a random bad guy was added into the story instead of expanding on Birdy’s history; and the story was close to expanding a little bit more on how Birdy came to be well… Birdy the Berserker Killer. Birdy’s history could have been a topic of discussion in season two but again I just felt like episode five could’ve at least been set aside for that.

Is that Masaaki Yuasa???: Animation and Artstyle

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Yes, it you’re wondering I’m a huge Masaaki Yuasa fan; his animation style satisfies me in unspeakable ways.

Kazuki Akane is not an animator, as far as I know he’s never been on a storyboard team so for the second to last episode to feel like the animation team slacked, was disappointing. Episode 12 aside, I have to give major props to A-1 on showcasing their fight sequence talents in Birdy the Mighty. I can see where it started and I’m super excited to fast forward a few years to see how far they’ve gotten. Some if not all of Birdy’s fighting sequences were amazing; I really enjoyed how the camera followed where punches, kicks, and grabs were going. When Birdy or whoever she was fighting got knocked back, the camera scaled out and would move with the victim to show us what happened; I think it’s studio Trigger that has impact animation on lock but I see that A-1 has camera positioning down.

Whenever Birdy went between her home planet and Earth, you could see a clear difference. That’s something I really appreciated; the color palette changed according to where they were. Blues, purples, and reds represented Birdy’s planet while blues, yellows, oranges, and greens represented Earth; come to think of it, Birdy herself has a mix of these colors; almost foreshadowing her permanent involvement with both planets. Towards the end of the season I also noticed the color palette for Earth started to change; almost as if the animation team wanted you to think Earth was in a sense, going to become a different planet.

The character designs were extremely appealing; all jokes aside Shyamalan was drawn to perfection. There were a large variety of characters in this anime, granted not the largest but it could have been easy to lose who was who if they all looked generic. Senkawa’s friends had some of the nicest and varying designs; I commented on how in the Big Windup I could tell the characters apart because of their facial features, it seems that early A-1 was big on faces. My favorite character design was Sudou Ryota; Senkawa’s jerk friend. Just based off Ryota’s design alone I knew he was a sarcastic, snarky, debbie downer. I loved that about him because lately it hasn’t been often we see a characters personality be their character design too; well I shouldn’t say just the design, what I mean is their face and features. In my opinion, a lot of anime today seems to copy and paste facial features not really giving them the human like differences we see in the real world. You can argue that’s the point of anime; it’s basically an alternate universe, but I enjoy diversity and Ryota’s design gave that to me.

Push me,

And then just touch me,

So I can get my satisfaction: Conclusion

Man I loved watching this anime, seeing a completely different production from A-1. They literally went from a Slice of life to a Sci-fi and both were adored by the general public; I think that takes guts. Birdy the Mighty seemed like the type of adaptation that if Akane wasn’t hired to be the director, this could have become another bad harem anime. I give Birdy a easy 9.

Birdy Cephon Altera PVC Figure 1/7 Scale

Birdy the Mighty: Fabric Wall Scroll Poster (32 x 31) Inches [A]Birdy-2 (L)

Ookiku Furikabutte: Big Windup!

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Here is a story about a boy who kind of finds his place in the world through his baseball teammates. This is a tale about an underdog team learning to work with one another to create an unstoppable force in the high school leagues. I can not stress enough what I liked most about this anime is the amount of effort put into creating such a supportive atmosphere in every episode (for season one at least). Our main character; Mihashi, transfers from a big league Junior High School to a unknown school his mother went to because he felt useless to his old team; in Mihashi’s defense, his old Mihoshi teammates were bullies and they’d probably make anyone doubt themselves after three years. As we go through the first season we see Mihashi’s new teammates make an active effort to help him gain some type of confidence and win their games. This was a really good start for A-1’s first production release.

Growing as a Team: Character Development and Voice Acting

In this season it’s the first year the team is together; Momoe; their coach, rents a field and cottage type place to work on the boys teamwork. She pulls Abe; the catcher, and Mihashi aside to the field to work on their teamwork in a different way; in this show they make it a point that the relationship between the catcher and pitcher is very important. If it’s ever off then the team starts to become offset and then starts a chain reaction of losses. After the 2 on 1 session with the coach we see Mihashi become attached and subservient to Abe; Abe, although reluctant at first and thanks to Momoe; makes Mihashi’s confidence boost a priority. The big push for the teams development as a whole came from playing against Mihahi’s old school… In episode three we see a glimpse of how he was treated by his previous teammates; the guy who corners Mihashi is his old catcher. The guy really does hate Mihashi’s guts; he threatens to break Mihashi’s arm and thankfully Abe shows up to detour this violence.

 

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I think a big reason why Nishiura becomes such a good team is because of this moment between Abe and Mihashi. Both had their own baggage from previous teams and neither understood each other. What this team needed was a core drive, and with it being to help Mihashi with his confidence; it helped develop each member individually and together just by showing how they interacted; how each boy was going to put his best foot forward to help a disheartened teammate. The warmth the boys showed Mihashi on the field when he was up to pitch was really nice to see; as the story progresses towards the end, you get to see how those small gestures helped Mihashi become a little more confident in himself. What I loved the most about this underdog team is that the warmth didn’t just stop at Mihashi, they all gave it to each other as well.

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As for the voice acting goes; I prefer the dubbed over subbed. When I watched Big Windup! in Japanese it made me hate Mihashi more than feel sorry for him; the voice actor was way too whiny for my taste. The english voice acting for the others boys was spot on; I got a sense of their age and maturity better. It may have helped that Funimation reworked this anime in 2011, which means you’d get to hear some well established regulars voice acting.

Music that does it’s Job: Music, Opening, and Ending.

I didn’t have a problem with the music in this show; the soundtrack does it’s job well. The songs helped convey the mood and helped make the baseball games feel real. For me personally there was nothing special about the openings or the endings; I didn’t like that scenes from the show were used in the openings and the endings didn’t pump me up for the next episode. Heck, the music during each episode grabbed my attention more than Dramatic by BaseBall Bear and Medaka no Mita Niji by Takada Kozue. Again the music did its job; the opening and ending songs felt like they filled a space, a good enough space. I apologize to those who loved the songs.

3 Strikes You’re Out!: Directing

A-1 does such an amazing job (most of the time) directing action shots; it’s impressive to see from the very beginning they knew how to move a camera. When it came time for the baseball games, I felt like I was watching a real one. It would be easy to span out a long shot of the baseball flying towards a player, them catching it, and then it being thrown to the next person. No, the director didn’t allow such cheap shots to be taken; Tsutomu Mizushima liked to have the camera move with the ball and the background expressing the remaining movement.

 

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The technique for the ball was also used for the players. Once someone hit the ball or especially when the runners were on the bases; you could feel the intensity of the situation. A lot of the times when we saw the runners, they were going between bases; either because the pitcher was about to attempt for an out or someone on their team made an amazing hit and the bases were free game. The amount of action in those scenes took a lot of framework, more than I think they could manage at the time. I still think though; with this minor set back the director was able to convey the action and suspense of real baseball games pretty darn well.

 

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Beauty in the Basics: Animation and Artstyle

I’m not going to lie to you; I really hated Mihashi’s character; the design itself wasn’t bad but the bird like facial expressions were a turn off for me. The artstyle in general definitely took some getting used to because I’ve been watching anime 10 years after this was made. Mihashi aside, I enjoyed the character designs. I felt like A-1 took basic character designing to a new level. I could tell the players apart; a lot of the hairstyles repeated but that was made up for in facial features. Big Windup also felt kind of classic to me; the animators stuck with brush strokes for the backgrounds and subtle but bold outlines for the characters. As you can tell I like to take screenshots of the anime/show/movie I’m reviewing; when I went back to review which shots I wanted to use for this review I found something a bit troubling… I could see the the movement lines.

 

Of course the viewer doesn’t see this but I still find it sloppy. I’m not sure if this was the product of poor technology, the year it was, or if budgeting prevented a clean transition from frame to frame; whatever the issues is here I have to knock a few points off. Some of the examples I had to show for amazing camera work were compromised due to the poor quality; not from the pixelation but the frame rate was God awful sometimes. I know that a lot of animations’ charm is being able to seamlessly string “moving” images together and I’m not saying this anime had bad frame rates in every shot; this was mainly a problem I noticed in the action scenes. Even though I stand by my words from before; “the camera work was amazing”, I feel the need to share this. Moving forward in my journey with A-1 pictures, hopefully I’ll get to see the improvements they’ve made on a small and large scale.

Final Verdict!

Big Windup was a fun sports anime, it made me laugh quite a bit; definitely a nice change of pace from AnoHana. The animation and directing during the baseball games was absolutely stunning and I’d watch season two just to see the Nishiura boys play again; however I won’t rate it any higher because I was deeply annoyed by Mihashi. Dear Lord did he cry about everything and I personally don’t sympathize with perpetual cryers, although I did empathize with his inner turmoils and was happy that his teammates were there to curve his insecurities. With everything in mind my score for this anime is a solid 7.

 

A Journey Down A-1 Pictures Lane

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The studio with no shame.

Do you remember ‘Eromanga-sensei’ and ‘My little sister can’t be this cute’ (with 2 seasons by the way)? Darker but impressive times in A-1 Pictures and Aniplex history; they were able to adapt incest light novels without the show turning into hentai… I think that takes talent. This post is not for ragging on A-1 Pictures or Aniplex at all, in fact I want to take the next month or so exploring their animation history. After watching AnoHana and really enjoying the show, I became interested in what else has A-1 done? I knew about the big stuff like Sword Art Online, Fate, and AnoHana of course but I wasn’t familiar with much else. Honestly you guys, I’m new to anime; I was one of those people that watched Naruto and thought I was the biggest anime fan ever… Now I know the truth (no disrespect to Naruto fans, the show is awesome in my opinion).

My plans for this project is to review the shows A-1 Pictures has done over the years to get a sense of who they were, are, and going to be in the future and I want to share with you guys; my journey.


A Brief Look at their History

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A-1 Pictures was created in 2005 by ex Sunrise producer Mikihiro Iwata; becoming a subsidiary of Aniplex so that they could animate their own shows. The original plan for A-1 Pictures was to oversee the family oriented animations; their first co-creation was a Zenmai Zamurai, a childrens that has a weird plot… Check it out if you’re into a “hero” shooting dumplings at the bad guys; fast forward a year A-1 starts broadcasting their own production;  Ōkiku FurikabutteSince 2007 the studio has been involved in a wide range of media, anime, and other activities; in fact almost two months ago A-1 Pictures re branded their Koenji Studio, CloverWorks. CloverWorks will have it’s own unique identity apart from A-1 Pictures; they’re the studio that’s producing Persona 5: The Animation


 To kick off the journey I will be starting with Ōkiku Furikabuttethe Big Windup. I hope you guys enjoy this journey with me as much I’m going to enjoy sharing it.