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Double-backed anime & Birdy The Mighty Decode

Tuesday 17th April 2012

Andrew Osmond gets his head around cut-up anime chronologies

Birdy The Mighty DecodeHere’s a handy tip for anyone embarking on the SF action show Birdy the Mighty Decode. The last episode in the collection – part 26, called “Between You and Me” – is not really the last episode. In fact, it should be part 14, as it bridges the two main story-arcs that make up the show. Even more confusingly, part 25 – which is the real final episode, with a terrifically animated skyscraper-smashing punch-up – has a “next episode” ad for part 26 tagged on at the end. The advert shows rough unfinished animation, suggesting it was only in early production when part 25 was broadcast.

In fact, the “Between You and Me” episode wasn’t shown when Birdy the Mighty Decode ran on Japanese television. Rather, it’s a video release, put out on Japanese DVD a few months after the TV series had ended. It extends the story of a character who’s central to the show’s first arc, and gives more of an introduction to some characters in the second. However, the episode isn’t vital to follow the series.

Darker than Black: Twilight of the GeminiThere was a different situation with another SF action series, Darker than Black: Twilight of the Gemini, which was released in Britain a few months ago. This was a sequel to the previous Darker than Black, with both anime set in a post-catastrophe world where people have developed lethal superpowers. However, viewers who watched Gemini straight after Darker than Black would likely be bewildered. A great many things have happened off-screen between the shows, including one of the main characters somehow attaining a deadly divinity.

Luckily, there’s a simple way for British viewers to avoid confusion; watch the third disc of the Twilight of the Gemini DVD first. The third disc, you see, contains a four-part video series, which was called Darker than Black: Gaiden in Japan. Like Birdy’s bonus episode, this spinoff was released in Japan after the TV show had finished. The story is set between the first Darker than Black and the Gemini sequel, and it explains exactly what happened in the interim, making Gemini far easier to follow. Perhaps the Japanese marketers set out deliberately to confuse the Japanese TV viewers, so they would invest in the video to learn what on earth had happened to the Darker the Black characters.

Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Demon WombBirdy and Darker than Black are far from the only anime with double-backed chronologies. Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Demon Womb, for example, is often called a sequel to Legend of the Overfiend when it actually seems to be a “midquel”; that is, it’s set during the events of the previous film. Then again, Womb curiously relocates the main characters from Tokyo to Osaka, which could be a continuity goof or proof that Demon Womb is set in a parallel universe to Overfiend.

The series She the Ultimate Weapon – Another Love Song fills in an elaborate “untold story” missed out of the TV She the Ultimate Weapon, spanning the first ten episodes. Anime spinoff movies can be midquels, telling “untold” adventures from characters’ pasts when their stories have ended (apparently) for good on TV. See the Cowboy Bebop movie, for example, or this year’s Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos.

Wolfs RainOne more example of story confusion caused by a crossover from TV to video is the fantasy lupine epic, Wolf’s Rain. On its TV run, the show was subject to production delays and wandering timeslots, leading to no less than four redundant recap episodes (parts 15 to 18). The TV run finished with a stirring finale to part 26, which viewers might well mistake for the ending. In fact, the real end was made as a four-part video, released on the seventh Wolf’s Rain disc in Britain and included in the collected editions. The video ends the story on a very different, tragic-yet-cathartic, note to the TV series, so be warned; if you only watch anime on Japanese TV, you can miss the best bit of the story.

Birdy the Mighty Decode: The Complete Collection, is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment. Sometimes we count ourselves lucky we can watch it all in one go…

Double-backed anime & Birdy The Mighty Decode


Birdy The Mighty: Complete Series Collection

was £39.99
The entire season! Collecting Decode 1 and Decode 2 for the first time!
Birdy is an interstellar space agent sent to Earth to investigate the appearance of aliens under the secret identity of a popular Idol. A frantic late night mission causes her to catch an innocent schoolboy in her deadly line of fire. Thanks to a special space technology, Birdy knows a way to restore his life by joining their two bodies into one. Now Tsutomu and Birdy must share the same body, mind and adventures while his broken flesh slowly heals.



One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Robocop vs Anime Cyborgs

Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.

Anime at the Oscars 2014

Andrew Osmond on Japan's chances at this year's Academy Awards
There are two anime among this year’s Oscar nominees: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, competing for Best Animated Feature, and Shuhei Morita’s Possessions, vying for Best Animated Short. To date, there has been only one Japanese winner in each category. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was the winning feature in 2002; Kunio Kato’s La Maison en Petits Cubes won Best Animated Short Film in 2008. What are the new films’ chances?

Jimmy Murakami 1933-2014

Andrew Osmond remembers the man who did it all
By way of an obituary, we re-run Andrew Osmond's interview with the late Jimmy Murakami, originally published in March 2012.

The Wind Rises

Andrew Osmond on the controversy of Miyazaki's last feature
As Miyazaki’s film itself makes clear, Horikoshi was a cog in Japan’s military machine at the time of the country’s most aggressive expansion. This was when Japan was moving into China, proclaiming what it called the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,” which really meant Japanese imperialist supremacy in East Asia.

The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto

Jasper Sharp is in a Tokyo state of mind
The hyperrealism of the “cartoon” Akira and the cartoonishness of the live-action Tetsuo struck Western viewers unaccustomed to such mould-breaking cinema with equal force, and it is no real surprise to note that Manga Entertainment was responsible for the subsequent releases of both Tsukamoto’s big-budget colour rerun of his debut, Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer (1992) and his later Tokyo Fist.

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.

Bleach Music: Universe

Tom Smith on series 13’s rainbow rockers...
While the Soul Reapers form an uneasy alliance with the Visoreds in Bleach series 13 part 2, the band providing the episode’s ending theme have an uneasy alliance of their own.

K the Animation

Andrew Osmond keeps calm and carries on
The start of an action anime series is often a bewildering experience, dropping the viewer into a whirlwind of unfamiliar folk having very big fights. K’s like that, but luckily the main character starts the show as baffled as us. Yashiro Isana is a bit different from the standard schoolboy hero

Ocean Waves

Andrew Osmond on a Studio Ghibli “obscurity”
Ocean Waves is the only feature anime by the world-famous Studio Ghibli which might be called obscure. It wasn’t made for cinemas but television, broadcast on Japan’s NTV network in 1993. And now it's playing as part of the BFI's Ghibli season...
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