Mar 16, 2021
Tetsuwan Birdy (Birdy the Mighty in official English translation) is a 20 volumes long manga series serialized between 2002-2008, the author is Yuuki Masami, well known for his SF stories in the 80s and 90s (he is the original creator of Patlabor). 218 chapters, each one being comprised of 17-20 pages.
The manga tells the story of Space Federation Investigator Birdy Altera Cephon and high school boy Senkawa Tsutomu sharing the same body and fighting the day to day challenges of this weird situation. Birdy is an alien woman with super strength while Tsutomu is a boring and lame high schooler who has a hobby of
investigating abandoned buildings. It is not a cute slice of life story, this manga is filled with action, battle scenes, SF elements and mysteries, it's as serious as can be, it has some comedy but it's very mild.
We have to delve deep a bit into this manga's past and structure to understand its context a little, the author started a similar manga called Tetsuwan Birdy back in 1985 but it was discontinued, you don't have to read that to understand the plot of this one, it has the same characters but it won't affect the reading. Tetsuwan Birdy Evolution though is a true sequel manga to this one, the overall plot is not resolved, the 20th volume is not the end of Birdy, so you have to read 13 volumes of Evolution after it.
Also, the TV anime seasons are a very loose adaptation of this manga, it's basically another story.
The story (set in Tokyo) is very simple to follow in the beginning, there's Birdy who made a mistake and messed up Tsutomu's body and now his mind/soul/whatever is in Birdy's body, everything was explained in a SF matter involving aliens and technology, now Tsutomu waits patiently inside Birdy for his body to be fixed. But of course, Birdy is a Federation Investigator, she still has to do her job, that's why she came on Earth and she will put Tsutomu through very dangerous situations.
From now on we will have cases involving aliens doing illegal things on Earth and Birdy will have to do something about it, I like how the manga is structured into story arcs and each chapter in named in continuity (story arc's name and chapter's number).
What it is done well here and the reason why I like so much is the police investigation stuff, Earth is not a Federation member so the aliens don't wanna expose themselves to earthlings, Birdy has to be extra careful. The story flows in a very slow matter, lots of talking and making strategies, then Birdy has to go to school because Tsutomu's daily life depends on that, he also has friends: Hayamiya Natsumi (Tsutomu's cute childhood friend), Sudou and Chigira (two very close friends), also his family appears a lot (mother, father and big sister).
Birdy came to Earth in order to find out some info about Christella Revi (the antagonist) the terrorist who plans who knows what and is a danger for the Federation, catching her is no easy deal, they have to find proof of illegal stuff and all of that, exactly like in real life when you know a politician is corrupt but you can't do anything because you can't prove it. Expect a cat and mouse chase with lots of alien politics involved, Revi's past and motivations are very interesting but the same could be said about the Federation.
The manga does well with explaining the alien politics, Birdy has a boss named Megius who is a big insect, then we get to learn a lot about the Federation and the Alliance, the Altans, the Ixiorans and the terrorist attacks orchestrated by Revi, it's kinda boring if you don't like these kinda things but I liked it, I like context in my stories, it may be hard to follow and I see how people may dislike it.
Almost all arcs finish in style, with a big action scene, Birdy being badass fighting dudes two times her size or weird aliens that look like tentacle monsters, imagine an 80s movie with cops shooting bad guys, then fighting them fist to fist. These scenes are very much enjoyable, Birdy is a true fighter and knows how to immobilize an enemy and on top of that she's sexy as hell in her tight alien clothes.
In regards to our characters, I have some bad news for the potential readers, Tsutomu is lame and a wimp, Birdy is a muscle head with no common sense but she's hot, Hayamiya is nagging all the time, Sudou is always talking about Chigira and Chigira is emo. Christella Revi doesn't even appear that much and when she does she just smiles like she owns the world, Gomez is wearing some cool sunglasses and acts hard boiled even though he is a villain (or is he?), the Japanese policemen are incompetents, the Japanese politicians are shrewd and disgusting (like in real life), Birdy's colleagues are annoying pricks, Hikawa is a Japanese ultra nationalist.
Not that impressive at first view, it is the truth though, I wrote that about them but it's not like the story is unreadable, somehow, it was very fun and engaging following those characters. It may look a bit cheesy but I managed to get over it and I liked the flow of the story with these guys. The characters are more complex than that, I just over exaggerated their biggest trait.
Senkawa Tsutomu is kinda lame, he is afraid of the aliens, he doesn't want to be involved in this big plot, he wants to have a normal life and tells Birdy to stop harassing him, he doesn't wanna be put through perilous situations, he just doesn't care about the universe politics, the only things important to him are his family and his daily life. Many readers of the manga dislike and hate Tsutomu (I found out in some fan forums), any other guy in his position would be excited to share a body with a hot alien chick and fight other aliens, but not Tsutomu. But still, I managed to finish the manga and Tsutomu wasn't that annoying, he gets some sorta development after he learns more about Birdy and after he fights some bad aliens, he actually cares a lot about Birdy and was very emotional after a certain arc. It's not the best protagonist but he's not that horrible.
Birdy is a hot alien girl dressed in some tight alien clothes/armor or whatever that is, she's not that interesting, she only wants to do her job and she's decent at it, her interactions with Tsutomu are great, keep in mind that she's an alien, she doesn't understand the concept of bathing, naked girls, eating downtown etc she's a fighter, her nickname is Berserker Killer (and not because she's berserk, it was explained in a story arc) and could fight any enemy with her fists.
There is also a big plot point as to why Birdy (and her race the Altans) looks like a human, same as Christella Revi. Birdy's flashback arc lasting for 2 volumes is one of the best flashback stories that I've read, it involves war, utopia governments, ethnic cleansing and discrimination. It makes the reader really feel for Birdy or at least understand the plot a little bit and get to know things about Revi.
Birdy can shape-shift to transform into Tsutomu (or to be extra fair, a body resembling Tsutomu, she has her limits), that's the overall hook of their connection.
Tsutomu's friends will play a major role in some arcs, they're high schoolers and the mysteries were up to their "power level", it's not like we'll see them fighting monsters and solving unsolvable mysteries, the manga was pretty logical in these aspects, even Birdy as strong as she is, she can't defeat a marionette alone (some sorta very powerful AI combat robot) and she will suffer injuries. She is not an over powered character, hell, she doesn't even have that much influence, she just have to follow some orders from Megius or other superiors and like I said, there are lots of aliens more powerful that her who could kick her ass.
The manga spends lots of time with small talk and talking in general, we get an idea of who are our characters, there's an antagonist Gomez, who we get to see with his happy family, also Hikawa the ultra nationalist, we get to spend lots of panels with him, and when conflict starts you will know why it starts and what it involves/why it is so important to the characters. Like i said above, the pacing is very slow, there are lots of puzzles to be formed in order for the grand scheme to be resolved and the characters use all their time in doing so. I don't know about others but I enjoyed reading it and I devoured all the info about our villains and protagonists
The art style is very good, the characters are drawn to look realistic, the eyes are not your usual moe (cute) style, all of them look a bit different, someone has freckles and someone has a beard etc, the body types are different too, aliens are very weird and they are drawn with detail. Megius is a big insect and his other colleagues are weird from a human point of view (dog aliens, reptile aliens etc). Birdy is a very sexy woman, her combat suit is "unintentionally" sexy and the fight scenes provide the readers incredible shots. Take it as a fanservice, there's nothing wrong looking at a hot woman fighting aliens armed with guns.
The backgrounds are very detailed too, the city, the country side, interior rooms, alien planets, all look great, nothing to complain here.
The manga has its sexy moments, Birdy will appear from time to time naked in some panels and other female characters too, it's the service we deserve, it's not very sexual fanservice (not To Love Ru type ecchi), it's just that we see our girls naked while taking a bath or changing and that's it. Also, the manga is a bit mature, it has sex, sexy shots and some adult jokes (it was meant to be read by late teens for it's tagged seinen), expect some blood, killings, a bit of gore too.
All in all, it resembles a lot with a police investigation type story (Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex) with lots of space politics involved and the high school life of a teenager, the characters may be annoying, the overall plot may be complicated to follow and the slow pace will annoy the readers a bit but if you get past it, you will enjoy it a lot. I got hooked on it after the first arc, the mystery about Revi and the big conflict was very interesting and I wanted to know about it. In time, I got used to Tsutomu's attitude and the slow pace and let's be real, the manga Death Note has the same slow pace and no real action and people still enjoyed it. Tetsuwan Birdy delivers some cool battle scenes, well choreographed and exciting, a fan of stories that build up in time that spend time in explaining the plot will not get bored at all. We get some filler arcs that have no big connection with catching Revi but even those arcs are a door to the secret of the overall world setting. A certain arc unveils the secret of the Altan race (the most important aliens in the story) and it has connections with Earth, the Federation, Christella Revi and some earthlings and it's not the flashback arc.
The only downside is that you have to read the sequel to truly end the saga of Tetsuwan Birdy, but still, these 20 volumes are a great read even if you will never get to Evolution, sure, the final conflict is not resolved, Revi is still plotting schemes on Earth but following Birdy and Tsutomu's adventures was totally worth it.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8
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