Having a somewhat lackluster ending from the prequel I’ve never expected the quality difference between the prequel and sequel of the anime. I’ve watched the OVA (the Cipher) before this sequel. I recommend you should too as it is a liaison between the two parts.
*I will note that this sequel is more violent than its prequel. There is a reason why it’s rated R while the other is P-13. It follows a more mature subject matter and there are decapitations and yanking limbs.*
However it’s not violence and edgy scenes is what makes a better sequel.
*I will also note that it is mostly spoiler-free and this is based on 5 as the mean instead of 7 in standard grading*.
The story doesn’t become a magical reset and begins a month after the events of the prequel. The dynamic duo of Birdy and Tsutomu now must hunt down escapees that came down to Earth who have ties to the consequences in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Natsumi Hayamiya and Tsutomu’s other friends decided to address those effects for the upcoming cultural festival in their school.
From then on, Birdy is the focus, unlike the prequel (which was Tsutomu). It explores her past with the various villains and people (Altans and aliens technically) that she reencounters. It has its share of geopolitics, slice of life moments, action, and drama. Fortunately, it often jumps scenarios and helps encompass its tones better as the comedy doesn’t hamper the following serious atmosphere. Anymore than that and it would be spoiler territory.
This is a much more focused story with better pacing and structure. It follows the same formula of a mystery from the prequel with bits and pieces that come together, but this time it helps flesh out a character. Though more linear (quite predictable actually) and not entirely complicated, it is well articulated and more detailed, making use of the world-building better than before. The ending resolves many of the asked questions in the prequel, but lends subplots and foreshadowing to be expounded for a third part (which unfortunately is never made).
I do have to say it may require a more myopic focus and a rewatch to help piece everything together for it to make much more sense and appreciate it. Things may appear superficially simple, but its execution is key.
Watching it casually or an episode weekly will probably keep you scratching your head or lose interest in this anime.
As stated, Birdy becomes a highlight of the show and being the much more interesting character, the story becomes more character driven. It also brings up the persona, Shion Arita, and makes well use for its comedic purposes. Her childhood people are complex enough to have some depth and the various escapees as well as Tsutomu help colorize and develop her personality.
These escapees have enough screen time to have characterization and their interactions prevent them from being the “I’m an evil villain trope”. Each can have different enough personalities that help me distinguish the characters (though they’re hard to recall their names due to the short time span) without being one-sided as a whole. Best of all, the main antagonist is a much more complicated villain with better motives than the cardboard cut-out of Shyamalan. However, I can’t spoil anymore, but I can say that they explain why she is “Birdy the Berserker Killer.”
Unfortunately, Tsutomu loses most of his screen time, but he does have his fair share and he develops more maturity based on his experiences on the prequel. Irma and Capella have more comedic interactions. In addition, Muroto and Tsutomu’s friends while lacking in development; helps bring a different perspective of the world to make it more realistic and less about the melodrama or light-heartedness of the vantage point. I can say the same by bringing Megius and Skeletso to the story even if it is a minor one.
My biggest complaint would be some of the other characters. However, it could be a good thing that they dropped the weird cameo villain Gomez, (the blond dude with sun glasses) and the even bigger villain as well as Nechla (the space pontiff) as it can foreshadow another part and keeps the focus better to the set of character it mainly brings out.
The music is much more orchestral and helps build that engaging tension while having some more dramatic portions. At some points it reminds me of music similar to various blockbuster super-heroes movies and tragic drama. It has some cool rock music and the opening of it is a much more appealing J-pop sound. Overall it's quite well rounded in style made by Yugo Kanno (Psycho-Pass and Jojo's Bizzare Adventure Stardust Crusaders)... fitting for this anime. While I still do notice the repetition and a lack in memorability in music; however, it is much more emotionally moving and greatly captures the mood and atmosphere well when required.
Art/ Animation- 8/10
It’s either a LOVE/HATE kind of style
**By the style, I mean that of the low detail, yet hyper fluid rotoscoping it often uses. That form is outside of the cel animation and really puts off many people. I saw it very similar to the well-known Naruto vs. Pain fight animation and the fights of Noein: to your other self. Otherwise it looks similar to K-On, minus the moe elements.**
Various facial expressions may seem jarring and it appears to look like the expressionist painting, the Scream, along with the sketchy animation similar to TTGL which not everyone will appreciate. However, this shouldn’t be judged solely based on its appearance, but what it does with it.
Ep 7 and 12 are the episodes that follow this to the fullest of this aspect. Although Ep 7 has been fixed after the DVD release and cleaned it with more solid figures.
Now I should get back on track. Unfortunately, this show is starting to lose its budgeting. It was made well into the global recession of 2008 and the quality shows here (unlike the prequel.)
The fights are still very well choreographed and much more numerous than the prequel. Most fights are now bloody and don't last very long as it's usually more plot centered. Character designs are quite simple and the interactions are still very well made that provide some of the best body movements done with hand-to-hand combat. However, it's the art style that attempts to evoke the emotional aspects of catharsis.This would be a first priority and making it look badass as a second priority. In other words, you shouldn't be expecting dazzling polished spectacles, but rather, the dynamic, visceral conveyance of characters and their efforts (similar to Ping Pong the Animation.)
I wouldn’t call the art style lazy as it requires more movement and doesn’t have a lot of repeated frames (except with one scene with the walking motion in the hospital). It's quite different from other shows that have minimalistic movement, yet has some eye-candy detail, but I personally adore this animation style.
I’m quite surprised it surpassed my expectations, often maturing its story and become slowly well-rounded and well executed as each episode passed. It fixed the issues for me for a disjointed story and the violence was done with reasonable sense and defined motives (with some moral ambiguity) with never becoming too gratuitous for me.
It makes tighter use of characters and the genre-bending (not to be confused with gender-bending) that makes me appreciate the usage of children and adults to tell such a story in a fictional world with depth.
It's quite a shame not many would have seen this anime made by A-1 Pictures nor is this anime fully completed. Definitely a more underrated masterpiece that improve greatly compared to its prequel. Finishing it made me wish there were more episodes and more anime like it.
Without becoming an over-hyped fan boy, however, I can see why people may not like this show. The mix genres it has would make others have a mixed reaction towards their entertainment. Some would be really put off by the jarring art style or gruesome violence and others would not like the lack of central themes and linearity(although it is heavily nuanced) of the sequel.
Overall- a very high 8/10 (sorry I don't round up)
This is an exceptionally well-done show that I believe is much better than its prequel.
More avid fans would definitely like the more engaging story. It’s quite a shame that many would drop the prequel and not realizing the difference between the two.
I recommend it for those who prefer more on a story-focused anime with fight scenes only as a plot device (not the plot itself, unlike in most shounen anime.) Don't expect stylishly badass characters with the over the top rule-of-cool factors, as most of the time, this anime's strengths are the space opera in this setting and surprisingly human problems.
However, I still have to recommend you watch the prequel before in order to appreciate the latter, especially since the two are tied together and not a standalone 12 episode series.