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Tetsuwan Birdy – Manga Mondays

Posted on: November 23, 2009

Birdy the MightyWith FUNimation’s licensing announcement for the Tetsuwan Birdy TV series, this week’s Manga Monday is the manga that the series is based on. Note that there are actually two Tetsuwan Birdy manga series – the recent series is Yuuki Masami’s (Patlabor) remake of his own 1980s manga, which he never completed. So, two decades later, he decided to reboot his idea and start over from the beginning with another Tetsuwan Birdy, and the results have been mostly better this time around. Mostly.

Tetsuwan Birdy, AKA Birdy the Mighty, was inexplicably made into an OAV in the ’90s, 10 years after Yuuki abandoned it and 10 years before he brought it back. The current run of the manga started again in 2003, and since I had fond memories of the ’90s anime, I started picking it up to read.

The story starts out pretty fun – it’s an amalgam of the space police “procedural”, the gender-bending identity story, and the school drama. It all starts when young Senkawa Tsutomu stumbles into a fight between elite space cop Birdy Cephon Altera and a fugitive alien. He’s caught in the crossfire and killed, but using her advanced technology, Birdy manages to preserve his mind and transplant it into her own body, allowing him to live a semi-normal life while she attempts to rebuild his body. But since he’s borrowing her body, she occasionally needs to take it back over while tracking down alien criminals, leading to some interesting situations at school and at home.

The world of Tetsuwan Birdy is really well fleshed out, because as always, Yuuki is very good at filling in the details. Over the course of the series, you get to know all about how the science and the politics of Birdy’s world work. Yuuki keeps things it out with some great villains who keep the series exciting – though sometimes they’re just gross; the melting body-stealing guy induces a lot of winces from the squeamish, even as he adds a lot of depth and tension to the overall story.

Tetsuwan Birdy‘s biggest weakness is the same weakness of the Patlabor series, though – Yuuki Masami has an unnatural love of drawing people in darkened rooms talking a lot, and when he starts dipping into his tried and true material of government plots and dark conspiracies, the manga really bogs down in itself. Characters spend far too much time sitting around in chairs and talking about things that will eventually happen, while you get bored and start reading something else.

I’m trying to remember just when the series jumped the shark for me – I think it was around volume 7, but I’ll have to go home and check on my collection before I make a decision. Regardless, Tetsuwan Birdy is probably a manga you should skip in favor of the anime version, which I’m told does a much better job of getting to the good stuff.

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1 Response to "Tetsuwan Birdy – Manga Mondays"

I’ve never read the manga, and I’m not sure if I even knew it existed before now. Seeing your review of it, I probably won’t start it. The anime, however, is very good. I does an excellent job of sticking to the action while including a rather interesting plot(s). So far there’ve been two short seasons; I hope we get more eventually.

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