I know love is a powerful word, but in retrospect, it does not do this feeling justice. The bond between these people is much deeper than that. The survivors genuinely loved one another. They didn’t have much of anything, but like childhood friends, they knew they had each other. And in the end, that’s what’s important–the love you shared with others.
-Hayamiya Natsumi, “Before Long,” Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode 02
Maybe it starts as a crush, as a full blast of lust, or warms steadily over time, but love is one powerful emotion that is nigh impossible to forget or live without. There are many forms to this deceivingly simple word, many of which are featured prominently in the 2008-09 TV series, Tetsuwan Birdy Decode. The theme of love encompasses many of the actions and decisions that our main characters make, though it does not do so in an overwhelmingly dramatic way. Instead, it is interspersed amidst well-balanced sections of humor and action, slowing growing into a part indistinguishable from all the rest.
You might even equate young love to the flighty crush. As intense as the feelings may be, as tightly as you squeeze out the juices of young love, the pulp still remains. The end result is refreshingly sweet, yet watery in substance. What is in season now may not be in season as soon as the next year. I can’t even begin to count the number of crushes I have had from a very young age to even now; these crushes can even be on people I barely know, on celebrities I most likely will never meet.
Senkawa and Sayaka’s relationship really epitomizes young love–they are fascinated with each other and the experience of reciprocated feelings, basing all their sentiment on very little knowledge of who the other really is. I can’t help but view their idea of “love” as shallow; if anything, it is their otherness that really draws them to each other, giving them a reason to use the solace of company as an indication of love…that, and the fact that Sayaka really is very pretty. So it was with approval that I watched their relationship unfold in the last few episodes of the first season, as well as the separation that Senkawa agrees to in the inter-connecting OVA. Before they can take that next step to learning more about one another, they must first begin to settle into their own identities.
Love in Friendship
Love isn’t always about sexual attraction, but also unfolds in the bonds we hold with those we are lucky to count as our friends. Like that elusive one, true friends are hard to make, and even harder to keep. Much like any relationship, friendships suffer over time and distance. Coming from a small town, I had many friends in high school who I had known from all the way back in kindergarten. And yet, after just one year away at college, I lost touch with the majority of them. The loss of communication had nothing to do with me finding “better” friends, or losing interest in their lives, but had more to do with a new direction in life and the daily activities that made it all too easy to forget to make a simple phone call. Despite the silence, there are still a select few who, no matter how much time passes, still welcome me as if we had just chatted the day before. Those are the friends who are the real thing, the ones you know will be there when disaster strikes and you need a supporting hand.
It’s this strength that defines Birdy and Nataru’s bond. Even with many years apart and Birdy’s different appearance, Nataru recognizes her immediately upon a single glance. Although their relationship is the secondary focus of the sequel season, it is actually my favorite aspect of the entire show. The nature of their origin and upbringing defines their outlooks on life, which is a large part of what makes their relationship so heart-wrenching. Birdy grew up in a hard world of physical training and constant instruction, with very few people to care for her in the way that every child needs. Nataru, in turn, was raised among an Alterian terrorist organization, with only the hidden affections of his “father” to protect him. The moments they spend together are all the more precious because of their brevity and inevitable end.
Growing naturally from their childhood friendship, it takes almost the entire second season for both Birdy and Nataru to realize the depth of their feelings for one another. And even if it’s not explicitly stated, I choose to believe that they are each others’ first loves. Repeatedly throughout the series, Birdy makes light of Senkawa’s feelings and the “human” emotions, speaking in a way that belies her own inexperience. Yet despite the growing implications against Nataru and his involvement with the rogue space prisoners, she keeps blinding herself by choosing to only see the best in him. Even when the truth comes face to face with her, Birdy is unable to take action against the man whom she cares for above all others.
Their fight scene in the final episode is one of my favorites out of the whole series, where love magnifies into uncontrolled passion. Nataru tries to justify his actions by turning them into a case for love, love for the Alterians among whom he was raised, love for his murdered father, love for the humans he has lived with for many years, and love for Birdy, the woman he has decided to put out of her miserable life as an Iksiola and slave to the Federation. As flawed as his reasoning is, Birdy has done well to create as much sympathy as they have for his character up to this point. Even though I knew what he did was wrong, a part of me agreed with him.
Love for Life
Timed perfectly with the climax of season two was Senkawa’s friends’ class presentation on the disaster left from the Ryunko’s actions at the end of season one. Slides showing images of smiling victims despite the rubble surrounding them flickered back and forth with Nataru and Birdy’s fight among that same rubble only miles away. What keeps these people going is the continued hope for a better future, one that can only be created with the mutual support of their fellow human beings. Instead of descending into Nataru’s rage, the victims take the path that Birdy represents, one that aligns itself with love for others and for all life. Hayamiya’s moving speech really sums up not only her presentation, but the feelings of all of Birdy’s characters: “The survivors genuinely loved one another. They didn’t have much of anything, but like childhood friends, they knew they had each other. And in the end, that’s what’s important–the love you shared with others” (“Before Long,” Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode 02).