This series, while pretty obscure, is one of my personal favourites. Thus it was one of the first things I reviewed. Which mainly meant it had to cope with a really poor and short review for much longer than such a cool anime deserves. It's based on a manga by Masami Yuuki (also involved in Patlabor) which does help explain it's cool mix of elements and intelligent writing.
The anime begins with explosions booming over the streets of Tokyo. Looking a lot like some gang fighting it out with Bazooka's. Not that our lead even notices. As a modern day Japanese schoolboy he's more worried about next day's high school entrance exam. Not only does it look like things aren't going well, but it looks like his studies have fried his brain. But then again, his incredibly weird family thought he was more than half way there anyway. Thus when a rather stressed and harried looking man asks for a place to hide he, without thinking, show's him one he remembers from his youth. At this point, though he's still reciting his studies, he's knee deep in something much stranger than he has any reason to suspect. He's placed himself in the middle of a conflict between a female cop and a criminal syndicate...and it's not like they're even local to this planet.
Now, a quick warning, in order to give a feel for the story i'm going to come very close to spoiling the whole thing. If you know you're going to see it, and want the full effect, feel very free to jump the next paragraph.
It turns out that the man he's aided is a bit of an illegal alien...a bit as in he's a criminal from another world. And, chasing him, is a rather agressive, violent and awfully good fun federal alien police officer. In the ensuing carnage our lead is accidentally, well, killed by this officer. Her superiors take a suprisingly dim view of this, and encourage birdy (the officer) to keep his cells alive by merging them with her own. Thus we get into a `buddy' movie where the two leads are very closely bound. Although, while scientifically implausible, this is presented as the ability to co-exist in the body and morph between the two original forms. Not very believable, but a great basis for a fun anime.
So, in short order, our lead finds his normal life going straight into the twilight zone. The alien cop definitely needs his help to make any progress in her investigations (and her revenge) while her opponents (who seem to hold all the cards) can only stop her by taking them both out. It's not anything like what the guy had in mind. And, given that the federal officer is more like a super-powered big sister than anything else, while her opponents are suitably vicious, it's not a fight he wants to be involved in. Mind you, once some details of the shadowy plan the criminals are working on, and the way in which it will affect those he knows, he finds himself being drawn into the struggle as an active participant.
There are two really cool things about this anime. The main one is that it simply drips with a sense of quality. The creators enjoyed doing it and did their best to do it well. The other is that it melds a wide variety of elements all of which have their individual virtues. The characters, and there's quite a large cast, are strong and immediately recognizable. The dialog, human aspects and even the lead's domestic existence is integrated and interesting. And then there's birdy herself, who is just a wonderful character. By human standards she's a super-powered cop hunting revenge, but there's a wonderful ambiance of `big kid' about her. This might reduce from her erotic appeal, even with her rather fan-service compatible costime, but it's a lovely change. This shows got a complex sense of character and dialog that is simply a pleasure to watch. There's even a touch of humor and romance to add a bit of extra spice.
but wait..there's more! The plot itself, while fairly derivative, is woven into the story well. More and more details are revealed leading up to the climax. And the criminal group are also complex. There's rivalries, hidden motives and great characters amongst them. Even earth's police are involved as a third, albeit minor, force. It's well written stuff. However, and here comes the problem, it's also limited by the time available in four OAV's. There's also strong hints that it was meant to be a pilot, although it appears to be a pilot that didn't take off. This is both a shame and the main limiting factor on how complex the story can actually be.
Especially because the story has to allow a fair amount of time for some sweet action sequences. The cop character, and her opponents, are like enhanced humans. Thus huge leaps, physical strength and the ability to survive impressive blows are all within their capabilities. This means that combat is physical and acrobatic rather than boring guns or energy blasts. And, to top it off, it's really well done and fought out in interesting environments which are used in the moves. And, while birdy takes her fair share of lumps, there's a strong suggestion she quite likes the challenge.
Indeed the production all round is top notch. There's some wonderful scenes, some really cinematic framing of shots and potent expressions of character. There's also a lot of detail in the background and some excellent effects work. Both money and care went into this one and it shows. Mind you, the complex backgrounds do occasionally make the characters look a little super-imposed, and the action is sometimes a bit hidden or suggested to reduce complexity, but these are observations only the very picky should make. It's not new, and the style makes it clear, but it's still very impressive stuff. The voices are great, even for many of the minor characters, and expressive. The music is perhaps a bit plastic and over-agressive in parts, but it does enhance the energy of the scenes in which it is used. I really can't imagine anyone being too upset at having to watch this anime.
The fine people at Akemi's AnimeWorld like it, notes some weaknesses but generally strong characterisation in this review and also notes that it seems to be built as the foundation of a longer series.