テラフォーマーズ 第1話 「00-01 THE ENCOUNTER 既知との遭遇」
Terra Formars #01. 「00-01 THE ENCOUNTER Encounter with the Known」
Source Material: Manga series by Sasuga Yuu
Director(s): Hamasaki Hiroshi (浜崎 博嗣)
Script: Yasukawa Shogo (ヤスカワ ショウゴ)
Music: Murai Shusei (村井 秀清)
Terra Formers is an original Japanese manga series written by Sasuga Yuu and illustrated by Tachibana Kenichi serialized in Shueisha‘s Weekly Young Jump magazine since 2011. In 2013, it was nominated for the 6th Manga Taishō Award. It is currently ongoing, with an original video animation accompanying the television anime adaptation and a sping-off manga entitled Terra for Police serialized in the Jump Kai magazine.
In the 21st century, scientists tasked with terraforming Mars devised a cost-effective method of using mold to absorb sunlight on the surface of the planet and using cockroaches as a food source for the mold. In the year 2577, the process is all but complete, save the commencement of mankind’s settlement by means of sending its first manned crew to Mars to eliminate the roaches and pave the way for the rest of humanity’s migration. However, the six crew members sent to Mars discover that the cockroaches themselves have mutated into giant humanoid creatures with immense strength. Receiving a warning transmission from the crew members before they are annihilated, the rest of humanity begins a program to engineer elite warriors to exterminate the monsters humanity have created for the sake of its own survival.
After Hizamaru Akari is conned into participating in an underground cage-match for the entertainment of the rich, he realizes the shocking truth that he is ultimately powerless towards saving his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life, Yuriko, who is afflicted with an incurable, alien disease. He is recruited by Komachi Shoukichi and Michelle K. Davis to join the Terra Formers program under the pretense of finding a cure to the disease on Mars and saving the rest of humanity still alive and still fighting against the epidemic. Hizamaru succumbs to the mortal injuries he had incurred during his fight-to-the-death with a bear and wakes up one week later with the surgical operations necessary for anyone who intends to travel to Mars already performed and completed on him. While recuperating, he has brief encounters with other members of the Terra Formers program, including Marcos Eringrad Garcia, Eva Frost, and a couple of others. Each recruit hails from a different nation of the world and exhibit differing spirits, or lack thereof, about participating in the program; but before long, the time has come for the entire crew to depart for Mars, with the task of paving the way for humanity’s survival future.
A melodramatic exposition to start off the premiere of Terra Formars, but by the end of the episode, that momentum is used for quite the unexpected, yes, you heard her right, specialized and well-trained reservists blasting off into space to wage humanity’s war on… cockroaches…?! While it’s not quite terraforming by the conventional environmental sense of the word, fending off space cockroaches and finding a cure for an epidemic does still technically imply making an environment capable of supporting life; whether it makes for a compelling story or not is another question entirely, I’d say. While the premise is somewhat of a far cry from the much more forthright alien threat on humanity or necessity to abandon humanity’s current host planet, the base elements of sci-fi in Terra Formars are pretty much the same as you would find elsewhere. Already I’m taking note of the blanket science-fiction tropes such as the jealous rival who is so envious of the protagonist’s success during military training that he ends up sabotaging him in an actual scenario wherein humanity’s survival hinges on the success of the team, the leader figure who is only so learned because he was a part of a prior gruesome mission in which he was one of the only survivors, the unnerved girl who is bound to lose her sanity upon experiencing the death of those around her, and the like. Of course there’s also the complementary fantasy element to consider, which as of now, I can only interpret as some variant of vampirism (though since it seems to be scientifically-engineered, I guess we still are wholly in the realm of science fiction). And even though it’s explained that these mutant cockroaches are in fact the byproduct of a scientific endeavor, imagining protagonist Hizamaru face-off against them like he did that bear in the cage-match, it sure paints the picture of something much more fantastical than scientific-fictitious for me. As the premiere concludes with a paradigm shift from Hizamaru’s tragic back-story on Earth to the military expedition on Mars, now feels like the worst time to try to gauge an overall feel for the show. But at the same time, I’m inclined to think this is also a shift away from what was undoubtedly the most captivating thing about the premiere, a quite underhanded unraveling of pathos to firmly establish the protagonist’s archetype. It is kind of cheap I have to say, a back-story like that, but admittedly, it works. Whether the writing from here on out excessively relies on that one plot point to drive Hizamaru’s character or it builds upon it to continually develop his character will play a great role in this show possibly becoming more interesting than it has shown to be. Things will most likely delve into a more intense atmosphere as the newly recruited reservists engage in their life-or-death mission, which in a lot of ways in turn paves the way for better dramatic writing, if that’s this series’s cup of tea, that is. As of now, I’m mostly getting the feeling of less emotional disclosure and more unbridled, cockroach-punching action, which may turn out to be just what the space doctor ordered. The elements of the show that I can sufficiently review, those mainly being the production values, I have to say aren’t quite my own cup of tea. The art style is one that I’ve become disinterested with after viewing other such series as Zetman and Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke (it’s almost as if that hair-style on the protagonist is a prerequisite for shows like this). The character designs flaunt a robust definition in them as if the series were based off an American comic book rather than a Japanese manga, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all; but with base American names like Michelle K. Davis, there’s just an unrelenting interpretation of how uncreative the conception process might have been. The color palette is one that matches the illustrative style in its dark tones and dreary template, which is generally fine, but again, takes me back to the aforementioned series my eyes have grown weary of. The animation by Studio LINDENFILMS is eye-catching in the opening scene with Hizamaru confronting his ravenous bear opponent, but more of such animation being the only thing to look forward to visually may just not be enough in the long run. All in all, I’m interested to see how Terra Formars will mix together the qualities of action, science-fiction, and maybe even a little bit of horror, but the more crucial components of story-telling force me to be reserved in my general first impressions.