Terra Formars OVA 1: A taste of things to come?

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Mmmm, tasty bugs. Unfortunately, this guy doesn’t look like a bug you can eat. Anyway, all I know is that this OVA is supposedly a prequel to an upcoming fall anime series. Other than that, however, I’m going into Terra Formars rather cold, and I have very little idea of what to expect. I’ve heard some basic details about the premise, but that’s about it. Oh yeah, I’ve heard so far is that the currently ongoing manga features a pretty high level of violence and gore. Despite Sidonia no Kishi‘s dystopian feel, the anime adaptation’s aesthetics kept it from ever looking too raw or unsettling. There’s nothing particularly scary about plastic-looking Gaunas. Maybe Terra Formars can make up for that shortcoming. Of course, things change when you’re broadcasted on televsion. I have no doubts the TV series itself will be censored in some form or another. But this is an OVA so… who knows? We might even see something juicy in it. But anyway, before I get started, if you have read the manga before, I would highly prefer it if you could keep yourself from posting any spoilers. Not everyone has read the manga or, like myself, even reads manga.

The OVA’s story focuses primarily around BUGS 2 and their failed mission on Mars. Needless to say, BUGS 1 had failed as well. Basically, humans tried to terraform the red planet by releasing a special moss and cockroaches onto it. The idea is that when the cockroaches died, they would serve as food for the moss, thereby allowing the moss to spread around the planet. Due to the planet’s harsh conditions, however, the cockroaches suddenly evolved rapidly in just 500 years. By the time BUGS 1 landed on the surface, the descendents of the cockroaches look more like humans than they do bugs (although they do retain certain bug-like features). Oh yeah, they hate humans too. Isn’t that nice? So of course, the evolved cockroaches, now dubbed Terraformars, murdered the entire BUGS 1 crew. In their infinite wisdom, Earth decided to send another group of humans to Mars, and this would be the BUGS 2 crew. In the anime’s intro, however, we learn that BUGS 2 had only two survivors. One of them is Shokichi, and we now get to see what he had to live through on Mars.

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Shokichi and his childhood friend Akita find themselves on Mars due to a series of unfortunate circumstances. Because of the danger that the Terraformars pose, no one really wanted this job. Unfortunately, the members of BUGS 2 can’t get hired anywhere else. Akita, in particular, was swamped with debt and “living like a maggot” according to one of the other team members. As for Shokichi, he once protected his friend from rape by murdering her father. Naturally, he was only defending her, but you know what these stories are like. Likely branded forever as just another violent thug, Shokichi had no choice but to sign up for this expedition. Sadly, even though he was able to protect Akita then, he is unable to protect her now. They quickly encounter a Terraformar on the surface of Mars, but for some reason, they think it’s just a Martian…? Anyway, the evolved cockroach then instantly snaps Akita’s neck. Just as Shokichi was about to retaliate, however, the dying girl uses every last ounce of her strength to tell him that she doesn’t want to see him lose control of himself again. Even when she’s dying, she thinks he can just talk it out with the cockroach-thing. Yeah, I don’t even know…

As you watch the OVA, it becomes clear that Mars has become the site for some twisted experiment. After all, if you really intend to exterminate the Terraformars, you would simply send robots or some unmanned drones to get the job done. This is the year twenty-five-something, after all. Even if we can’t somehow can’t perfect robots by then, I expect us to have some pretty impressive unmanned drones for this sort of job. The powers-that-be, however, don’t appear to be interested in that. This Newton guy, obviously evil from the way he looks, sounds as though he’s relishing the chance to watch BUGS 2 engage in mortal combat with the Terraformars. He even comments that he’s not sending humans to fight the evolved cockroaches. Rather, thanks to the BUGS procedure, which endows people with the power of bugs, the members are BUGS 2 are arguably no different from the Terraformars themselves. So what’s going on here? After seeing the results of the BUGS 1 expedition, did some evil people decide to send combatants to Mars just to see how the Terraformars would adapt?

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One thing for sure, I have a natural aversion to the human characters’ insect powers. I realize what the story is going for: the story wants to make a direct comparison between the enhanced humans and the enhanced cockroaches. This is a tale of man-driven evolution gone wrong. We essentially have the horrors of transhumanism, but instead of nanomachines dehumanizing us, it’s the ability to insert other species’ DNA into our own bodies. But still, it’s a little too on the nose, don’t you think? What do I mean by this? I’m sitting here, watching this God Lee guy put his palms together and shoot out a fireball like he’s Ryu from Street Fighter II. Shokichi, on the other hand, can apparently sting his enemies like an angry hornet. You then have some corny narrator describing each member’s powers, and it just takes me out of the story completely. People are dying left and right, but the guy just drones on and on like it’s some fucking documentary. Ho ho ho, these two over here are the only ones who thought to hunt! The premise isn’t bad, but the execution leaves me wanting; the battles feel like they come from a cheap shounen.

Ah well… unless you’re a major character, your insect powers do nothing for you anyway. Eventually, everyone begins to drop like flies (no pun intended); it’s one of those shows where few will survive — if any — and the ending will be grim and bittersweet — if there will ever be ending. On the bright side, there isn’t any out-of-place fanservice here nor will you find any misplaced humor. It’s just straight up murder, one gruesome death after the other. Donatello may have bought the rest of his team — minus Tejas’s head, of course — enough time to escape, but escape to where? The Martian landscape may look beautiful in the sunset, but it has nothing to help the fleeing humans. And maybe that’s the point. In this strange land, we’re the cockroaches and they’re the humans. Their blind hate for us is no different from our blind hate for them. Of course, we hate cockroaches because they’re a vector for disease and what not, but shhh, let’s not get bogged down too much by the details. In any case, when part two of the OVA finally comes out, we’ll find out how Shokichi and Ichiro, the other lucky individual managed to escape back to Earth.

Stray observations & misc. notes:

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— It’s funny how somethings will never change. I am specifically referring to the architecture of the future. Ask yourself if you’ve ever seen the inside of a futuristic building not look like this. The aesthetics of the future are typically utilitarian, austere, cold, etc. So of course, both the walls and floor appear to have been made of stainless steel. They are also uniform in color. At the same time, what’s with the random lines running about. I highly doubt they actually mean anything other than “this looks like the inside of a machine.” How long have we seen architecture like this and how much longer will it continue to define the nebulous future for us?

— “We can talk this out, right?” That seems… unwise. Why would you ever decide to get so close to the creature, especially when it is so much bigger than you?

— Did you ever wonder what it would look like to see a bunch of evolved cockroaches hold guns? Well, here you go…

— I think this was supposed to be funny.

— Here are some natural questions that arose through the course of watching the OVA. How smart are the Terraformars anyway? And do they have a society? Do biologically female Terraformars look any different from the biologically male Terraformars? What do they eat to survive on this rock full of nothing but dirt and moss? It doesn’t look like they’re interested in eating their human victims, after all.

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21 thoughts on “Terra Formars OVA 1: A taste of things to come?”

  1. Yeah, I think I’m gonna skip this one. This has the clear makings of a “Kill ’em All”, and I always cringe whenever any female character is killed (good or bad), even if I do complain about them a lot, especially in a nonchalant kind of way. Also… the thing broke your neck on impulse, why would you think it’ll listen to reason?

    The idea I believe they have going here is the concept of, like you said, an experiment gone wrong, but rather than aborting it, the intention was to use what happened to further a malevolent plot of creating a race of obedient super-humans as a private army by using the evolved cockroach creatures.

    The problem I have with this is whether or not the effort here will be either to explore the sociological aspects of “playing God” along with depicting a rag-tag bunch of misfits who can’t get any work anywhere else due to defects or criminal record having to deal with hardy sapient lifeforms and limited resources, or if it’ll be an excuse to have a bunch of characters get murdered in gruesome manners. I see it as the latter.

  2. Well, like every other manga that has a sizable fanbase I remember hearing some people hype this anime and now I see that it’s just some campy over-the-top show about space-bug-warriors fighting these black caricature looking roach monsters with eye derpiness that rivals the titans from AoT.

    yup, I’m just gonna skip this show, or just watch it for all the unintentionally funny scenes like SAO.

    1. It’s an inferior Shingeki with a higher killcount, more sexism, failed camp.. and some added racism to boot. Later on these “roaches” steal baggies to do drive-by shootings and smoke wee- er… martian bugs to get high- er… aggressive. The writing is just so very crude and backwards.

      1. yeah, some people I know who’ve read the manga told me that they read it for lulz, because the story is like some over-the-top exploitation film that doesn’t have any discretion at all.

        If the amount of gratuitous gore in gantz wasn’t enough for your liking then rejoice because here come terra from mars(the title is really cheesy), it’s like gantz on steroids AND crack.

  3. This strikes me as just a moderate variation of the old Gantz formula.

    Part of me is curious, but another part of me recalls why I got tired of Gantz in the first place.

    And of course, there’s the whole issue about the unfortunate implications with the cockroaches.

  4. What kind of bullshit plan includes roaches and moss for terraforming? The source material was definitely written during the 2010’s, so there’s no excuse for the writer to actually research some actual possible ways of transforming Mars. Like bombarding the planet with asteroids with large ice content to introduce water to the planet’s surface and build an atmosphere and ocean. From there they introduce customized soil for the Martian land to start growing planets to produce breathable oxygen. That idea exists now in the 21st century, you know, when the anime’s scientists started mission planning?
    But no, they had to go the nonsensical route that doesn’t make any sound scientific sense at all so it gives them a justification for a “dumb monster roaches on Mars” premise. I bet that the writer doesn’t know that REAL scientists are concerned about contaminating space and planets with Earth-originated bacteria and species because that has the potential of fucking a lot of things up out there. And yes, that means Earth cockroaches and “special” moss. It’s “anime” in the most retarded sense of the meaning.
    Okay, so the setting is “try-hard” for the dumbest of reasons. And the show’s just going to be a slug-fest with gallons of graphic violence, comically-low levels of value for characters and their lives (so no meaningful character development), and so much shock-value shoved down the viewer’s throat that desensitization is only two or three episodes away. Gantz and Shingeki no Kyojin did a great job of those before.
    And a bug-themed fighter show? I’d rather go watch Kamen Rider. I’ll get more excitement out of that kid’s show than this.

    If it sounds like I’m being too judgmental right out of the gate, it’s because I am. There’s no way I can be hopeful for a show that’s coming out with this much apparent malarkey and nonsense right out of the gate. But let’s enjoy the bloodbath for the sake of it being a bloodbath.

    1. It’s explained later why they choose their methods. I’ve read non-sense Mangas before but this one does a decent job even if things aren’t explained right away they do resolve questions through flashbacks or narration. You are judging it a bit too fast considering you’ve only watched OVA 1 (which is rushing the plot a bit but understandably).

  5. This manga has less BS than AoT but a more consistent plot than Sidonia. The OVA really is just a small introduction. There are more characters to be shown on Mars and Earth with a secondary political plot occurring while Warriors on Mars battle not just Roaches but (Can’t say spoilers). This anime once it starts will become one of the most popular of the year.

  6. I’ve heard the manga gets extremely racist later on (especially about the chinese), I hope the anime adaptation circumvents this.

  7. Wow, I can’t believe they’re adapting that juvenile piece of stupidity. I have difficulty putting how the characters of this show feels like to me. The only expression that comes to mind is how shounen they are despite their age or life experience.

    Oh and «the story wants to make a direct comparison between the enhanced humans and the enhanced cockroaches»…Don’t go too deep, the source material certainly doesn’t.

    I sound like I hate the manga, but I actually find it quite unintentionally hilarious

    1. Don’t go too deep, the source material certainly doesn’t.

      1. Post is about the OVA, not the source material.

      2. I’m merely parroting what the Newton guy said. He made the direct comparison. I elaborated on his point.

      3. It doesn’t really matter how deep they go anyway. You can make your interpretation as deep as you want to take it.

  8. Whelp, I just blazed through the whole manga for the past few hours, just to see if the upcoming OVAs and anime would be any good.

    It’s kind of a weird mix of Attack on Titan and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, with Red Planet’s writing and setting

    My two cents?.As a shonen manga, it’s a step above its competition. As shallow, turn-your-brain-off entertainment, it excels for the first few chapters.

    But ultimately, it’s nothing to really think about, and the excitement dies as the reader slogs through more and more fights one after the other. The fact that the pacing is excruciatingly slow doesn’t help.

    One thing I really like is the diversity of the cast. Surprisingly, the main characters *don’t* hog up all the screen time, and the other characters get plenty of time to shine, not die, and actually drive the plot forward. It was kind of refreshing to be able to get into a manga like that. The different powers also helped create variety, at least for the first few times, not to mention they eliminated the problem of ridiculous overpowering in typical shonen. The MARS ranking is BS though, there’s no need for it.

    And another thing, while it’s slightly more mature than Mahouka–slightly–I couldn’t help but be reminded of the show through the characters’ dress (Trench coats on Mars? Really?) as well as the main character Akari’s design. Akari, however, while he’s important through plot BS, thankfully isn’t effective on Tatsuya levels.

    Also, -SPOILER-the filthy Chinese are at it again-SPOILER-.

    Unfortunately its plot-driven nature and a number of other problems keep Terra Formars from becoming at least an interesting kill-em-all. The science, while doubtlessly a result of extensive research, simply gets applied incorrectly, and the manga’s habit of explaining every move with a nature documentary is irritating and slows down the pace. 500 years into the future, mankind is still saddled with today’s problems for some reason. The characters, while they get at least some detail invested into their backgrounds, have little personality exhibited outside fighting, even with flashbacks and bombastic talking and all that.

    And the plot is basically fight after fight after fight. A conspiracy and betrayal break things up, but the series has had only one breather so far.

    Oh yeah, and a ninja blade and rocket boots are introduced as power-ups. On Mars. Come on.

    I’ll probably watch an episode or two when I am absolutely bored but even Attack on Titan does kill em all better. No doubt the anime will have some deal with David Attenborough narrating every move and what organism it is based on.

    1. I’m going to add an unnecessary addendum like other commenters do here.

      Again, SPOILERS.

      To clarify, “filthy Chinese” is meant as a comparison to Mahouka’s writing. I mean, come on, I thought that work was bad with xenophobia and now this.

      That is all now. Thank you.

  9. AOT and gantz are more than pure violence shows. Action is a big part of both stories but over all they are well developed fleshed out stories.

      1. You have a valid point, but the problem this show is likely to deal with, along with Attack on Titan & Gantz had to deal with, is the problem of presenting the “text” and the “subtext”. The “text”, obviously, is the combat portions of the show while the “subtext” is about conspiracies and reflecting on the situation that is currently the present.

        The issue here is that the “text” is going to be a lot of fighting, with a lot of killings and overall brutality and it’ll either turn off the “Too Squeamish” or “Burned Out By AoT” groups or you’ll get people who will watch the show if only for the brutality (you know, the “Just Here for Godzilla” argument) and completely ignore the attempts at sociological strife.

        And, frankly, I never watched Gantz, and I still think Attack on Titan was garbage because I still view it as nothing but pure violence, but that’s me.

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