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.
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?
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:
— 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.