I’ve already seen and written about episode one of the OVA with the same name. It serves as a prequel to everything you see here, so you might want to check it out for some additional context. Or you could read my post on it, which I will now shamelessly plug: click here! But to make a long story short, the OVA introduces us to Shokichi and his first expedition to Mars. It’s funny, though. If I hadn’t watched the OVA, I might have taken this opening episode a lot more seriously. I might even feel a thing or two for Hizamaru Akari, who appears to be our protagonist. Shokichi has come all the way out to Thailand to attend an underground fighting ring. There, Akari is putting his body on the line in an attempt to save a childhood friend who has been afflicted with a strange disease. Akari has made it all the way to the final match, but he now finds himself up against a man-eating bear. I don’t think I need to describe the fight in too much detail.
Needless to say, our hero eventually kicks the bear’s ass by tapping into his latent insect abilities. You see, in the universe of Terra Formars, individuals have undergone genetic modification to have insect-like powers. This was the case in the OVA. Some significant amount of time has passed since then, so I guess those who got the procedure have gone on to have children. Akari appears to be one of those children, and this is why he can apparently defeat a bear. Like a lot of violent anime, the broadcast version of Terra Formars is heavily censored, so be prepare to see entire scenes completely blacked out when things get gory. I could rant and rave about how this mars (no pun intended) the viewing experience of the anime, but there’s really no easy way around this problem. It’s just what it is. In any case, Akari thinks his childhood friend will be saved, but help came too late. Shokichi and his organization had bought the girl in an attempt to save her, but there was nothing they could do.
But don’t let your childhood friend die in vain! Akari can join Shokichi. Yes, Akari can join him on an expedition to Mars! Because that’s where the mysterious disease had come from. Our hero couldn’t save his love in time, but he can prevent other anime heroes like himself from losing their girls too! But you see, that’s what I find funny. Had I not watched the OVA, I’d be all wrapped up in opening premise of the series. Whoa, a mysterious disease from Mars? A interplanetary virus that will ravage humanity unless our heroes head to Mars to investigate its origins? Sign me up! But I’ve seen the OVA, and as a result, I’ve seen the type of anime that Terra Formars will become. And don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that the anime is already shit or anything like that. But at the end of the day, I know that the story will feature a lot of shounen-esque battles. A lot of over-the-top shounen-esque battles too. I mean, people will be turning into half-insect hybrids, but it’s not just that they’ll exactly fight like insects, y’know?
Everything in this show will be insect-inspired, but taken up another notch. Well, make it a hundred notches. In the OVA, we saw a guy blow fire from his hands as if he was a goddamn human flamethrower. I don’t know about you, but I have been on this planet for twenty-something years, and I have yet to see an insect blow fire at me. I’m being somewhat facetious, of course, but my point is that the early going of the first episode might make you think you’re watching a serious, super gritty sci-fi anime about a mysterious virus from Mars slowly killing off Earth’s population. You can squash those expectations now, because unless the OVA turns out to be miles away from the anime series, this is not that sort of show. The truth is, our heroes will fly to Mars where they’ll first turn into funny-looking insect-man hybrids, then they’ll proceed to do battle with equally funny-looking, bipedal cockroaches. Basically, a virus from outer space is destroying humanity… SO LET’S GO TO MARS AND KICK SOME ALIEN ASS!
Since this is the first episode to an actual series, the story takes the time to set the stage. After an attention-grabbing scene in which our hero defeats a bear, the narrative slows down quite a bit as everyone gets introduced to each other at U-NASA’s headquarters. If I hadn’t seen the OVA, everything would still be shrouded in mystery. Sure, Michelle explains what they’re mission is all about, and the terrible terraformars that they’ll be up again. But still, if this episode is all you’ve seen or heard about Terra Formars, you have no idea what these characters are about to get themselves into. I haven’t read the manga and I don’t plan on doing so, but having seen the OVA, the first episode ends up being kind of boring to me. It gets the job done, but there’s really nothing remarkable about it either. This isn’t a groundbreaking, original story, so everything is pretty much by the book. Plus, having seen the OVA, I’m not expecting much more than a pulpy, blood-filled story to pass the time.
Stray notes & observations:
— This anime has a thing for killing off childhood friends as soon as they appear. Don’t be a childhood friend, kids. Hate everyone.
— We get that trope where rich people throw their humanity aside to watch desperate individuals like Akari get beaten up in underground fighting rings. It’s really just a transparent metaphor for the exploitation of the poor by the rich. I can imagine that as the mysterious virus continues to wreak havoc on Earth, the wealth disparity between the rich and the poor will only widen. Why use a metaphor for this? Well, how interesting would the opening premise have been if Shokichi had gone to a sweat shop to recruit Akari?
— Groanworthy moment: Akari makes the mistake of attaching -chan to Michelle’s name, so she tells him he’ll have to make a wife out of her before he can speak to her like that. Be careful what you wish for, lady.
— Even though it looked as though Akari already had insect-like powers, he still underwent surgery anyway. Maybe inherited insect powers just can’t be controlled or something. In any case, he and Michelle are alike in this way. I hope this show doesn’t get bogged down by a half-assed romance. I don’t know why Michelle is even helping him get up and everything. You’d think a fancy space-faring organization could afford to hire some nurses.
— One of the characters’ names is Adolf? Really? You couldn’t pick any other name for the leader of the German division?
— Eva Frost tells Sheila Levitt that the latter doesn’t have to address her with honorifics. Why would Sheila do so anyway? Why would people who are clearly not Japanese use honorifics? I can ignore the fact that they all happen to speak the same language — Japanese, even! — fluently. But that little exchange was a bit too much.
— If all they had to do was investigate Mars’s dirt, air, moss, etc. for the virus, you think could just send robots to do the job. This story is set some five hundred odd years in the future, after all, so I’m sure robotics will have gotten pretty sophisticated by then. But according to Michelle, all the unmanned vessels have failed to return thanks to interference from the terraformars, i.e. those aforementioned bipedal cockroaches.
As a result, it totally makes more sense to send human beings instead. Genetically-modified human beings, of course, but human beings nonetheless. Of course, I find it hard to believe that they can’t figure something out with the robots, but shrug, what can I say? If we don’t send humans to Mars, then we wouldn’t be able to kick alien ass. That’s what it’s all about.
— Michelle explains why the terraformars would indiscriminately kill anything they encounter: “If you think about it calmly, you probably don’t know why you’d kill [a cockroach].” Well, we’ve been taught to kill them. We’ve been taught that cockroaches are dirty and carry diseases with them. I doubt someone who has never seen a cockroach — or any insect for that matter — before would just kill one on instinct. As such, I don’t think Michelle’s analogy makes much sense.
— As the ending credits roll, a cheery, upbeat song plays. Too bad most of them are going to get murdered in no time flat.