Terra Formars Ep. 1: When Raid just can’t get the job done

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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.

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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!

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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?

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— 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?

Say what?

— 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.

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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.

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20 thoughts on “Terra Formars Ep. 1: When Raid just can’t get the job done

  1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    It’s just me, I know, but I can’t stand the title. It’s like a visual/auditory itch. “Terraformars”
    Get it? Terra For Mars! Cause all this was started by trying to terraform Mars!
    Yeah, it’s silly to be irritated by it but I can’t help it. Haha

    Oh, and speaking of anime censorship: Sorry for the potential ignorance here, but why haven’t any broadcasting companies in Japan created a kind of Japanese HBO/Showtime/etc. channel where you can show uncensored adult content freely?
    Or is it just that the laws in place prevent even that from occurring?

    Anyway, I don’t really know what to think about the failed analogies or thinly veiled commentary inherent in Terraformars. It just doesn’t seem very smart at all; though considering it’s main objective is to just have an insanely over the top bloodbath I suppose it doesn’t need to be. But then why bother with all the pretense?
    _I don’t know. I’ve heard this series compared to Attack on Titan and that’s a silly comparison to me. AoT started out as a rather literal David-vs-Goliath narrative and then brought out themes of terrorism, abuse of power and corrupted/vengeful ideology. Yeah, it also introduced and killed off characters en masse but it also had a narrative that didn’t remain the same. The focus wasn’t predominantly on the slaughter, but rather on the cause of it.
    As the series continued we learned more about the truth behind the cause, and so the narrative evolved.

    Terraformars is obviously all about the slaughter since it already gave us the cause: mad scientists and inherent species prejudice(?). I can’t imagine TerraForMars going anywhere from there. I doubt it’ll do anything but stagnate in its bloodlust, just introducing more zany would-be heroes to get brutally slaughtered until someone says “That’s it! We’re done here.” Might as well make it a Battle Royal narrative, with the battles being transmitted like a show to the world.

    I suppose it could maybe delve deeper into the subject of prejudice and its causes. Perhaps the Terraformars have some sort of church or something that taught them about the “evils of humans”, one that was started by some sort of plot twist. Who knows? It could surprise us.
    Though something tells me the only surprises will come from who will die next and how.

    Reply
    1. Flawfinder

      Sorry for the potential ignorance here, but why haven’t any broadcasting companies in Japan created a kind of Japanese HBO/Showtime/etc. channel where you can show uncensored adult content freely?

      AT-X sort of qualifies as this. Not sure if this show is broadcast on that station though. And if it is, I dunno when episodes air on it.

      Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      Oh, and speaking of anime censorship: Sorry for the potential ignorance here, but why haven’t any broadcasting companies in Japan created a kind of Japanese HBO/Showtime/etc. channel where you can show uncensored adult content freely?

      An HBO-like channel for shitty anime, though? I mean, HBO has high-quality shows like True Detective. I doubt you’d invest in a niche channel just to broadcast uncensored harem anime and giant roaches ripping people apart.

      Reply
      1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

        “I doubt you’d invest in a niche channel just to broadcast uncensored harem anime and giant roaches ripping people apart.”
        Look, mate, it’s simple:
        30% of the programming consists of well thought-out, well written, mature shows that happen to have imagery that’d be ridiculously censored.
        10% would be dumb gore-fests for the action-inclined
        60% would be harem moe blobs molesting each other in uncensored sauna baths
        IT’S A GOLD MINE, I TELL YOU!

        Reply
  2. Anonymous

    It’s sad to say that I haven’t found anything from this show appealing from the very start.
    Call me desensitized, but over the top gore and violence is boring to me now. You see, I’ve already seen Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki. The shock value of people being ripped apart and dismembered? Yeah, I think we’ve all either read, seen, or known of Gantz or even better, Elfen Lied. Gory shock value by itself isn’t strong enough of a magnet to bring viewers in anymore; that was so last decade. Not only that but it’s censored to hell? Then what’s the point of this show?

    So what else is there? Story? I don’t really for-see much in terms of narrative other than “LET’S KILL ALL THESE FUCKERS AND AVENGE OUR DEAD”. So, until I’m proven wrong and see a glint of a promising story, I’ll be reading these posts instead.
    And really? Insect powers? Did the writer basically ask himself, “What if I made an edgy and really fucked up version of Kamen Rider?” No matter how interesting the powers are, the whole insect approach is still pretty adolescent.

    Reply
  3. Naota

    The cockroach-squashing analogy kind of annoyed me on multiple levels:
    -We kill cockroaches in our homes because they carry disease, eat our food, nest in places that ruin our homes, and reproduce to do more of the same. It’s logical; not just some murderous instinct. By this same logic, we don’t kill stray butterflies, largely ignore flies, and actively hunt mosquitoes and deerfly that bite us.

    -The “homes” part is important. Would you chase down and squash a cockroach if you saw it scuttling around on a rock outside? No!

    -We kill all these insects because they’re not intelligent and can’t be reasoned with. If we could just talk cockroaches into a mutually beneficial arrangement (just stay out of my house and you can eat my garbage), we wouldn’t squash them!

    -Humans aren’t cockroaches, and hyper-evolved biped cockroaches aren’t cockroaches either. Would you fight a raccoon to the death if you found it in your kitchen? How about a big dog? The closer the trespassing animal is to us, the more dangerous it is to us, the less likely we are to get into a proper fight. It’s just more evidence that the whole reason we squash bugs is to protect ourselves and maintain our homes – not some vicious desire to kill things that aren’t us.

    Reply
      1. Naota

        Ah, so when we find gangly black-skinned bipeds in our society and we’re afraid of them making us sick with poorly-explained alien diseases, it’s a biological instinct to squash them, then hunt them down where they come from so they can never do it again, and that’s totally rad!

        …Oh. Oh shit.

        Reply
  4. BoyTitan

    This censoring did not used to exist. The original hunter x hunter a shounen series aired towards a younger crowd was less censored than all of todays anime. Guyver and Gantz were blood baths. I just can’t get this censoring of anime lately.

    Reply
    1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

      Guyver is very old. Like 80’s-90’s I think, right? Classic.
      You have a very strong point with Gantz, though. I don’t remember that massacre-fest being heavily censored.

      Then again we’ve already seen that some channels are so strict they’ll even censor a bit of blood on the wall or a cleanly severed arm.
      Hell, it seems even first-run Toonami is edgy compared to most Japanese broadcasting channels these days.

      Reply
      1. Naota

        It also can’t hurt the censors that they make such a compelling case for buying the series on DVD, and that an anime’s financial viability comes mainly from these sales. You’d probably see a lot more push-back from the animation studios if outrageous censorship wasn’t serving their best interests so well.

        Reply
  5. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    Matter of fact, didn’t we run into some ridiculous censorship with that goop-witch anime? E Minor would know. It’s the one with the witches that have plugs in their necks and they turn into goop if they get pulled out.
    Forgot the name. I just remember the anti-matter/black hole super attacks and the awful, anti-climactic ending. Stupid harem nonsense

    Oh! “Pupa” also had idiotic censorship. Since it was so gorey (and some unscrupulous themes) it had many of it’s long-shots in like 90% darkness.

    Reply
  6. Good Taste

    The episode was definitely better than the OVA did they have different directors or something? The show might be kind of fun if they tune down the racism.

    Reply
      1. Good Taste

        I wasn’t trying to condone any racism. It would be ideal if the show could throw it out completely but it probably won’t happen.

        Reply
  7. Frostav

    Am I really the ONLY one who thinks the cockroaches look like black steterotypes? Because no one else has pointed this out, but as a black person myself it’s really off-putting and the fact that everyone else seems okay with this is even more gross.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It’s been mentioned.

      the fact that everyone else seems okay with this is even more gross.

      Casting aspersions on others is a bit much. Not everyone has the same experiences as you. They may not see the same thing that you do. You want to argue your point and show them the light, fine, but this sort of thing only inflames the situation.

      Reply

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