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(All episodes watched):
Based on the title, I had been expecting a story about what I had guessed would be settlers on Mars. But it was hard to figure out how simply settling there could be made exciting. This anime in fact manages to be little but excitement as it puts an almost ridiculous spin on a mission to Mars: the human race as a whole is doomed unless samples of a Martian virus can be found for medical research, and giant, half-man-half-cockroaches don't want that to happen. It sort of reminds me of Starship Troopers. Most ridiculous of all is that somebody decided that the best way to deal with the mutants, or 'Terraformars' would be not with guns and advanced weaponry but rather by beating them at their own game: humans would be genetically altered to give them the fighting powers of various of predatory insects and spiders. I quickly got the feeling that this is thoroughly unscientific and implausible (We all know that the sort of people who ascend to the leadership of high-tech groups like UN/NASA are total ass-kickers rather than PhDs, right?), but wasn't meant to be, and might just be cool and fun nevertheless.
There are two plots running side by side here—the fighting, in which the humans take turns at using their awesome skills to good effect on the Terraformars, and the mystery of why the Terraformars have managed to evolve so quickly into creatures which are smarter than you would expect. They seem to understand what's going on, since they make a special effort to sabotage the human plan of action. Vague hints are dropped but the fighting gets most of the attention so you may not realize until the series is well advanced that there's a conspiracy at work to sabotage the mission—this isn't made clear until episode 12. Before then inexplicable mysteries (pyramids on Mars?) stack up and seem to make little sense. The characters seem to largely shrug mind-boggling things like this off, which doesn't make much sense either. And why anybody on Earth would want the mission to fail is beyond me. The show seems to have been banking on the action rather than the mystery to bring home the bacon. When the premise is bizarre to begin with, it doesn't make our understanding of what's going on any easier when the storytelling is as haphazard as this.
Fortunately, what's happening on Mars is pretty clear: a fight-to-the-death, kill-or-be-killed struggle against freakish aliens. This show has a gritty, nasty tone to it--violence and death may come at any moment. Don't trust anyone or get too attached to them, because it's unlikely that more than a handful of people will survive the mission. Your muscles and wits are your only defense. Muscles get a lot of attention--even the Terraformars are largely bulked-up muscle-men with insect heads. They are ugly and frightening, and there's definite danger involved, since many of the humans have already gotten snuffed out. The whole idea that there's no need for guns when you have genetic engineering and an extreme performance enhancing drug is still almost laughable, but seeing the bulked up humans beating the crap out of the Terraformars was titillating. This show never makes a tremendous amount of sense, but it is fun to watch on a visceral level. It is more cool than intriguing. Each human takes on bizarre capabilities of formidable insects and animals; they are like X-men. But the Terraformars keep revealing superpowers of their own, so the show sort of feels like a more power style fight-of-the-week show, with each fight upping the ante a little but not telling much of a coherent story; or should I say that it sort of feels like irresistible forces hammering away at immovable objects.
One thing I did like was the way that characters which at first glance you would think were almost laughable, namely fighters with superhuman abilities, get fleshed out as we learn their stories back on earth before the mission. In episode eight, for instance, we learn how 'Adolf', the German star fighter, underwent a number of trials and tribulations that left him the man we see today. I thought this was pretty neat, and as a result I sincerely hope that Adolf makes it back to earth alive (but Goddamit, how the hell does Adolf's electric field somehow deflect bullets, but not mere stones?). Various characters get some development, though I'm still having a hard time telling them apart. I was surprised that a fairly important character apparently bought the farm early on.
More and more crazy stuff is piled upon us without a hint of an explanation of the previous ones. I can only shake my head and wonder if any credible explanation will ever come about. Old questions go unanswered and new ones pile up on top of them. New characters are introduced, they fight, sometimes they die, but the plot as a whole (remember the deadly disease on earth?) doesn't go much of anywhere. It gradually becomes clear that the story won't end with one season's worth of episodes, and nowadays it's always possible that there never will be any conclusion, due to an incomplete manga or something like that, after all. In what seems to be the final episode of season one, episode 13, we finally get some idea of what's going on among the politicians back on earth. It looks like the Prime Minister of Japan may ignore pressure to abandon the remaining mission members and instead send a ship to bring them back alive. Again, why anybody in their right mind would want the mission to fail hasn't been explained and is beyond me. All the money and power in the world won't help you if you catch the Martian virus. But for all the confusion and cryptic storytelling, I think I had enough fun that I would watch an additional season of Terraformars.
Last updated Saturday, March 28 2015. Created Saturday, October 04 2014.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site||http://terraformars.tv/|