TERRAFORMARS Review

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Originally a manga serialized in Weekly Young Jump beginning in 2011, and later a 2 episode OVA, TERRAFORMARS seemed like something to keep an eye on. Despite its relatively unknown status in the western audience. Being a heavy action and horror show, questions would arise as to if it could offer anything else.

e2terraformars1Story
Earth is becoming overpopulated and scientists have taken steps to cultivating Mars.  By sending algae and cockroaches, they seek to provide the means to creating an atmosphere for mankind to live in.  However, after several hundreds of years, mankind arrives on Mars to find incredibly evolved cockroaches that murder the visiting researchers.

After attempting to reclaim the planet from the evolved cockroaches, or terraformars as they call them, mankind is dealing with a virus that could wipe them out.  It seems a virus that originated from Mars is killing everyone inflicted with it.  The only hope for a cure is to retrieve living terraformars from Mars and bringing them back to Earth.  No simple task, but the newly modified humans of the Annex 1 will stop at nothing to achieve this victory.

e4terraformars9While previous missions included humans infused with the traits of bugs from earth, the new Annex 1 includes members infused with other living creatures and beast traits.  Hoping this new attribute will aid them where the last failed, only bloodshed awaits them at their destination as the terraformars are far more advanced than they could have expected.

The biggest problem with TERRAFORMARS, especially for the western audience, is the lack of any real back knowledge to the franchise. Being thrown right into one of the later vessels to Mars, we’re expected to know quite a few things that aren’t really spelled out. What happened with the previous BUGS vessels, were there survivors, why does everyone risk their lives, what is a Rahab legacy?

Even with it only having an OVA before that remained in Japan, I couldn’t help but feel completely lost. Almost as if I had jumped into a third season premier for a series. While some side discussions being done back on earth provided some e5terraformars4clarification, it never really melded well together and often left me frustrated. At some point, you begin to wonder if it really matters.

That’s simply because the show does little to make you believe otherwise. While you may connect to some characters, it seems like a mission destined to fail. Even with some signs of hope here or there, the pacing establishes a series that aims to be an endless 200+ episode shonen.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some good writing in the mix. On a couple of occasions, I was completely caught off guard by a brief moment of connection to character emotion. One seemingly insignificant loss turned to an emotional choreography of music, voicing, and visuals. While only a single segment of a single episode, it was a sign that they could pull something entertaining off.

e10terraformars04However that writing never really shows itself again until a 3 episode stretch with the German team. Which was by far the best moment of the entire series. Except this was, once again, a brief moment in a slew of lackluster episodes.

Visuals
While the first moments of the show are a bit jarring thanks to the very unique character designs, the visual style of the show quickly grew on me. I liked it as it was very unique and lent itself well to the tough characters that the show contained.

That said, the show suffers from a quick drop off of quality after about the 4th episode marker. Turning to the use of extremely robotic and obvious CG terraformars and awfully wonky looking character animation. Faces become silly e6terraformars3looking and almost as if children were drawing them. The only constant was in the detailed stills that flash across the screen. Which, even as stills, looked good.

Sound
One of the few aspects of the show that remained constant throughout the series is the sound design. While there were a few musical pieces that got used to death, there were quite a few that just fit the mood and the setting of the world.

I have to admit that when dealing with the more emotional points of the show (including that of the mentioned moments above), the chorus filled melody was absolutely beautiful and really sold the moment for me.

Positivity aside, one glaring issue plagued this show from beginning to end. The silly narration that seems to rear its ugly head in at the wrong times. At the point of each and every power reveal and strategic action, a corny narration breaks into e5terraformars0explaining what is happening. All fine and good if you’re needing explanation. Except they often found it necessary to pop up at emotional points in the show. Ruining the moment completely.

Verdict
Even though I came into TERRAFORMARS with a mind-frame that it was purely an action entertainment show, I still found myself sorely unimpressed with almost everything I was seeing.  At first, the terrifying nature of the terraformars and brutal outcomes of each encounter had my eyes glued to the screen.  However it quickly turned into a game of mindless killing left and right.  Losing all flavor of urgency and suspense.

While a few episodes showed some solid promise in directing, the overall show felt like a big advertisement for the manga and merchandise.  Offering no conclusions, no purpose, and no real pay off of any kind.  Coupling that with the quickly deteriorating quality and poor shoveled in character build, and you have a show I can honestly recommend avoiding.

THUMBS DOWN!

REVIEW VERDICT:
Can’t Recommend

Goods:

  • Few good episodes
  • Unique character design
  • Some fun moments
  • Few likable characters

Bads:

  • Robotic CG and stills
  • Shallow characters
  • No conclusions or purpose
  • Bad introduction into franchise
  • Manga commercial
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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.