What an unnerving and disturbingly brilliant manga which will leave you in shock and silence. I came in filled with hope and positivity, I now find myself shivering with despair and terror tightly grasping what little hope I have for happy developments in the story.
The story of Terra ForMars takes place within the 26-27th century where human overpopulation on Earth has reached dangerous levels and in order to carry on living they look to Mars to be the second Earth. Back in the 21st century, scientists were tasked with warming up the planet so that humans could survive on its surface. They came up with an efficient and cost effective plan of sending cockroaches and mold to the surface so that the mold would absorb the sunlight and the insect corpses would serve as a food source for the mold. Five hundred years later and Earth sends manned spaceships to Mars in order to prepare it for inhabiting by humans but what the crew find is something more shocking and frightening then they could have ever imagined…
An overwhelming and ferocious opponent that redefines the unsettling conflict humans and cockroaches have with one another. Whether it is ingrained within our DNA as our respective species to hate each other or whether it is just something that came about from circumstance, whatever this uncertain cause is, there is undoubtedly a subsequent effect to it and by some twisted play of sarcasm by evolution, the conflict has been turned up to worldly proportions and the conflict between these two species continues. And what a jarring way it continues in; brutal, shocking, terrifying…when humans seemingly cause cockroaches to evolve into a form so beyond their own, just how will the story of us end? And how will the story of cockroaches begin and continue?
The hand of evolution is a frightening existence to behold, especially when portrayed in the setting of Terra ForMars and how those insects we deem so insignificant and disgusting have now been given the power to deal with ‘those insignificant humans’.
It is natural for a person to cringe or shudder at the thought or sight of a cockroach, there is just some unexplainable disgust and unease which exist in humans towards cockroaches. If the roles were reversed however, would cockroaches feel the same? Would they stop to think about why they have to kill ‘those insignificant humans’ or would they just react by smashing us to bits with all their might?
That is a layer of story Terra ForMars is trying to convey. Even though we don’t see the story from the evolved cockroaches aka. Terraformar’s perspective and even though we can’t understand what they say, think and feel, we do understand that by the way they react at the sight of humans that they behavior is nothing but mutual.
Shock and disbelief are the main source of feelings embracing your heart and mind during the start of the manga, you are left having your emotions and hope jarred continuously. When a moment of quiet has come to ease the moments of intensity, it ends up only being a build up to another moment of shock. Eventually with all the death surrounding the characters, you find yourself starting to become emotionally numb as you question yourself every time feelings of attachment grow on a character. Whether it is a reaction to all the death or a defensive mechanism, your mind and heart begin to hesitate when extending its feelings towards the characters who emotionally grow on you.
One of the most powerful aspects of Terra ForMars is how none of the characters feel like throw away characters. Characters may die shortly after their introductions but so much time and energy is spent fleshing them out and detailing their personality during and after their brief coverage that it becomes hard not to look at each of the characters as individualistic with individual reasons for ending up in the current situation driven by their own unique circumstances. Characters are further fleshed out by the individual and detailed looks to their character designs which adds to the feeling of immense shock and loss of thought when something you feel shouldn’t happen happens anyway. This places your emotions and reactions so much on edge because you just don’t know what is going to happen in the story and to the characters whom through their brief stories has led you to form a connection with.
Though within all this sadness and intensity, what Terra ForMars does really well and which is one of my favourite aspects of the manga, is be educational. It creates a setting in which you are both being gripped by the story and educated on several aspects of the world i.e. the characteristics of several insects and animals, about space, etc. The information revealed doesn’t really pierce the walls of its source too deeply, but even with it scratching the surface of its subject matter, it still has educated me and interested me on topics I never really had much knowledge and interest in. I just find it fascinating learning about characteristics of some of the insects showcased within the manga.
The artwork is exceptionally detailed and stylistic, and the way it highlights the brutal and fact-paced nature of the battles in the manga is spectacularly marvelous. The story is filled with dozens of characters from different countries and regions around Earth, therefore the designs of characters need to change to represent the region they are from and their race, Kenichi Tachibana-sensei illustrates this amazingly, each of the characters in Terra ForMars looks unique and you can probably guess from just the way they look what region generally they are from. The humanoid cockroaches obviously look incredibly disturbing when you first see them and continue to be so even ’til now and with the Terraformar’s not being able to speak an Earth language for the reader to understand, their character needs to be communicated through their actions which the manga successfully does incredibly. The hybrid forms the characters take are immensely detailed and cool; the transitioning of the insect/animal’s characteristics into a humanoid appearance comes across amazingly and seeing just how the power of the creature would be if on a human scale is fantastically interesting. The detail and beauty of the art really does add to the intensity of the manga engrossing you even further into the story, world and characters.
In all stories there is this thing called hope which you can attach on to no matter the adversity and darkness the story and characters end up being surrounded by, but in Terra ForMars, hope is such a faint and distant existence that it becomes hard to not notice the mass of darkness around your feelings and react to the terror right in front of you. But hope does exist and when it flickers its brilliant light in front of your eyes, it brings with it such an uplifting and powerful breeze that pulls you into the manga so strongly.
Terra ForMars is not for everyone, but if you enjoy series like Berserk, Claymore, Shingeki no Kyojin, the Chimera Ant saga in Hunter x Hunter, you will love this, a lot.
Enjoyment level: 10/10