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AKA: テラフォーマーズ
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on crunchyroll.
Content Rating: TV-MA (Extreme violence, mature situations.)
Related Series: An OAV prequel.
Also Recommended: Attack on Titan
Notes: Based on the manga by Yū Sasuga, illustrated by Kenichi Tachibana. It is serialized in Weekly Young Jump.

The first two episodes of this series are initially shown in an optically-censored version that, as Nicoletta has noted, is simply annoying. At some point the option is given to watch uncensored versions of those episodes, but I didn't see it until I'd finished the show.



In 2619 AD, a group of people, mostly rejected by society, volunteers for a space mission to collect "samples" from Mars. The study of these samples will presumably aid in finding a cure for a Martian disease now decimating Earth. Matters are complicated by (and indeed were ultimately caused by) a 500-year project to terraform Mars by introducing two Earth lifeforms: algae [I think you'd actually try lichens- they do much better in a dry environment], and cockroaches. Why you'd send roaches is harder to figure out, because, as we've seen in the movie Mimic, insect evolution can go in some pretty unusual directions- and the Terraformars scenario mimics the Mimic one. In short, there's a "bug problem" on Mars. Not to worry, though, we'll just genetically modify our crew of volunteers a bit...


This show is quite literal "cartoon heroics"; a surfeit of bravado, a dash of sentimentality. (We usually only get the backstories of characters after they're already dead, or soon to be so.) Philosophically, it's very much in the tradition of John Wayne war movies, except that things are much more gruesome here than could even be conceived of in that innocent black-and-white era. (The bugs get the worst of it, though.) And while the old war movies had plenty of " G.I. hijinks", two soldiers trying to see another naked would have been pretty inconceivable in one of Wayne's platoons. (To broadly paraphrase Einstein, hundreds of years of co-ed armies seem to have changed everything here except men's ways of thinking.)

Our heroes have themselves been genetically modified to have some of the qualities of insects (and some other organisms) to enhance their chances of fighting back against the bugs. They don't have to walk around transformed all the time, though; conveniently, they take a drug that triggers the changes (inexplicably also including changes in their uniforms to accommodate their new shapes.) When a character gets transformed, a narrator comes on to explain to us what insect (or other animal) they were given the traits of. For some odd reason, this device reminded me of the first couple seasons of Ikki Tousen, when character introductions were done the same way. Necessary or no, it emphasizes that we're just watching a story, and makes the suspension of disbelief you need to enjoy things harder. And suspending one's disbelief for a show like THIS is difficult enough already.

Still, even if your team is super-powered, it's just a limited team, and going mano y mano with an opponent fielding hordes of millions of combatants (and hordes that feel no pain, at that) just doesn't strike me as an intelligent strategy. The situation cries out for some chemical weaponry. Bring some Raid, perhaps? Call the Orkin man?

But pesticides may no longer be effective, for the "roaches" here have evolved to be too boringly like ourselves. One of the most chill-inducing things about the film Mimic was the fact that the giant insects there could only be mistaken for humans in poor lighting, and even then only if they stood in a certain way; otherwise their form was nearly completely alien to vertebrate life. The "roaches" in Terraformars (the show's title is also how they are referred to by humans) have antennae and wings, but otherwise look like oversized cavemen, or maybe the trolls from Tolkien's universe. They have such human attributes as toes and teeth, their eyes are much more human than insect, and they have only Paleolithic weapons (clubs, mainly) and
social organization, even though they can build pyramids and, with some instruction, operate machinery. (Don't ask how the instruction occurred at this stage; like Dallos, the show we have is only the opening chapters of a considerably longer saga.)

Still, the show LOOKS pretty gorgeous. The character designs are very well done, the CG spacecraft and equipment are impressive (though the transport/mothership is improbably roomy and makes the journey to Mars absurdly fast for a chemically-fueled vessel.) There are also some lovely landscapes of the transformed Mars, when you can see them. (An awful lot of the action takes place a night.) As for the characters, some that look like they might have been interesting get wiped out early, while others you wish HAD gotten wiped out early (e.g., a woman who can literally do nothing in a crisis but wet herself) linger on, though I suppose that's the way things often actually turn out. In fairness though, some of the backstories- I'm thinking of one about a boxer in particular- are tied neatly enough into the main tale, and weak characters like the self-wetter are more than offset by ones like "Michelle K. Davis", who's quite a badass babe. The opening theme blazes with the mindless histrionics we've heard far too often in generic action-show themes; the closer usually used isn't much better, but a couple of times they do experiment with different (and better) closings.

A basic problem for me here was that I couldn't really get that worked up against the bugs. Looked at objectively, the humans sort of brought things on themselves, and the bugs are just defending themselves against invaders who want to kill (or kidnap) their people. Throughout this show, I kept feeling we were supposed to root for...the wrong side.

If action is what you're after, Terraformars delivers the goods, so I finally did make it three stars rather than two. But if you want a better tale of humans up against some big bruisers, check out the recommended series.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: EXTREMELY violent- heads severed, bodies split open, and so on. Marital infidelity turns up somewhere; I don't recall any explicit nudity. Older teens and up.

Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Terraformars © 2014 Liden Films, Project TERRAFORMARS
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