Let me lay it down for you: Eventually, so I’ve been lead to believe, this planet will be no more. With the inevitable death of the Earth will come the eradication of every single native species…that includes us humans. This is why we have to start thinking about alternative existence plans. Lucky for us, there are a whole bunch of other planets hanging around in the same solar system as ours that would gladly allow for us to change it’s overall makeup to resemble Earth. This is what we call ‘Terraforming’, though it’s a little more complicated than what I just described.
The crew of ‘Bugs 1’ – a team of highly intelligent, professionally trained astronauts and scientists that have been sent into space to search for a worthy Terraforming candidate – land on Mars. The red planet, being more like Earth than any other planet in the solar system, seems like the perfect place to start anew. To help the Terraforming process the crew spread things like heat-absorbing moss and algi around the planet, don’t ask me exactly how because it was never exactly explained. To accompany the growths, they scientists also introduced cockroaches into the harsh environment of the planet. From what I read, it seems as though they believes covering the planet in dark-coloured creatures will allow for more heat to be drawn out of the atmosphere therefor making air breathable and conditions…LESS harsh. This was not the case.
Skip to many years later and a second expedition to the planet, ‘Bugs 2, is just about to reach the point of landing. It’s been a while since the crew have been on solid land so you can imagine how elated they are they they will finally be reaching Mars in but a few minutes. How damn wrong they are. This new team of pioneers are a little different from the last, NASA alongside the supporting national governments have put a great deal of money into genetically altering this new crew; by fusing these young men and women with traces of insect DNA, NASA believed that they will have no problem surviving without relying on respiratory or pressure-reducing technology to be able to freely wander and explore the planet…it soon becomes apparent that this was an utter lie.
After but minutes of survey, some of the team members come into contact with an entity the likes of which they never would have though would lurk on the surface of the planet that was once inhabitable. Humanoid in appearance and designed to be somewhat racially offensive, these creatures immediately attack the crew with their brute strength and blinding speed. There was a reason why the ‘Bugs 1’ never made it back to Earth and whether or not it was because of this is, so far, mostly unknown. The crew think these monsters were their cause of death but soon, after some quick deducting and a small bit of visual research, they come to the conclusion that these are indeed the cockroaches that once were used to help the evolution of the planet. Darwin’s theory is back in play and it looks like simple humans are not meant to exist on the evolutionary chain…but these aren’t simple humans.
‘Terra Formars’ takes a joke concept like ‘space cockroaches’ and makes it…believable. Series writer Yu Sasuga does a good job at weaving pockets of scientific explanation into the overall story, most of which come at times where an explanation actually is sought after rather than being spread randomly for the sake of looking somewhat intelligent, much like I’ve seen in other Manga series. These knowledge nuggets, of which there are actually a fair few, add a layer of realism to the story which, in case you’ve forgotten; IS ABOUT SPACE COCKROACHES! Do you see how interesting this is? The way ‘Terra Formars’ came across to me was quite reminiscent of the Manga ‘Air Gear’ by famed Mangaka Oh Great!; despite the fact that what we’re being shown is so unbelievable, having succinct and thoroughly-researched pieces of information and explanation scattered throughout each and ever volume’s chapters made for quite a plausible series of events.
Still, ‘Terra Formars’ is massively far-fetched but that’s what makes Manga brilliant; it keeps your attention through over exaggeration and a imagination-inducing series of aggressively fictional events. Look, some elements of the story are not so much unbelievable as much as they are unnecessarily and sometimes down right silly. It’s these story elements that lessen the experience of the Manga but thankfully there isn’t enough to fully tarnish the first volume. There are some things within it that aren’t fully explained, while reading I couldn’t help but think badly of the author for leaving such powerful story-developing points of information out but by the end of the first volume I came to believe that maybe, just maybe, these things will all begin to be explained thoroughly in the coming volumes. When a first issue of this caliber comes around I tend to want to give it the benefit of the doubt so I’ll stick with that mindset until future volumes prove to me that it was indeed a lack of care in story writing. Though…I’m hoping that will not be the case.
A good Manga must have two things; good storytelling and good art. Bringing these two things together doesn’t seem to be all that difficult but you’d be surprised at how many times a Manga series lacks either of the two. ‘Terra Formars’ does not fall victim to this. The reason why I believe this to be true: ‘Terra Formars’ is the collaborative project of two highly skilled Mangakas who each focus on a different aspect of production. One focuses solely on writing and storytelling, the other focuses on the illustration. Obviously there is some overlap when it comes to development but for the most part these two stick to their roles. This allows Kenichi Tachibana, the series artist, to pivot his work life around illustration only and that is obvious when reading the Manga because each panel is as detailed as the last with no dip in quality ever seen. Collaborative projects, in my own opinion, are much more exciting than solo projects simply because you’re given the best of both worlds of which are produced by two individuals who have dedicated their lives to one industry skill each. While Yu Sasuga focuses on writing, Kenichi Tachibana is illustrating his way into our hearts, blowing our minds apart with his detailed work and incredible inking prowess.
Each of the characters are designed brilliantly and with a high level of detail. The characters feature enough realism within their designs to make their existence believable but they also happen to sport enough Manga-stye flair to actually keep you interested in them. Tachibana has mastered the art of ugly illustration with the enemy cockroach characters being comparable to that of the ‘Titans’ from the extremely popular series ‘Attack On Titan’. They’re incredibly intimidating enemies and I honestly think they’re a perfect counter to the ‘insect forms’ of the main characters. There has been a little bit of tension in regards to the designs of these cockroach enemies with a few people around the internet saying that their designs are offensive and, well…racist. After reading the Manga I have to say that, to a certain degree, this is true BUT when one of the crew members of the ‘Bugs 2’ is an Australian man that happens to have African or Aboriginal heritage and is NOT designed in a racially insensitive way you do get the feeling that these enemies are simply meant to be human-like cockroaches and not some sort of hidden bigotry. I’m not of the mind to give away any spoilers from the first volume so I’ll keep it very general and say that the greatness of the illustration continues to grow with each and every chapter read. This is because with story development comes escalating situations and major growth in characters both mentally and…physically. It’s clear that Tachibana is a brilliant artist and there is honestly no other person that I could imagine replacing him.
‘Terra Formars’ volume one does something great; it sets up brilliantly for the bulk of the series to come. The first volume of any Manga has to be able to lay down something solid enough to keep people interested in a way that will also succinctly give audiences a view of what’s to come in the future. I do believe ‘Terra Formars’ does this well. While it doesn’t tell us everything, I have to go with my gut feeling and say that what is to come will blow audiences away. Now there are some smaller story elements, and one big story element, that did have me question the structural stability of the story but I feel as though they’re the types of things people can and will skim over while reading so they may not be as impactful to the wider audience as they were to me. Either way I still feel a great love for the start of the series and I hope it continues at this level. Who’d have though ‘space cockroaches’ could be so damn awesome!
Take a trip and purchase ‘Terra Formars’ volume one at the Madman Entertainment Online Store.