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Terra Formars Volume Eight and Nine – Review

No longer is the war on Mars being fought by two different planetary races. At one point in time this mission to the red planet was for the sake of not only combatting the forces of the Cockroaches, but to capture live specimens for experimental use back on Earth. You may have forgotten this, but there’s a virus spreading across Earth that is a direct cause of the evolution process that developed thanks to the terraforming of Mars. Part of the reason why the Annex I were sent there in the first place was to bring back samples of which Earth scientists could create a cure from, but like anything else that has evolutionary traits, the Cockroach samples can not only be used in the medical field…it can also be used for warfare.

In the previous volume it was revealed that the Chinese soldiers on Mars, who were once a part of the Annex I mission, turned heel against the rest of the crew under orders from their superiors back on Earth. While there is a literal war being fought on Mars, there’s a more sophisticated battle raging on Earth; a battle of nations. it seems as though China have realised the limitless potential of the evolutionary traits found within the Cockroaches on Mars, and in an attempt to monopolise this power they have instructed their officers on Mars to go against the mission in an attempt to keep the specimens for themselves. Fact is…apart from the Chinese officials on Earth, nobody but the other members of Annex I know, and the only way they can alert the brass back on home turf is by commandeering a radio tower heavily guarded by the Chinese.

It’s just too bad that the relentless forces of the Cockroach army haven’t given them the chance to work out their own issues before continuing with the intergalactic war, so not only does Annex I now have to deal with the betrayal of the Chinese, they also have to continue surviving against the ever-evolving Cockroach battalion. As it turns out, it’s not the best idea to keep your friends close and your enemies even closer…that just gives them more of a chance to stab you in the back.

Thank you, once again, to Madman Entertainment for keeping us up to date with one of the most popular Seinen Manga series of contemporary times; Terra Formars.

In a sad reflection of the situation on Earth, factions among the human explorers on Mars fall into conflict with each other, a fight they can ill afford as the relentless Terraformars continue to close in on them. The cockroaches have begun to display more human-like qualities, and the battle becomes even more desperate. If the humans can’t set aside their differences long enough to face this threat, death is the only guaranteed outcome… – Volume 8 (Madman Entertainment)

Pursued by Division 4, Akari and Michelle encounter a Terraformar with bullet ant characteristics. Realizing this creature has stolen her deceased father’s strength, Michelle stands her ground alongside Akari. The two will be pushed beyond their limits in this fight, but even more formidable opponents are lining up to fight them, and their human enemies are still out there as well… – Volume 9 (Madman Entertainment)

Much like all previous volumes, these two focus more on combat than anything else. Once again, much like previous volumes, Terra Formars also has a very interesting style of story telling that details the past of a character whilst mid-fight; something I’ve come to enjoy very much through reading the series. The realism that comes with a never-ending war is something I still cannot come to terms with. Every time I think about the fact that the characters in this portion of the series have been fighting from the second volume all the way up until the ninth I am blown away, because it simply doesn’t seem as though this is the case. Despite the amount of what happens between the pages of each volume, it hasn’t even been a week since they landed on Mars and began fighting the Cockroaches. I love this about the series because, simply put; no enemy would wait and allow for their invaders to rest, recuperate, and re-arm themselves, especially enemies like the Cockroaches who not only lack the sensation of pain, but do not have the need for rest.

Volumes eight and nine focus on two specific battles: The first is between that of Sylvester Asimov (captain of the Russian squad) and Liu Yiwu (captain of the Chinese squad), and the second being between Michelle K. Davis (captain of the American squad) and a Cockroach featuring the same insect attributes as her late father, who was killed in the previous mission to Mars. Through these battle we not only learn more about the individuals partaking in them, but the mission and it’s officers involved as a whole. What I especially enjoyed about these to volumes is the addition of a narrator that seems to change depending on which characters the Manga is currently following. In past volumes the mechanic of a narrator has indeed been present, but never to this capacity. Having a narration allows for certain story and character aspects to be explained without the use of uncharacteristic exposition, and my hope is that it continues to stay with the Manga for volumes to come.

I have always loved the writing of Terra Formars, and nothing has changed with the release of volumes eight and nine. I always found the introduction of a new character or a new ability to be utterly fascinating thanks to the amount of effort put into the explanation that naturally accompanies the new addition. Terra Formars has found a way to define something in great detail without taking away from the high-octane action at hand in a way akin to that of older Manga series like Air Gear. With every moves comes an explanation that helps the audience to understand the realism behind what is going on, which seems incredibly hard to believe because this is a Manga revolving around fighting humanoid cockroaches on Mars, but Terra Formars seems to have mastered this mix of fact and fiction.

Now this is where I’d usually go on to talk about Kenichi Tachibana’s interestingly gritty illustration style that, most of the time, fits the series to an absolute tee. Unfortunately this time around I will not be talking about how masterful an illustrator he is, despite the fact that my opinion of him has not changed. My only issue with volumes eight and nine of Terra Formars is that Kenichi Tachibana’s art throughout the pair was often hard to comprehend. Tachibana is usually an incredible artist that uses grit and gore as impactful tools, creating images that burn into your brain, but this time around I felt as though he laid out his panels and his illustrations in a way that just made combat difficult to follow. Trying to decipher what was going on most of the time quickly become an arduous task that was almost tiring at times. While there were signs of this in past volumes, it has never been as striking as it was in both volume eight and nine. Despite that, he is still a great artist that lends his talents well to the story, I only hope that, in future volumes, he condenses his combat scenes into a more comprehendible layout.

Despite the visual difficulties of volumes eight and nine, I still felt as though the writing in Terra Formars is as good as it has ever been, and I cannot imagine a time wherein which the quality of that drops drastically. I believe that the task of illustrating such in-depth action scenes proved to be a little too much for series artist Kenichi Tachibana, but this is one of the only times I felt as though his art has been too difficult to follow, so my hope is that it is a singular occurrence. With Manga like this, that often blow me away with just how enjoyable they are, I can forgive certain mishaps…this happens to be one of them. We’ll soon see if this is going to be a continuous problem with the release of the next volume but, as always, I’m going to stay hopeful. Still a fantastic addition to the series.

Grab these new releases through Madman Entertainment’s official online store:

Volume Eight: Click Here

Volume Nine: Click Here

Grade: B+

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