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Terra Formars Volume Ten – Review

Terra-Formars-Volume-10-Cover-Image-01Mars is a planet 225 million kilometers away from Earth, and that is at it’s closest. It’s a planet so far away that it would take between 150 and 300 full days to reach it’s surface. Matt Damon was recently marooned on the red planet, and the mission was so arduous that it took a Childish Gambino to get him home to us. The point I’m trying to make is that Mars is quite a long way from Earth, and yet not even those currently inhabiting it cant seem to escape from the child-like politics on Earth.

Terra Formars’ latest arc is one that revolves around China’s heel turn as they attempt to seize control of the mission so as to return to Earth the sole survivors accompanied by what would be the only source of research data from the exhibition. Having said data in the palm of their hands, being the only country in the world with it, would make China the superpower they have always wanted to be, so their Annex soldiers will do absolutely anything to make that dream a reality.

Volume Nine left us on quite a cliffhanger; team China are currently in poll position as they take out all who stand in their way, but the Russia/Japan partnership are in hot pursuit. Every soldier has a plan for success, but only one side can come out of this victorious. Hell, victory isn’t even what they’re truly striving for: It’s more along the lines of pure survival.

Every volume of Terra Formars so far has delivered to it’s audience, more or less the same thing; the introduction of a new character (good or bad), the spotlight of a new brawl, and the slow unravel of the story at large. For the most part, this habit has made for some mostly enjoyable volumes, but now that we’re at the tenth I feel as though it’s time for a change of pace.

Volume ten does not bring about this change and, as per the norm, it’s a release that is easily enjoyed but left me longing for much more. As mentioned; volume ten introduces us to a new member of the character cast, who’s a man that just so happens to be Rank 1 of all the Annex fighters. What he, Joe, brings to the table is raw athleticism and a believable way to turn the tides on both China’s soldiers and the overwhelming numbers of the Cockroach army.

While Joe is a pompous narcissist and it seems as though that is all he would bring to the story, his eleventh hour arrival does, in fact, bring with it layers of thoughtful writing. The great thing about Terra Formars is that Yu Sasuga knows how to write a highly-populated cast. When a new character appears to take the spotlight, it feels as though he or she has always existed, rather than the reverse which forces characters to come across as something written only for the moments wherein which the reader can see them.

Terra Formars still has an air of confusion to it, both within it’s story and through Kenichi Tachibana’s illustrations. Certain characters will interact with indistinct dialogue that refers to certain things without actually doing so. The issue with that is not so much the intensely vague way in which they communicate, but that what they are referring to has only been partially detailed to the audience. It is understandable that this technique is used to retain the sense mystery that this series seems to enjoy, but it has bee this way for so long that it has become almost unbearable. My hope is that we’re let in on the secret soon enough, before the teasing just leads into frustration.

In terms of Tachibana’s illustrations, as mentioned earlier; they’re fantastic, but sometimes hard to follow. Because of the need to pack as much into an individual chapter as possible, I feel as though panels are cut to conserve space, but it is the lack of said panels that make for sometimes confusing visuals. This was an issue that arose in the previous volume, and one that looks as though it’s going to stay. Still, in saying that, Kenichi Tachiba is a wonderful illustrator that knows what works and runs with it at too speed, unfortunately obvious limitations have effected the fluidity of his sequential art.

Regardless, of the negative points; Terra Formars remains an enjoyable series that, unfortunately, needs somewhat of a change of pace. That alone would really shake up the series, allowing a breath of fresh air into the pages of a Manga I feel as though may be getting quite stale. Still, I’m having a great time continuing to read Terra Formars, I just feel as though a dynamic shift will do the series wonders.

Often I will say “why fix what isn’t broken“, and while Terra Formars doesn’t feel as though it is “broken” per se, I do feel as though it’s starting to develop something akin to that of a little rust. I’d like to believe that the back end of this arc will shake off the dust starting to settle, and send the series full-throttle into the next big story arc, but until that happens hopeful is what I will have to remain.

Grade: B

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