Imagine if scientists perfected the process of making Spiderman and sent a hundred modified humans to Mars to do battle against hordes of mutated and evolved humanoid cockroaches. Except the group doesn’t just get modified with spider powers; some get spider powers, but each individual is given a different animal’s genes depending upon compatibility with the host’s genes. On top of that, there’s a political plot unfolding due to the mission being a joint operation that spreads across several countries. I know, sounds awesome, right?Honestly, it’s the kind of science fiction that’s right up my alley. I love the concept of terra-forming planets so that future humans can expand our scope across the galaxy. And I know that makes me sound like I’m pro-colonialism, but I’m not. I like the concept of a planet that didn’t hold life being modified in order to produce and sustain life. And that’s what Terra Formars is all about. The humanoid cockroaches that inhabit Mars were actually a part of the process of terra-forming. Unexpectedly, the roaches rapidly evolved to be akin to proto-humans, but they started as regular run-of-the-mill cockroaches; and now there’s a stage for a very intriguing story to unfold.
The series covers a breadth of sci-fi themes, but it also delves into colonial, military, and political themes too. It actually reminds me of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers–the book, not the movie; if you’re a fan of sci-fi and haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and jump on that, it’s fantastic. Anyways, Terra Formars’ drama is well layered and it expands well outside the scope of the story’s cast, which makes it feel very three-dimensional. However, there has been controversy around the series.
The first controversy for the original release of the anime was that it was heavily censored. Before I knew Crunchy Roll offered an uncensored version, it was comical to watch, which was a problem because the series is pretty serious and heavy-toned for the most part. There’s a lot of death in the series and do the nature of genetic-based science fiction, there’s a lot of gore too. I wouldn’t say it’s excessive by any means, but it’s definitely not PG-13. However, to make sure the anime was shown on TV, they black-barred basically everything. Regardless of the censorship issues, the series keeps you on your toes as to who might live and die; I have yet to uncover the writer Yu Sasuga’s pattern as to how he decides who will die, which is refreshing in regards to my last post about Killer Writers.
The second controversy, and this covers the series as a whole and not just the anime, is the accusation that the cockroaches depict a stereotyped version of black men. If I’m being completely honest, I get why people might think that due to the artist Kenichi Tachibana’s style the series comes off as racist, however, I don’t agree with the accusation. Now, this is completely up to interpretation and I completely understand if this would put off some from enjoying the series, but I really think we have to consider the intention of the series’ creators.
I think they applied some science and a bit of imagination to how the cockroaches might evolve and landed where they did because they were trying to depict a creature that was very akin to proto-humans. They were establishing an analogous form to tribal Neanderthals and the creatures’ aesthetics seem to reflect that intention. More so though, from a story perspective, I don’t think the creators are implying in the slightest that the humanoid cockroaches that resemble black Neanderthals are evil or even bad.
Much like any horde creature attacking humanity, the creature that makes up the horde isn’t an antagonist or villain to the story; they’re more of a foil. Though the cockroaches are fighting against the humans, they really seem to be reflecting humanity itself; not negatively nor positively, but as a species young to heightened intelligence and protecting themselves from invaders. Don’t get me wrong, the characters aren’t making any reservations to killing and capturing the cockroaches, but the motivation to do so makes sense in the context of the story and it has absolutely nothing to do with the cockroaches’ looks or culture.
Saying that, I haven’t caught up on the series as of yet and I will most likely write a critique for its story next week. I’ll also talk about why sci-fi loves creating impractical solutions to problems we most likely have the technology to solve even in today’s day and age. So stay tuned.
P.S. I got to give thanks to Scud for his analysis on hordes. Check out his stuff. He’s wicked funny, and we’re working together on a project. Love you, Scud! I swear the editing is almost done.