Annotated Anime: Terra Formars episodes 4-5


One in the hand, two in the bush

When last I wrote about Terra Formars I noted its tonal and structural similarities to another of the year's darlings, Attack on Titan. That got some folks riled up for some reason, but I'm standing by those words, especially now that the show has been revealed to take a particular kind of glee in twisting the knife.

Like its spiritual sibling following a "no one is safe" ethos when it comes to character death and then savoring the righteous anger that follows every escalation of mankind's war against the roach menace. Attack on Titan is hardly the first bleak anime ever, but it and Terra Formars definitely live in the same neighboorhood, shopping for groceries at the same grimy convenience stores and wearing the same intimidating scowls on their faces.

Speaking of an approach to character death, it looks like holding one of those anti-Terraformar net guns is a death sentence, as two of the week's last three human casualties were armed with them as they bought the farm. Going by the social media chatter from people who've read the manga, being non-Japanese and being female might also be additional death flags, but I'll avoid putting that conclusion on the table for now.

That said, It's one thing to kill off the Russian sister we didn't know existed, but it's another to bury Sheila, the perky Mexican girl with the voice of Menma and a crush on the captain. Worse still, the whole scene continues on as the poor girl breathes her last, struggling desperately to get that last "Kancho daisuki" out before the end. All of this is bookended by flashbacks to her past living with Marcos and Alex*. In a show with fewer cheap deaths this would be heart-wrenching, but to see Terra Formars linger like this feels almost perverse. 

It's an effective scene, particularly in how it reveals that the Roaches have co-opted the Humans' BUGS surgery tech, implanting themselves with the powers of other bugs, just like in the prequel OVA. To be able to do so in just twenty short years, while still maintaining what I can only conclude is a facade of barbarian savagery (y'know, with the caveman clubs and all), is a genuinely terrifying moment.

Which of course, makes the escalation a little bit hilarious, as huge amounts of time is spent carefully explaining that the tech the Annex expedition is using is so much better than the stuff the Roaches managed to copy. After all, they've got people with shark powers and bird powers now, too! That little speech Akari gives about the "vermin" not messing with Earth because it "burns with the fire of a million different species" is galvanizing in the moment, but hilariously desperate when viewed in perspective. 

Yeah, you go, guy. Enjoy it while it lasts.

I'd bet everything I own that before the show's over those Roaches will have shark, bird, or even fish powers, too. That's just the way Terra Formars would like to twist the knife, after all. It might have even happened already. That big fella that pulled Michelle K. Davis (always say her full name!) underwater looked kind of fishy, as well. 

They might not even need the powers, considering that the one Roach caught the bird lady by the leg right after the big reveal. The scene was twisted to do a great riff on interrupting the narrator's spiel about how fast the Roaches are (by revealing Marcos' Huntsman Spider powers as even faster), but in the big picture, it just underscores how minuscule and temporary  the advantages the humans have gained are.

Still, it all works. It's exciting to watch badasses beat up huge monster dudes (poor political optics aside) and see them get mad about stuff, and I'm really warming up to the visuals. The emphasis on jump cuts, high-impact freeze-frames, and sudden, violent bursts of motion may be a production decision masquerading as a stylistic choice, but it reminds me of how Bleach might look had someone tried to really adapt Tite Kubo manga style to the rigors of animation. Liden Films has done in five episodes what Studio Pierrot only occasionally managed over three hundred sixty-six.

Next week: Michelle K. Davis is probably not dead. As one of the only female characters to find success against the roaches and one of three people on the title screen, she seems too important to be done in by mere drowning.

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures



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