Between seasons of Attack on Titan, Knights of Sidonia, or Game of Thrones? Haven’t enjoyed the heart wrenching experience of watching helplessly as a character who you have become personally invested in is brutally murdered? Fear not, TERRAFORMARS is here to introduce you to a diverse cast of characters of varied backgrounds and complex motivations to summarily execute at random. On Mars.
The background for TERRAFORMARS is reminiscent of western science fiction. Mankind has terraformed Mars but something went terribly wrong and the cockroaches sent onto the planet have evolved into terrible, seven feet tall, caveman-like beasts capable of ripping a human to pieces. Having created their own extraterrestrial threat, you would think the Earth could just declare Mars off limits and start reassessing their terraforming techniques, except a mysterious and incurable illness is beginning to spread on Earth with a verified origin of Mars. The threat of a global epidemic leaves the multinational U-NASA organization no choice but to send an expedition to Mars in the hopes of capturing some samples to manufacture a cure.
This isn’t the first expedition that has been sent to investigate Mars and U-NASA has become well aware of the fact that guns are almost useless against the cockroaches. In what one might consider a dangerous move considering past disasters, U-NASA has decided to fight evolution with genetic manipulation by performing highly experimental Organic Mosaic Procedure on the expeditionary force. The genes of the crew are combined with insects and other animals to give them abilities matching the natural adaptations of the animal, think stuff like a bat’s echolocation or the strength of an ant scaled up to the size of a human. There is just one catch, the abilities require a special medicine to activate and each dose only lasts so long.
TERRAFORMARS involves a storytelling formula which is a sort of guessing game. In addition the events which push the overarching plot of the series forward, each episode usually includes extended vignettes of characters frequently angsty pasts which eventually led them to travel to Mars as they reveal their powers and engage in battle. It is at this point that the viewer is almost invited to begin predicting whether the character will ascend to the prestigious ranks of the main characters by individually slaying a squad of cockroaches or be unceremoniously decapitated by a single enemy.
This dynamic is made more intense by what is perhaps the most unreliable narrator since Moby Dick. Instead of seeming untrustworthy, he is more easily compared to a harried commentator attempting to provide a play by play without any actual knowledge of the characters or their powers. Frequently he writes characters off as doomed only to be immediately proven wrong, at which point he scrambles to try to continue his analysis. In a way, he is just another spectator watching along with you trying to play the same game and guess who will live. Although he does have an impressive knowledge of zoology.
Visually the series is top notch and has some creative uses of CG to allow for large shots of hundreds of the cockroaches in what I’m pretty sure is an effort to save time and money for the 2D artists to draw more detailed viscera. TERRAFORMARS has scenes that are so gruesome that they were censored on Japanese television. To get episodes out as soon as possible, Crunchyroll is releasing the originally aired versions and working to make the uncensored available as soon as possible. Even so, it isn’t hard to figure out what is going on and the level of brutality is almost a spectacle in itself.
If nothing else, TERRAFORMARS is awesome to watch just to see what obscure bit of zoology will next be adapted into a power as more characters reveal their abilities. The series pulls no punches when it comes to death, so the best strategy is to try not to get attached and just appreciate the beautiful violence unfold on your screen and the promise of deeper story as the characters discover some of the mysteries on Mars. That, or stock up on tissues.
You can also try making a list of your favorite animals to see which show up on the series, I’ve already crossed a few off of mine.