I’ve read a lot of, how shall we say, “out there” plots for manga over the years. A guy who grows a girlfriend on his hand, for example (midori no Hibi) comes to mind. And if the silliness doesn’t get to you, you can have a great time with the series. But Terra Formars [sic], a sci fi horror title, kind of crossed a few lines for me. The silliness of the concept (7′ mutated brutish cockroach people on Mars who need to be exterminated by criminal astronauts injected with various bug DNA) and the egregious (even for manga standards) violence make this a hard title to like.
Story: a group of ‘astronauts’, each with a criminal background and forced on the mission, agree to be operated on and then sent to Mars in order to defeat mutated anthropomorphic cockroaches. The cockroaches then start picking them off one by one as each crew member morphs into a different bug/human hybrid to fight the roaches.
Since this is a shounen manga, we get copious descriptions of all the bugs that were used for the human/bug hybrids. Ants, mosquitos, beetles…it gives the author/artist an excuse to create different ‘power ups’ to his characters so they can have their heads torn off. Yep, school boy fantasies run rampant here.
The crew doesn’t do much but hang around on an oddly spacious spaceship (the inside can’t possible match the outside – really poor perspective by the artist) and then look surprised when they actually see the mutant cockroaches (wasn’t that their mission in the first place – to kill the mutant roaches? You’d think they wouldn’t be surprised or go up and try to talk to one).
The mutant cockroaches? Now here’s perhaps the most egregiously idiotic part of the story: they are drawn like 7′ tall black men, complete with cliche afro, big lips, and no emotions/brutish. And of course, they all look alike – because, all black people look alike, right? Really?! This is 2014, right? There’s some seriously WRONG concepts going on with the cockroaches and it turned me off this title completely. If the pointless violence wasn’t enough, let’s completely stereotype a race as well. But hey, we also have the gung ho muscley American (he’s the captain, natch), sweet little Japanese girlie girl, large Russian woman, and Thai with a martial arts background. Yeah, no stereotyping going on here….
Of course, all the people back on Earth monitoring the astronauts are crazy and E-vil. As in, rolling eyes and small pupils E.V.I.L. Oh my.
The irony for me is that if I was going to fight cockroaches, I’d do it with a biological agent and not people. And if I did use people, I’d probably inject them with a cockroach’s natural predator DNA – instead of random bugs to see what happens.
A silly or over the top and violent premise can be interesting in manga. Deadman Wonderland, for example, had quite a bit to say without stereotyping. But Terra Formars [sic] is a complete waste of time. It panders to the lowest common denominator 10 year old boy.
Reviewed from an ARC.