Fall 2014: On Terraformars

[HorribleSubs] Terra Formars - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.18_[2014.09.26_22.13.32]

My first encounter with Hiroshi Hamasaki’s work was through a little series called Texhnolyze. The series tells the somber tale of a dying city and its descent to madness as its citizens slowly cast away their humanity.

Humans begin to replace their body parts with mechanical counterparts. This process is called Texhnolyzation. Some herald it as the next step in human evolution, others see it as another futile attempt at prolonging the life of a doomed species. It’s contemplation on the meaning and value of humanity forces the viewer to look at humans at their worst. It’s a sophisticated horror show and the monster is mankind’s own psyche.

I have always seen Hamasaki’s work as mood pieces. They work well because of how fine tuned the ambiance is. Texhnolyze perfectly embodies that mood that has quietly invaded nearly everything he’s touched.

Terraformars is nothing likeTexhnolyze. It’s about a bunch of people fighting alien cockroaches on Mars and it wears its premise with pride.

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Also, it’s not immune to boob jokes and dick jokes. 

People get killed left and right, perceived racial stereotypes abound and everyone has crazy powers derived from animal DNA. Existential questions aren’t asked and there no visual metaphors in sight. However, just like Texhnolyze, the human cast is forced to undergo the BUGS procedure,  an operation that provides them with superhuman strength and abilities. This is so that they can be on equal footing with the Terraformars, a species superior to humans in almost every way imaginable.

These people are tasked to capture alien samples so that people on Earth can find a cure to a deadly disease that is suspected to have come from Mars.

This time around, Hamasaki sets aside lingering shots on cicadas or crumbling cities. Instead we get grainy clips of roaming cockroaches and blaring music. In other words, he opts for a chaotic approach that still feels his. It’s a damn shame that so much of the gore is censored when you know that it’s Hamasaki’s forté. It takes away a lot from the experience and it almost feels pointless to have it on TV.

Luckily, the source material deviates from brutal, quick deaths and focuses on the action so…one can only hope that we’ll see less of these awkward blackholes of censorship.

[HorribleSubs] Terra Formars - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.59_[2014.10.20_02.49.09]

I know I’ve gone on and on about Hamasaki’s directing style without touching on stuff like “writing” and “character development”. It’s too early to say anything about those two things. But I will say this, Terraformars starts with a charismatic enough cast of people. They’re likable, and a good number of them are badass. I’m not frustrated with their actions and I’m totally on their side. Sometimes that’s all I need to care. I don’t need a fifty page backstory for everyone, just make them people I want to follow every week and MAKE me hope that they don’t die an agonizing death! It sounds so simple, but it’s so hard.

The Terraformars TV anime isn’t perfect, but it’s a fun rollercoaster ride on a Friday.   It’s junk food for the soul and an unabashed celebration of violence. When you learn how to adjust expectations, Terraformars becomes a legitimately enjoyable watch.

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  1. When you learn how to adjust expectations, Terraformars becomes a legitimately enjoyable watch.

    Can’t you say that about anything? If you adjust your expectations accordingly, Mahouka becomes a legitimately enjoyable watch. Of course, I have certain expectations for Terra Formars — expectations that you might not agree with — but I think it’s easier to just take every argument with a grain of salt instead of implying that we should recalibrate our expectations.

    • I’m not a very good writer and I was half-asleep when I finished this post but I was speaking more in context with Terraformars and how it compares to the director’s former, more recognizable work. I guess what I was trying to say was ‘don’t go into x expecting y because this x is just what it is.’

      Given your example with Mahouka, I realize how erroneous this statement sounds.

      • Well, to be clear, I don’t think you’re a bad writer. I wouldn’t give your blog a second look if I thought you were. It just wasn’t entirely clear that you were talking about expectations set by Texhnolyze. After all, I didn’t even know they shared the same director. Interesting fact, though. ‘Cause I rather like Texhnolyze, but… the nicest thing I can say is that Terra Formars isn’t meeting my expectations. ;v

        • the nicest thing I can say is that Terra Formars isn’t meeting my expectations. ;v

          I get it. I enjoy Terraformars, but I won’t deny that this feels just as niche as something like Jojo. Both shows have a tendency to wedge in super long explanations in between fights and some of it doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense. In the end, it’s more of a series that features lots of violence, cool powers and the occasional tragic backstory.

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