To Terra… vol. 1

Although I am still bitter about the fact that I have yet to receive my copy of Shattered Angels vol. 1, I did finally manage to get my hands on the first volume of Keiko Takemiya’s Terra e… (released as To Terra… in America).

I was pretty thrilled to finally get my hands on this. Released by Vertical, volume one actually contains two tankoubon worth of material, well worth the $13.95 price-point. The art is reproduced fairly well, especially considering that this is thirty years old. Most sound effects are translated, although a few did pop up here and there that were strangely left intact. Translation is smooth and free of grammatical and mechanical mistakes – as should be expected from a publisher that specializes in translating Japanese novels. All in all, I was very happy with Vertical’s release.

Anyway, as for the story itself…

To Terra… tells the story of the humans thousands of years in the future. The Earth had become completely polluted and destroyed, so humanity went to the stars; they also turned wholeheartedly to genetic engineering and super-advanced computers. Hundreds of years later, human society is completely run by computers and tightly controlled. At age fourteen, every child undergoes the maturity check to ensure that they are not a Mu. The Mu are mutated humans with psychic abilities, although they are often plagued by physical ailments such as blindness or missing limbs. Mu are destroyed when they are discovered as they pose too great a risk to the humankind of the new era.

However, some of the Mu do manage to escape – most notably, Soldier Blue. Soldier Blue has established a colony of sorts below the surface of Ataraxia, one of the planets that exists for the sole purpose of rearing children. All children are test-tube babies, placed with a foster family who raises them. The colony exists within a vast space ship, populated with the Mu who either escaped extermination by their own efforts or were saved by Soldier Blue. One in particular is Physis, a blind woman who can divine the future.

Enter Jomy Marcus Shin, a boy who is about to turn fourteen and face his maturity check. He expresses a bit of doubt to his mother at the prospect, as he will no longer be able to return to his parents once he sets forth. But he undergoes it nevertheless, and Soldier Blue makes himself known – Jomy apparently has a great deal of latent psychic power. Soldier Blue sends one of the other Mu to get Jomy, who is then taken back to the Mu’s ship. But Jomy distrusts the Mu and doesn’t believe he is one of them. The other Mu are also deeply distrustful of Jomy.

Time passes a little, and Soldier Blue approaches Jomy once again – up until this point Soldier has been largely absent. Jomy reacts violently, but psychically, and bursts out of the ship. He finds himself suddenly above the atmosphere of Ataraxia, frightened, but Soldier comes to him and tells him he must lead the Mu to Terra, the home planet of the human race. Soldier faints after the effort, and begins to fall back to Ataraxia.

Soldier Blue is over three-hundred years old, as it turns out – but he his appearance has changed very little over those years. However, he is weak nonetheless, and he perishes after making it clear that Jomy is his heir. Jomy still has his doubts, but he accepts Soldier’s final wish.

We then shift our attention to an educational space station. We meet Keith Anyan, the top student of the station, and his friend Sam Houston (it does really make one wonder how on earth Takemiya made this naming decision…). They are watching the new students filter into the station when they are approached by Seki Rei Shiroe, a cocky younger student. Shiroe hasn’t been on the station for very long, yet he is already challenging Keith as the top student. Sam is angered by him, but Keith is fairly unfazed.

Keith is a very level-headed young man, and seems to lack nearly all emotions. It is a long while before Shiroe’s antagonism provokes a reaction on his part, as he finally punches Shiroe after Shiroe accuses him of cowardice. This earns him a trip to Mother Eliza, the main computer which oversees all those students aboard the station. Mother Eliza tells him to relax and that he is coming along fine, although his emotions do seem tumultuous as of late.

We are briefly shown another friend of Keith and Sam’s, Suena. Keith has reprimanded two students for being affectionate in public, and remarks that there is no time for those sorts of relationships for the likes of himself and other high-powered students (the implication being that Suena is one of those students). But Suena meets a guy, and ends up leaving the station to transfer to an educational station for those who are going to lead ‘normal’ lives. She also marries the guy she met.

Meanwhile, Shiroe has become a part-time bartender in the station, but he scares off a lot of customers. It also turns out that Shiroe is a Mu who somehow slipped past the maturity check. He is apprehended, however, while investigating Keith, who apparently has no past history before becoming a student on the space station. An ESP test is administered to him – he fails, but manages to escape. Keith takes him in due to curiosity on his part as to what Shiroe knows of him. Shiroe tells him to check a certain sector of the ship for the truth. But Keith ends up killing Shiroe on the orders of Mother Eliza after the younger boy escapes in a small shuttle.

Keith seeks the truth of his existence, and finds it in a hidden part of the station. He was a test-tube baby like his peers, but he was kept completely under the control of the computer in an artificial womb until he reached age fourteen. There is another child growing in his old tank.

Keith and Sam graduate, but not before Jomy establishes contact with the station in an attempt to open up communication with the human race. Sam recognizes Jomy as a childhood classmate/friend and freaks out, along with everyone else. Keith is immune and “saves” everyone aboard through his quick reaction.

Elsewhere, Jomy and the Mu have settled down on the planet of Nazca. The younger Mu have now grown quite a bit, and the first natural birth in Mu history takes place. But while the younger Mu are content with life on Nazca, Jomy is very aware of the fact that it is not Terra, and they still have a ways to go.

Sam re-enters Jomy’s life somewhat, as his patrol ship makes inadvertent contact with the Mu. Jomy uses his psychic power to incapacitate both Sam and the elder crew member before he realizes that Sam’s there. Jomy is delighted to see Sam, but Sam is frightened by Jomy, and attempts to stab him. Jomy himself is now frightened, and accidentally blasts both Sam and the other man into space.

Down on Nazca, the first natural birth in Mu history has taken place. The younger Mu have now grown quite a bit. But while the younger Mu are content with life on Nazca, Jomy is very aware of the fact that it is not Terra, and they still have a ways to go.

Terra e… was adapted into a movie in 1980. This was released in America way back in 1994 by TRSI on VHS, and later on laserdisc. You can still find it for sale on their website. I have not seen this adaptation, although I have seen half of the 2007 TV series. This was licensed by Bandai half-way through it’s run, although there has yet to be an R1 release (hopefully we’ll see one soon based on Bandai’s bizarre website code chatter). EDIT: Bandai has also apparently released a new trailer at ACEN08 – but there’s still no street date. 2nd EDIT: Oh snap! There are street dates now! July 15th, 2008 for the first two volumes (four episodes each), and the first boxset (eight episodes). It’ll be released as ‘Toward the Terra’.

It is somewhat hard to believe that Terra e… was published in a shounen publication. The art is very much 70’s shoujo-style, and there’s a very faint whiff of shounen-ai hanging upon some of the proceedings (particularly between Jomy and Soldier Blue) (granted, considering that Takemiya is in some ways considered the mother of the yaoi/shounen-ai genre [Kaze to Ki no Uta, anyone?]).

But categorizing Terra e… by something such as shoujo or shounen robs it of its significance. At its heart, Terra e… raises some very important questions about things such as racism (really, any -ism) and what it is exactly to be human. Terra e… is sometimes termed a space opera, but I would argue that it is more an epic of humanity itself. Terra e… may focus very much on its individual characters, but it is a tale that concerns all of humanity.

In reading volume one of the manga, I found myself noticing the myriad of differences between the TV series and the manga. While the overarching plot and impact remains the same, there are quite a few differences. Some of the more notable were:

  • Jomy is shown as being a bit of a trouble-maker in the manga, while in the TV series he is shown as being much more mild-mannered; he’s also closer to his mother in the TV series, who is shown as worrying about him as a person a few times, while in the manga she’s the one who calls in the authorities to check Jomy for ESP before his maturity check
  • in the TV series, we meet Suena and Sam right away; Suena even gives Jomy a friendship sort of bracelet before he goes off to his maturity check
  • speaking of Suena, she features far more prominently in the first half of the anime than she does in the manga so far: her arrival at the station is shown in the TV series (there’s a problem with the shuttle and Sam and Keith rescue everyone), and she is depicted as having a crush on Keith, her departure as her way of walking away from what is clearly a hopeless situation regarding this
  • the Mu who gives birth to the first naturally born Mu child, Karina, is shown as a child when Jomy first comes to the Mu ship, and is shown a few times as she ages in the TV series, while in the manga we only learn of her after the birth of her child – her character design as a child (shown in flashback) in the manga also differs from her appearance as a child in the TV series
  • Sam’s attack on Jomy is as a result of some bizarre takeover by a deep implanted something in the TV series, while it is solely a product of his fear in the manga
  • Soldier Blue dies right after chasing Jomy above the atmosphere in the manga, while he lingers much longer in the TV series – Soldier Blue is still alive in the TV series when they reach Nazca, although he’s in a state of suspended animation (this could change, though – it seemed Soldier was completely dead at an earlier point in the TV series, only to be shown sleeping much later on)
  • Shiroe is shown as a child in the TV series, and Jomy tries to rescue him, only to fail; Shiroe also has a copy of Peter Pan in the TV series that he holds dear and that is shown in the wreckage of his ship after Keith destroys it
  • Keith doesn’t discover the nature of his existence in the TV series after Shiroe’s death

I figure I’m gonna have to go watch the movie version now, haha.

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4 Responses to To Terra… vol. 1

  1. blissmo says:

    I usually buy manga that is $20, or maybe that’s because Australia is ripping us off, lols. I was wondering how to get to this place cos I think when you comment on my site you wrote your url wrong or something

    😀

  2. myu says:

    “Soldier Blue dies right after chasing Jomy above the atmosphere in the manga, while he lingers much longer in the TV series”

    I´m so grateful to the producers of tv version that they didn´t follow manga´s plot and killed Soldier Blue right away. That would erase the epicness of a whole character and episode 17.

  3. adaywithoutme says:

    @ blissmo – Whoops, well, at least I’m linked in a bunch of places now, huh?

    @ myu – I was fairly disappointed that Soldier Blue died so soon – I really do like him quite a bit.

  4. maidenkari says:

    Hi!!!! i love Terra E!! i knew of this anime thanks to a anime magazine, and actually i’m seeing the new version…in México is impossible find this manga T-T the history is epic, but unfortunately has not been much divulged. Thanks for your review!!

    PD. Sorry, my english is bad T.T

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