The fall season is officially here, and Liden Studios (Miss Monochrome, Senyū) brings us Yū Sasuga’s Terra Formars, a brawl for it all between humans and cockroaches.
While that may sound like a one-sided battle at first, I should mention the battleground is the planet Mars, and those cockroaches have had 500 years to evolve, adapt, and somehow get really good at fighting any outside invaders. The Terra Formars anime is actually a continuation of the Terra Formars arc from the OVA series that wraps up in November. You needn’t have seen the OVA series, as it’s only two episodes, and they explain all about it with quick narrative in what’s called the Annex 1 arc. Terra Formars‘ first episode does a good job laying the groundwork for what should be an action-packed series, but also does something in anime that–no pun intended–bugged me.
In the first 60 seconds, we learn of our main protagonist and his motives, along with a brief setup of time, his past, and why he’s fighting in an underground fighting arena. It’s all rather moot as you’ll soon learn, but Hizamaru Akari is his name, and he’s on the final round of this fighting tournament to save his childhood friend who’s sick with an unfamiliar disease. The first half of the episode explains why he is where he is and what he’s fighting for, and despite the heavy censorship, offers a brutal presentation of his abilities. Not much is explained about his sudden resurgence and abilities, but two eagle-eyed audience members know he’s exactly what they need for their mission. Shokichi Komachi and Michelle Davis are heading up the Annex I expedition to Mars, and are recruiting candidates to undergo the rigorous experiments and training required to make the journey.
The rest of the episode focuses on a handful of the rest of the crew: Marcos Garcia, Alex Stewart, Sheila Levitt, Adolf Reinhardt, and Eva Frost. They all have their own reasons for joining the Annex I crew, with Marcos, Alex, and Sheila doing so to escape their war-torn country. Eva’s story is still unknown, while Adolf seems as though he’s more than capable of handling himself. It’s a diverse group, and we spend enough time with them to learn that despite their eagerness, they’re not fully matured and ready for what’s before them. As the climax rears its head and Michelle finally unveils them their mission and target(s), the crew doesn’t bat an eye as they’re become aware of what’s ahead for them on Mars.
The virus that’s infecting humans and killed Hizamaru’s friend is called the AE virus, and it has a 100% mortality rate. The Annex I expedition to Mars aims to gather air, moss, water, and sand to bring back and hopefully develop a cure. In addition to all of that are the super-evolved cockroaches that wiped out the previous crew of the Bugs 2 expedition. Dubbed Terra Formars, these creatures are intelligent and utterly destructive about protecting their home. Hizamaru drearily asks if the Terra Formars are eating the humans, but Michelle hauntingly replies, “Would you eat a cockroach in your home? No, you would stomp it out with such force to show dominance.” It’s a rather gruesome, but inciting reply to provoke the new recruits and show them what they need to be prepared for. But if the OVA series of the Bugs 2 arc is any indication, no matter what the Annex I crew trains for, they won’t be immediately ready for what lies ahead The Terra Formars are unrelenting and brutal insects, unflinching about remaining the apex predators of Mars.
Unlike the OVA series, don’t expect to see any of the really bloody brutality until the home media hits shelves in the coming months. Terra Formars goes the black bar route when it comes to censorship, and it’s damned frustrating that so much of the screen (about 75% of it) is taken up by black to cover the violence.
Don’t misunderstand, I get why censorship needs to be done, but when it’s done for so long during pivotal screen time and you can’t even make out the most minor detail, it’s absolute throw-your-arms-up-in-the-air silliness. I’ve been watching anime for years, but it’s still jarring to see such censorship in shows like this, where the brutality and violence is key to character growth and motivation. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s definitely irritating.
All censorship complaints aside, Terra Formars had a good premiere episode, and it looks as though we’re headed right to Mars in the next one–or at least we’ll meet more of the crew, and get a bit more of the two-year training regimen each member underwent. I’m uncertain if Terra Formars will be running for more than one cour (season or 13 episodes), but I’m already hooked on what Studio Liden has in store for us, and will continue watching every Friday 12:30 EDT via Crunchyroll’s Terra Formars stream. Be sure to stick with Laser Time for the rest of the anime season, as I plan on doing this a lot for the next few months with several other anime series!