Milly Schaefer October 7, 2007
I’ve seen plenty of anime series that play around at the outset and don’t get serious about the plot until partway through, just in time to build for a glorious conclusion. Since Terra e (Toward the Terra) was fairly serious with its plot and character development from the start, I figured it couldn’t get much better. I was so wonderfully wrong.
To refresh your memory (and in case you didn’t read my first review), Terra e is the futuristic story of a boy named Jomy who discovers he has psychic powers in a world where such things are not tolerated. The Mu, others like him who possess psychic abilities, kidnap/rescue Jomy from the totalitarian government’s clutches, and Jomy must adjust to a life completely different from the one he’s been living. The Mu people’s deepest desire is to find Terra, the long-ago abandoned homeworld of humans, where they hope they might make a place for themselves. And so they search the galaxy, hoping and praying for the day when they can return home.
This is a fair summary for the first few episodes. But what’s amazing about Terra e is that it can expand this simple plot on all sides, bringing in characters as diverse as Keith Anyan, a boy raised by the computer system that dictates humanity’s comings and goings and the antagonist of the series, as well as Jomy’s childhood friends Sam and Swena and a host of Mu both young and old. Time skips mean that we get to see Jomy and Keith go from being children to adults, from selfish brats to charismatic leaders. Characters take on new importance in each stage of the series as the web of connections between them all shrinks into a tight knot, and no parties are able to move without affecting the others.
At its broadest, Terra e is a chronicle of the Mu as a people: Their “birth” and escape from the grasp of the humans that would destroy them, their long years of wandering through space, their brief respite on the planet of Nazca, and their on-going search for Terra. If you’re familiar with the biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt and 40 years in the desert, longing for the Promised Land, yeah, it’s kind of like that.
But despite this epic tone, Terra e never loses sight of its main characters, and one of the biggest treats of this series is the amazing character development. Jomy and Keith are obviously the leads, but they would be nothing without Sam and Swena, Soldier Blue and Physis, Shiroe and Matsuka, Tony and the rest. There are so many important characters in this series, all with a distinct place and personality and wonderful complexity. Since their introductions come at different times, it’s not hard to keep track, though.
One more thing should be said about the characters, and that’s that Terra e is not afraid of character death. This doesn’t mean there’s lots of pointless doom and gloom, but the stakes are high for the Mu in a universe where everybody wants them dead, and just as high for those who go up against their psychic powers. Characters can and will die, making the drama all the more intense and creating some very poignant and memorable scenes.
On the aesthetic side of things, Terra e is based on a manga from the 70s, but updated its look nicely for the anime. Physis’ hair will always be too poufy for my taste, but all the guys look good, so I’m not complaining. (Heck, even when Keith starts getting wrinkles he looks good.) There are some places where the character designs show their retro origin (certain outfits especially), but on the whole they look great. The animation for the show starts out all right but I had the feeling that the budget increased, because it seemed like it got much better in the second half of the series.
The background music ranges from fantastic battle themes to hauntingly wordless vocals, with only a few generic pieces in between. The two opening and ending songs are all worth a listen, though I prefer the second set of Hitomi Takahashi’s “Jet Boy Jet Girl” and Chemistry’s “This Night” over the first set of Uverworld’s “Endscape” and Miliyah Kato’s “Love is…” partly because the animation for the second opening is gorgeous and the second ending’s sequence is a definite improvement over the first.
If you like character-focused science-fiction or human drama at all, you owe it to yourself to watch Terra e. For me, this was unquestionably the best show of the spring season, earning a coveted place on my Top 15 list of anime. I can hardly wait until Bandai Entertainment’s U.S. release so that I can add it to my collection and watch it over and over again.
Category: Series Reviews
Senna is a college student majoring in English and minoring in Japanese. Her favorite anime and manga include Escaflowne, Please Save My Earth, Scrapped Princess, Nana, and Boogiepop Phantom.