Title: Terra Formars
Author: Yu Sasuga (story), Ken-ichi Tachibana (art)
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 1, $12.99
Vintage: 2011 by Shueisha, July 2014 by Viz Media
Genre: Science fiction, horror
Originally I sat down to read and review volume one of Food Wars this week, but I couldn’t even get through the first chapter. Within five pages I was thoroughly disgusted, and it got worse from there. Unfortunately a story about giant mutated cockroaches isn’t really entertaining to me, but at least there isn’t a fifteen-year-old girl being molested by tentacles. In Terra Formars, Earth has started the slow process of colonizing Mars, beginning with a terraforming project. They covered parts of Mars with a resilient moss, then sent cockroaches to the planet. As the cockroaches multiplied and died, they would cover the surface of Mars. The moss would feed from their remains, and continue to spread. Eventually this coating of Mars’s surface would make it absorb more sunlight, increase the temperature, and kick start a greenhouse effect. Now, five hundred years after sending the moss and cockroaches to Mars, Earth is ready to move forward, which means traveling to Mars and killing any remaining cockroaches. Unfortunately, after centuries of being bombarded by cosmic radiation and being forced to adapt to Mars’s harsh conditions, the cockroaches have evolved into gigantic humanoid monsters. The astronauts first sent to Mars lost contact with Earth. But not before sending some information back to U-NASA (United Nations NASA). With that information, a new crew was gathered and each member was given a special procedure to inject them with the DNA of insects. They are not astronauts or even soldiers, but regular people, most of them barely out of their teens, who either had nothing to lose, or desperately needed the money. They are sent to find out what happened to the astronauts, with little information given about what is actually waiting for them. Like lambs to the slaughter, the rag-tag crew is monstrously brutalized by the giant cockroaches, many with little chance to even fight back. Those who do have a chance to fight back can only fight by injecting themselves with a serum that activates their insect abilities. Each crew member was given the DNA of a different insect – pheropsophus jessoensis (bombardier beetle), whose user is essentially a human flamethrower; paraponera clavata (bullet ant), one of the few who can go toe-to-toe with the mutated cockroaches; and even the Asian giant hornet. However, even with all their abilities, they’re barely able to stand up to the horde of powerful mutated cockroaches, especially as they continue to evolve right in front of them. The crew is slaughtered. Even worse, there are traitors among them working for the scientist behind their DNA procedure, whose goals are opposite of the U-NASA leader. U-NASA wants the cockroaches destroyed, but Dr. Honda wants to use their mutations to give Japan a military deterrent. The survivors eventually find a way to return to Earth, but they may have brought something back with them.
After my unfortunate and very short lived experience with Food Wars, I was relieved to find a lack of serious fan service in Terra Formars. Until I read the mini-bios for the characters. Every single female character, after their brief personality description, has their cup size listed. Why. Why is that necessary. Here’s a hint: It’s NOT. And if you think it is, then tell me why the dick sizes of the male characters aren’t listed? I mean, let’s be fair here. If we’re going to give out pointless anatomy descriptors that have nothing at all to do with the story, then let’s be gender neutral. (And yes, I know it’s common for the cup sizes of female characters to be listed in manga. Doesn’t make it less annoying or ridiculous.) With that out of the way…. The giant cockroaches are creepy as all get out. Black, blank eyes; giant bodies; wide mouths. They’re absolutely nightmarish, and they only get worse when they evolve later in the book. If you have a weak stomach, just stay away from this one altogether. Limbs are brutally removed, body parts dangle, bones are broken, and oh yeah, there’s gigantic cockroaches. There is some neat evolutionary science in here, if you’re into that, and not just in regards to the mutated cockroaches. The volume sort of celebrates insect life in general, from the unassuming ant to the plague locust. Mankind is almost the villain here, squashing those poor cockroaches, who eventually evolve to hate human beings with a vengeance. That part is pretty cool, and there’s some snippets of life on Earth where various people (including the cast) kill cockroaches without mercy. For the cockroaches, killing the humans just as mercilessly is a sort of justice, though it’s unclear how evolved they are mentally. For a mere five hundred years, they’ve evolved a good deal, but they appear to be at a caveman sort of level, and are even drawn as such with very rudimentary language skills and large club-like weapons. Not that they need them, since they’re plenty powerful without physical weapons (though they even learn how to use guns), and they keep evolving. The art has a lot of detail. Of note is how the spaceships used to travel to Mars look like enormous insects. The insectified crew members are also pretty incredible looking, with a good bit of detail going into their designs. This one is (really) not for me, but it may be for you if any of the above sounds interesting. It’s incredibly strange, but it’s easy enough to follow.