Please embrace the brilliance of Toward the Terra

I’m writing all this because I’m falling for Toward the Terra.

1949q.jpgA lot of great anime premiered in the 2007 spring season. In fact, there is too much to mention, and for that reason, I suppose many people overlooked Toward the Terra. I struggled through the first four or five episodes and was feeling pretty apathetic about it myself.

The truth is that it begins with a very cliche first five episodes — basically, our hero Jomy, the blonde pretty boy with psychic powers, inadvertently uncovers this gigantic government conspiracy and after barely escaping with his life, joins the rebel forces in escaping the genocidal forces of mankind. It’s fairly standard science fiction stuff, especially in this post-Matrix era, and it seems worse because it’s directed in such a melodramatic fashion.

Everything changes when we meet Keith Anyan, an artificial human groomed by "mother" (the all controlling computer system) to be the perfect soldier. Keith is the primary villain of the show, but when we first meet him, he is but a promising young man training for an "elite" career in the military. There is little or no hint of the demon that as of episode 17, willingly unleashes the "flames of hell" by firing the Megido, a gigantic, planet destroying weapon worthy of Gunbuster.

I’m writing all this because I’m falling for Toward the Terra. It makes exciting use of a fascinating narrative structure that, over the last 17 installments, has made several decade-long time leaps; we’ve seen confused teenagers growing into charismatic leaders as an entire race of people (the Mu — Jomy’s race of psychic humans) immigrate across space and settle on an uninhabited planet, only to be blasted off when the humans hunt them down. There are no fillers or "padding" episodes, every scene is dense with plot, moving the narrative ever onwards. As it turns out, Towards the Terra has a lot to say.

This is a series that doesn’t much care for human nature and our fear of the unknown. Understandably, the Mu just want to live in peace, but typically, us humans aren’t having it. This is underpinned with a healthy mistrust of technology — as pointed out above, modern man is controlled for his own good by "mother"; an evil computer system apparently inflicted with the same fears, discrimination and concerns as ourselves.

Jomy and Keith are two sides of the same coin; Jomy’s an ardent pacifist with his heart set on peace, only using his immense powers to protect, while Keith is the perfect soldier; he follows every order, no matter how morally redundant; he is programmed to hate – he is a monster. On an individual basis, the Mu is so much stronger than the average human, yet they are good-willed people, and therefore, pushovers. However, that’s all about to change as in one of the most interesting developments yet, the latest generation of Mu children born on the destroyed planet of Nasca have inherited that "will of the flame" and like their human enemies, are strong-willed, aggressive and powerful. The message? Hate begets hate. Basically, the bully is about to get pay-back; sucks to be human!

untitled-1.jpgIt’s an interesting twist of ideologies. Jomy will have to try and reign in on the growing aggression within the Mu and teach them that an eye for an eye will do nothing but perpetuate the violence, while Keith, sooner or later, will be forced to question his orders and recognise the value of every life, human or otherwise.

With all this in mind, I have to admit that I’m disappointed by the small number of people watching Toward the Terra. No doubt, many will be turned off by the straight laced, conservative characterisation; there is little to no humour, crude fan-service or eccentricities; it’s very serious. Similarly, the retro-1980s aesthetic is rarely popular these days. All of this, coupled with the generic opening episodes, appear to have resulted in a relatively small audience and honestly, it’s a great shame – the thought provoking and fascinating Toward the Terra deserves better.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

30 thoughts on “Please embrace the brilliance of Toward the Terra”

  1. its funny, i love this anime so much that i decided to stop watching and wait for all the subs to come out so i can marathon the show. a bunch of us were pleading with makoto to sub it. after i gathered over 40 votes we convinced him to sub the show. i cant wait to marathon it man. its just one of those shows were an ep a week, just isnt enough. u seen nana yet?? and hows DH coming?

  2. Well, I was actually hooked from the very start of Towards the Terra but I definitely agree – this is one really underappreciated series. Very interesting plot, great music, no stupid mechas (a pet peeve of mine), peopel actually die unlike in many other “serious” shows, etc.

  3. It’s been getting more and more attention since it’s been licensed. I’m personally one of those who’s been watching it since episode one, loving each scene – from the UVERworld opening, to the art, to the story. It helped that in the beginning it cattered to yaoi-fangirls, but this wasn’t surprising – the mangaka wrote the First Yaoi Manga Ever (Kaze to Ki no Uta).

    What I love best about it? It kills its cast off. I never expected Sam or Seki Leigh Shiroe to be offed so soon.

  4. @kauldron26: I know what you mean about the one-episode per week thing. I actually saved up the last four episodes of TTT and watched them all in one batch this morning. Honestly, I’m loving the series. It’s weird in a way because I wasn’t especially impressed at first, but at some point, it just absolutely hooked me. I actually visited Makoto site for the first time today and was impressed to see it’s just one person doing the whole lot! I hope he/she keeps up this pace, especially since a new episode aired earlier today in Japan! :)

    As for the DH, I’m working my way through it. Up to 400 pages now, last week I was a bit too busy and tired to read much but I’m putting in the hours over this weekend! Poor Dobby!

    @Matrim & Anca: I was going to make a point about the way it kills off characters – Shiroe was definitely the biggest surprise for me. He was such an interesting personality and I really wanted him to be saved by Jomy in the end, but that scene also marked the beginning of Keith’s villainy too; that he just shot down Shiroe like that was just… really surprising and heartless.

    Also Anca, it’s interesting you should mention the first opening, I didn’t like that so much – I prefer “Jet boy”, a really nice and melodic song – I downloaded it today! :) I take your point on the under current of homo-eroticism (another thing I wanted to comment on but didn’t), it’s clearly there but isn’t as obvious as these things can be (Jyu-oh-sei), it’s classic shojo fan-service.

  5. @bateszi

    Good to know you’re one of the people watching Terra E. The last 3 subbed episodes were very good, and I’m so glad now I didn’t drop the series.

  6. @hayase: You and me both, I was close to giving up at one point too, but I stuck with it. Something about really captured my imagination.

    @Hung: Actually, I’ve been following your reviews of the Toward the Terra manga (while carefully navigating through spoilers!). It seems like Volume 2 has taken you up to around episode 17 of the anime. I guess Volume 3 will be the last? I’m thinking of importing those releases, especially since there won’t be a ton of volumes to collect.

  7. At first glance, I wasn’t too interested in Towards the Terra. The art was the reason I didn’t look into it. The 80’s style didn’t really click with me and the plot synopsis on ANN didn’t really intrigue me either. Thanks to your review, I’m starting to change my mind. Ready to embrace the brilliance of Toward the Terra I am! XD I guess I’ll take kauldron on this one, wait for all of the subs and marathon it. I’m also trying to marathon Mushi-shi, but it’s not really turning out to be my cup of tea. O_o

    Ah! And have fun reading DH, even if I was completely disappointed by the ending. I say no more before I spoil something major.

  8. @Xerox: I’m surprised you avoided it due to the art, given Toward the Terra is rife with pretty boys ;) Anyway, marathoning your way through the series would probably work, given every episode is so dense with plot. My only advice would be that if you aren’t digging the first three or four episodes, stick with it – as I’ve said above, things start twisting and turning once we meet Keith Anyan. I’ll be interested to read your take on it anyway, so starting watching it now ;)

    As for Mushishi, it’s an episodic series that probably won’t work as well within a marathon. I would definitely take it easy and try to digest each episode separately, it’s a series with beautiful animation and a lush soundtrack – take time to savor it’s atmosphere. It’s the kind of anime you’ll probably remember years from now, or see it used in an AMV, and realize that actually, it’s great, just different.

  9. @xerox, yea i tried marathonong thru mushishi too… and that is a horrible idea. fact is that the anime had been on my hdd for a whole year and i just couldnt get into the episodic thing. shit i havent even gotten past ep 6 of ghost in the shell SAC 1. but i recently just finished mushishi i think 3 days ago. it was nice i’d give it an 8/10. but i think that my biggest problem with it, is that i love the medium of anime in the first place because of the concept of overarching stories. seeing characters go thru shit and their destination has always intrigued me. but im not going to deny that the animation was amazing and some stories were truly phenomenal. funny thing i think that what really messed up the series for me was that the stories were so phenomenal that leaving them and starting with a new one was like meeting a ridiculously amazing girl for 20 mins, and then when u stop by her house again, its another ridiculously amazing girl and then u wonder what happened to the other one and then u get to know this new one for 20 mins and then shes gone. lol. thats they only way i can explain it.

    nowadays ive completely changed how i watch anime. ive decided to stop keeping up with fansubs, because ive realized that i enjoy anime more when i marathon. so while specific seasons are running and ending i will be watching my back logs and by the time im done with those, the current series will be done and when i start those i would be collecting the new ones. the only show that i cant stop watching is darker than black. just cant stop.

    this is my back log i have every episode of and working my way through. i swear paying 50 bucks for megaupload premium which lasts for a year was a godsend. dl anime ddl from animea.net and da-anime.org is just awesome.

    Bakumatsu, Boys Over Flowers, full moon, ghost in the shell, law of ueki, flag freedom, giant robo (bateszi recommended), gundam wing (xerox recommended), galactic heroes (bateszi), madlax, crest/banner of the stars, lain, skull man, sola, turn A gundam, Utena, witchblade, zegapain, zipang

    Anime that im just dl to collect right now,
    romeo and juliet, terra, denno coil, dgray man, bokurano, claymore, elcazador, gurren lagan, heroic age, lovely complex, shigurui, mr. despair, seriei moribito

    @bateszi dont listen to xerox deathly hallows was phenomenal, and the ending even more so. i’d say that i love it the best but Goblet of fire had me leaving football practise early to finish the book back in the day. and ive read that the most. lol.

    I swear being done with college is awesome. after having 2 majors (bio and psych and a minor in classical studies) it is such a relief to have no more papers, tests, and theses… lol. so i have till oct to enjoy life and lack of responsibility till i find a job or go to grad/med school. now i just need to meet a new girl since my ex has gone to the neck of ur side of the atlantic for grad school.

  10. @bateszi – My expectations are high for Toward the Terra, you being the one recommending it. I’ll definitely watch the entire thing. The last show you recommended was phenomenal, Berserk has it’s own place in my world now. I know what you mean about the pretty boys, the more I look at the Jomy, the cuter he becomes. Started watching it on Veoh.com because its going to take too long to torrent. XD

    As for Mushi-shi, it’s been sitting on desktop for the longest time. There’s something calm, mellow and serene about the show. A lot of it has to do with the music and the art. It makes everything feel slow and lax. The episodic nature of the thing makes it hard for me to keep going, but every once in a while, I watch an episode. I’m up to eight or nine. It’s beautiful to watch, I just don’t have the urgency to finish it. And that, from the looks of it, might be a good thing.

    @kauldron – What do you mean don’t listen to me?? The ending was such a let down! C’mon! For the most anticipated book of the summer, the conclusion to (a painfully long) seven book series, it was devastatingly…bad! I’m not really a Potter fan, but the third book is my favorite. The third book actually felt like it had weight and depth.

    Iroha, or Bakumatsu was pretty good. I’ve seen a bit of Madlax and Utena. GiT wasn’t my thing and I haven’t seen any of the other shows. I might look into Lain and Sola, but I gotta find time to watch them.

    As for the ones you’re collecting…watch Gurren Lagann first! It’s imperative that, if you decide to marathon Gurren Lagann, you must make it through the first fifteen before stopping. D.Gray-Man, the anime, can’t compare to the manga. I started out watching the anime, but the manga blew me away. Claymore is alright, I don’t follow the manga but the stories are identical. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is brilliant, it’s so weird and twisted. You’re going to love it if the show suits you.

    Well, you might be done with college, but I’m staring down the barrel of the new SATs. Life is looking pretty bleak, you have no idea how lucky you are. T_T

  11. It should be noted that this is based on a 70s manga, so it predates a lot of shows people seem to think it’s inspired by. Acctually, most of them are inspired by this story.

  12. I’ve just recently finished reading the last volume of the manga and the ending left me quite impressed. It was a very ironic (and somewhat predictable) end to the story, yet the very last panel gave me such an uplifting feeling as I realized what it symbolized. Heck, if you think about it, the entire story represents this theme.

    One thing about the anime version that I really like is how much certain parts of plot divert from the manga yet in the end they still head for the same direction and give you the same results. Although the anime ending will probably be different, I still worry about how it’ll wrap everything up in the next six episodes. The last volume is very action and plot dense and seeing how episode 18 has only covered up till the very beginning of volume 3, I worry if Toward The Terra will have a proper conclusion without being too rushed. I sincerely hope there won’t be any rushing since that would be such a disappointing end to such an awesome show.

  13. I accidentally started with ep 18, so I basically started off with a whole bunch of spoilers and confusion, but now I can see that Toward the Terra is an amazing anime – I haven’t enjoyed anything like this since Fantastic Children.
    But it’s so hard to watch it! Guh…fansubs dropping it…mkv format…ughhh.

  14. @Kikoyo: If the direction of the first 19 episodes is anything to go by, I don’t think we have much to worry about. Incidently, I would be interested to know (without spoilers) what has changed from the manga to anime?

    Also, thinking about it, one of the main themes seems to revolve around the importance of parents, the importance of having a home. All of the characters – even the Mu as a race, yearn to return to Terra, the home of the human race.

    @Rosegirl18: Nice to see another Fantastic Children fan! :) It’s such an underrated series and I can certainly see the comparisons between FC and Towards the Terra, both are obviously dense science fiction stories with a heavy emphasis on narrative progression.

  15. Well, here’s some changes I could think of right off the bat:

    As you might already know, Blue dies much earlier in the manga and Swena plays practically no role in the plot (heck, I don’t remember whether she was even in it).

    After graduating, Keith never sets foot into the Education Station again. His true origins were revealed to him when he was still a student during the Shiroe arc.

    Due to the truma of lossing so many people, Jomy lost all his senses (ie. touch, smell, sight, etc.) after the genocide on Nazca.

    The children from Tony’s generation showed much more respect for Jomy. At one point, a Mu commented on how they loved him more than their own fathers.

    More emphasis were placed on class division. Other than separating the humans based on age groups, they were also grouped together based on personal attributes. So no matter how much you want to be a dentist, if the computer thinks you’re better off as a foot massager, then it’s “welcome to the foot massager’s club” for you. Though of course, the anime might mention this in later episodes.

    Less attention was paid to the parents. We were never introduced to Shiroe’s parents in the manga and Jomy seems to have a more distance relationship with his family (they never seem to genuinely care about him as they do in the anime). Jomy’s parents were also tranferred to another planet right after his maturity check. Nevertheless, Jomy still cares deeply for them.

    As for main themes, my interpretation is that hope also plays a big part in the story. The way I see it, the manga delievers a message that despite the many downfalls in life, we can always press forward as long as there’s hope (I know the way I’m wording this is cheesy -_-;). It is the Mu’s desire of a happier future on Terra which inspires hope and keeps them moving on even after the massacre on Ataraxia, Blue’s death and the genocide on Nazca.

  16. Cheers for that illuminating comment, Kikoyo. I’m glad Swena plays a bigger part in the anime, I quite like her strong, determind personality, she is very much a 21st century woman. Also, the biggest change seems to be that Jomy doesn’t lose his senses – that sounds so weird but I would be interested to see how the story plays out for his character in that state – maybe the anime will introduce this aspect a little later down the line.

  17. Toward the Terra OST was released on MP3 recently. I really love it, one of my favourite scores for a while; emotional strings and choir arrangements. Definitely check it out if you get the chance.

  18. A friend of mine recommended it to me(i ahdn’t heard about it) ,and I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT, as you said above, the first episodes are kindda bahh, but then *all starts* and the plotline gets to you and doesn’t let you go until you finish the whole series.
    It’s true the style reminded me a lot to the 80s, but modernized, and i have to say that i really liekd it^^, and the charas wow.
    I have to say shiroe is my fav(;_;) and keith KEITH, the perfect soldier, but not yet a machine, you can see he is really troubled inside by all his choices.

  19. etr32lik:

    Emule link:

    OST 1
    ed2k://|file|%E5%A5%94%E5%90%91%E5%9C%B0%E7%90%83%E5%8E%9F%E5%A3%B0%E9%9B%86.-.[Toward.The.Terra][TV.OST].%E4%B8%93%E8%BE%91.(MP3).zip|140798181|37482223A356E7DE14766674DDDF8A82|/

    OST2
    ed2k://|file|%E5%A5%94%E5%90%91%E5%9C%B0%E7%90%83%E5%8E%9F%E5%A3%B0%E9%9B%86.-.[Toward.The.Terra][TV.OST2][%E9%AB%98%E6%A2%A8%E5%BA%B7%E6%B2%BB].%E4%B8%93%E8%BE%91.(MP3).zip|160531788|84DDC4F2A5FF2FA95A81EB274974F6A6|/

  20. I never thought that I would love watching Towards The Terra after seeing the sneak preview of it…but it suddenly turns out pretty awesome to me..
    The show is so much different than I expected. They are so many surprises that I never thought they would actually do..
    I never did read the manga but I know that there are a lot of changes in it.
    To me, this anime is so dramatic, emotional, action and touching story..the most touching and unexpected part for me is when almost every single character died..
    including the main character and all my fav character…I never watch any anime which every main character died..
    Another thing, I think I prefer Jomi died rather than loses all his senses..
    Usually, when a main character died you never seem to be satisfied with it. Well, I was..I never did want anyone to die..If it had to, than one or two would do..
    Overall, It was nice…

  21. Fangirl, Jomy actually lost his sight, hearing and ability to speak, nothing else. And it actually happened because, contrary to the events of the anime TV series and movie, he was held back from going to help the Mu on Nazca by the elders, yet he could still feel and see their deaths, and the shock of witnessing that horror is what caused the loss of those senses. Really, the only major change is that Jomy communicates only through telepathy from that point on. Once or twice he is seen stumbling, as well. And this has nothing to do with his death, actually. Jomy dies, in all versions, at the very end, but losing his senses happened as they were leaving Nazca.

    Kikoyo, the children loving Jomy more than their own fathers is explained by something Karina told Tony, in part: because Jomy gave his blessing to all of the couples on Nazca who had children, in other words that he’s the “father” of all the couples, that’s why Tony calls him “grandpa”. The other children also know that they wouldn’t have been born if it wasn’t for Jomy. One another slight difference in the manga: there are 9 children born on Nazca, not 7. One child is mentioned who is not born on Nazca, and Tony immediately exclaims that the child is not like him and the others born on Nazca.

  22. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love terra e. I’ve never even heard of this series before until recently because it was overshadowed by the anime that also came out that year, namely Code Geass and Gundam 00, which are both shonen meca with bishounens in it LOL. But I’m SO FRIGGIN GLAD I watched Terra e, and I’m currently still embracing the brilliance of it. I love the characters, the plot, the art, everything!
    Though, I wanted Shiroe to stay alive. I love his character, and I thought Jomy would save him. Oh but where is Jomy when we need him? Not far, only several hundreds of light years away.
    As someone else had said up there, I was really surprised by Keith’s development, I thought he would question the mother system and destroy it or something blahblahblah. I never expected him to shot Shiroe (I kept praying that Shiroe survived), and killed (indirectly) SO MANY PEOPLE, and they are all my favorite character to top it with. D:
    Blah, I’m talking too much. Spread the love of Terra~!

  23. Despite being an anime fan for quite some time, I never really got to know Toward the Terra, that is, until 3 days ago. Within just a short period of 48 hours, this anime series has skyrocketted to being my most favourite anime out of 100+ series I’ve watched! It has redefined the definition of anime “masterpiece”, and I too am saddened that this anime has received so little attention when it fully deserves a place in one of the top animes in history.

    Jomy is incredible. I haven’t fallen in love with an anime character for such a long time. The change in him is absolutely fabulous to watch, from a typical teenaged whiny boy into the most charismatic anime character I’ve ever seen. Jomy was stunning, the ending was incredible.

    Needless to say, I loved Jomy. I loved Terra e. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving it. This anime needs a LOT more love. I am speechless at what a masterpiece this anime is!

  24. I’ve just finished Toward The Terra and I love it !!! Especially the way they don’t hesitate to kill off the characters …………….. I was really surprised by Shiroe’s death. I hadn’t expected him to die, I had expected Jomy to save him .
    It’s definitely one of the best and most underrated anime I’ve ever seen.

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