Hein (fub) wrote,

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Finished series: Toward the Terra

We've finished watching Toward the Terra. My first episode review is here.

Jomi lives in the future. Like all children, he has to take his 'adulthood exam' on the day he turns 14. But there is something special about Jomi: he has weird dreams and hears voices... It turns out that Jomi is one of the hated 'Mu': people with psychic abilities! Of course, this manifests itself in full force during his adulthood exam, and he 'fails' the exam -- meaning he must be terminated! Using his new-found abilities and with the (psychic) help of someone who calls himself 'Soldier Blue', Jomi manages to escape to the spaceship of the Mu, that hides inside the clouds of the planet.

Humanity, you see, has messed up the Earth's ecosystem, leaving a lifeless husk. The only way to survive was to submit to a system called 'Superior Domination': humans submitted to supercomputers (called 'Mothers') who controlled every aspect of human life -- children are cloned/vat-grown and their memories are erased during their adulthood exams, creating pliable worker drones for the Mother computers. But the Mu, who have psychic powers, are an uncontrollable factor and therefore need to be eliminated. Obviously the Mu have their own thoughts about the matter, and they expend a lot of effort liberating psychic children from the Superior Domination society before their adulthood exams.
They reason that the only way to end this oppression from the Mother computers is to go back to Terra, that blue jewel in the heavens. If only the location of the Earth was not a secret guarded by the Mother computers!

And so the journey of the Mu begins. The Mu are peaceloving people whose psychic sensitivity to others make them peace-loving and soft. Soldier Blue is the person who is designated to do violence in the name of the Mu, because of his psychological make-up. But when Blue fades away, Jomi is tasked with succeeding the Soldier name, and leading the Mu! That Jomi has awesome psychic powers doesn't hurt, either.
Meanwhile, Jomi's friends from old are educated on a space station, together with an emotionless boy called Keith, who is the favourite of the Mother computer of the station. With a few acts of bravery, Keith saves quite a few lives of some students when some parts of the station malfunctions, propelling him even higher in the ranks of students. And as the series progresses, it becomes clear that Keith, who hides his emotions as much as the Mother systems, will become Jomi's antagonist: both have complete armies at their disposal, and while Jomi wants peaceful co-existence, Keith's mission is to sniff out the Mu and obliterate them!

A lot of stuff happens, obviously. There are some focus shifts which are sometimes confusing: from the Mu to the humans and back again, with a period of years in between. But when the basic set-up is done, the story kicks off in earnest.
When the Mu find a planet that the humans tried to terraform but abandoned, they try to build up their own society there. This leads to a schism in the Mu: the youngsters want to stay on the planet and build up their own lives (and raise their children!), but the old-timers, who remember the prosecution they faced under the Superior Domination, want to get back to Earth to end it all. Unfortunately, the choice is made for them when the human fleet discovers their position and Keith orders some planet-busting weaponry to blow up the planet!

The Mu strike back, though, and manage to liberate a few planets (though the humans don't always seem to appreciate their efforts). Through hacking the Mother systems, they manage to piece together the location of the Earth. But the humans are ready for them, and after a few rounds of diplomacy that lead nowhere due to the mutual distrust, it all comes to an explosive end!

It's like Paranoia in space. And that makes the setting incredibly interesting to me -- it all fits. Vat-grown children, the subtle manipulations of the Mother systems, the unconditional hatred towards all beings that don't fit into the Plan... And throughout the series, you come to sympathise with the plight of the Mu and you come to understand why Keith is who he is, which makes the setting even more powerful.

Visually, the series is stunning. The character designs reminded me of the work of Osamu Tezuka, and the mix of CGI and cell-shaded animation is really good. Some parts are very slow with little animation, but the action scenes are animated very dynamically and vivid. The voice acting is good, and the music is good -- especially the opening and closing themes. In short, technically there are no complaints to make.

Good points:
- Really interesting setting, epic story;
- Good characterisation;
- Technically perfect.
Bad points:
- Takes a few episodes to pick up steam;
- Sometimes the long jumps in time and the perspective changes make it hard to keep track of what is happening when.

All in all, an impressive 8.5. If you like sci-fi, then you must check this one out.
Tags: anime, full review

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