Toward the Terra Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Danielle Van Gorder
Review Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Jomy and the Mu work to create a new safe haven for themselves, but the humans are not about to let them live in peace.

What They Say:

Eight years have passed since Jomy tried to make contact with the enemy. As the weary crew continues their search for Terra, Jomy has a moment with the younger Mu. During their conversation Jomy comes to the realization, the Mu race may be renewed through the most unlikely course, natural childbirth. The revelation comes at a time when the Shangri La finds itself near an abandoned colony. With the future of the Mu in his heart, Jomy decides to colonize the little red planet, dubbing it Naska.

As the next generation of Mu take up the task of turning this desolate colony into an oasis, the older Mu protest. Can the face of the newly born Mu children convince them to stay on Naska or will they once again find themselves fleeing  towards the Terra?

The Review:

Audio:

This show was released with just the original Japanese language track, no English dub.  It's a disappointing decision, as this seems like a show that could have widespread appeal with the right push.  The audio mix is in stereo, and there's some really nice directionality in some of the action scenes, although that's not really the focus of the show.  The dialogue and music sound clear and have some nice depth to them.

Video:

While this is a fairly recent show, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with anamorphic playback, the design overall has a decidedly vintage flair, and it was animated in a way that really plays that up.  There's a good deal of noise and grain added in that would be more commonly associated with older cel animation, and while it isn't necessarily a drawback, it makes what should be large, flat areas of color look extremely busy at some points.  I noticed a little bit of macroblocking, although it wasn't widespread.  While the video isn't perfect, it really isn't too bad overall.

Packaging:

This is about as bare bones as a release gets, but it does what it needs to.  The cover has a dramatic shot of Physis and Keith, along with the series title in both English and Japanese.  The visual balance on it is just fantastic, and the whole feel is very ominous.  The back has the series blurb along with lists of the episodes, DVD features, and extras.  And that's really it - no insert, no reversible cover, just the basics.

Menu:

The menus here are simple and easy to navigate, but quite appealing as well.  The standard navigation options are laid out on the right, with a futuristic orb that features rotating shots of some of the major characters on the left.  The background music is a beautiful instrumental piece that I wish ran longer.  Response times are nice and fast.

Extras:

Extras include a textless opening, part 3 of an interview with Keiko Takemiya, the creator, and trailers for other Bandai titles.  The interview offers some nice insight, and should make the fans who want more Japanese extras included very happy.

Content:

Having discovered Keith's big secret, Shiroe is subjected once again to the mental trauma of the Adult Examination, as Mother Eliza is concerned that he might have latent Mu abilities that hadn't been discovered before.  Shiroe manages to escape, and is discovered by Keith, who hides and takes care of him for reasons he himself doesn't fully understand.  But his equilibrium and understanding of himself has been shaken, and for once Mother Eliza offers no comfort, only more difficult orders.

Eight years later, and the Mu are a tired, chased, almost defeated race.  Jomy's attempt to reach out to the humans was unsuccessful, their efforts to find Terra have all failed, and constantly being on the run has stretched them all to their limits.  The children among them are all grown up now, and with no new little ones around the time has come for them to consider the future of their race.  At Physis' recommendation, they end up settling down on a planet they come to call Naska.  It had been settled by the humans at one point, but was now abandoned.  While it was slightly arid with thin air, and nothing at all like Terra, it nonetheless quickly became home for them - at least, for the younger generation.  The older Mu, however, were eager to move on and find Terra, seeing Naska as a distraction.  The conflict between the two groups only grows as more time passes, while Jomy struggles to find a middle road where everybody can be happy.  And while the Mu live their lives out on Naska, other Mu are awakening to their powers among the humans and struggling to hide them and survive on their own, with no hope of rescue. 

Their time on Naska seems short-lived, however, as the humans continue to send exploratory ships into Naska space.  One of these is piloted by a familiar face, but rather than the joyful reunion that Jomy was hoping for, it led only to more tragedy.  Eventually, the string of accidents in that area comes to the attention of the computers controlling Earth, and they send the super-elite Keith Anyan to investigate further.

In Summary:

These four episodes flew past, and left me wanting more.  This series is a strange blend of naieve optimism and brutal reality, with Jomy seeming to retain his youthful innocence and not mature at all over the eleven or so years these episodes cover.  At the same time, no punches are pulled in the least, with several events played out for maximum emotional impact.  Watching this, it's easy to hope for a happy ending for everybody, but the reality isn't nearly so kind.

This is an excellent show, science fiction space opera at its finest.  If I wanted to get hypercritical about the writing I'm sure I could find a laundry list of things to complain about, but honestly - I'm too busy enjoying the story.  At the halfway mark, I'm impressed at the epic scope and the heartrending brutality of this show, and really can't wait to see where they go from here.

Features:

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Ending, Interview with creator Keiko Takemiya Part 3

Review Equipment:
Panasonic DVD-S25S Progressive-Scan DVD Player and Panasonic TC-26LX85 26" Viera LCD 720p HDTV (Component Connection)



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 19.98
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (Mixed/Unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Toward the Terra