Shifting forward quite a few years in spurts, Toward the Terra takes us to the first real pit stop along the way to explore some revolutionary evolutionary ideas: making babies.
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?
Toward the Terra unfortunately is a series that didn’t merit a dub by Bandai Entertainment and it’s a shame since the show has such fascinating characters. The Japanese language mix is presented in its original stereo form encoded at 224kbps which has some good directionality and placement overall. The show is mostly dialogue driven throughout but the action scenes and the music in the opening and closings make out rather well with some depth and impact when required. There isn’t anything that stands out too strongly but it’s a solid mix that serves the material here well.
Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The visual presentation of this series is somewhat tricky as they’ve gone with a fairly particular style that doesn’t exactly give it a clean and pretty look. The series, especially at the start, has a good bit of noise to it that’s creating a grainy effect. That causes a lot of it to look more alive than it should at times, but it’s really only problematic when it comes to the gradients that are visible in some of the backgrounds. These areas produce a bit more blocking and movement than they should. The series is one that has a good color palette in general and the noise that is inherent in it works well enough so that it’s not too terribly distracting. Aliasing is pretty minimal throughout the show and cross coloration is virtually non-existent.
The Part Two edition of Toward the Terra is part of Bandai’s new experiment to see what might work, especially for titles that may be harder to sell. This release contains the same two discs as the single disc editions but the packaging is different. The two keepcases are wrapped in a simple thin cardboard piece which features a shot of Blue reaching out to Jomy with a star shining brightly between their hands. It’s an alright image and one that certainly highlights what kind of character designs are in it, but it feels more cartoonish than it should, especially in comparison to the keepcases themselves. The back of the slipcover has a fair amount of text with the summary of the shows premise and a rundown of the eight episodes with titles and the discs features. Toward the Terra marks something new for Bandai Entertainment as it lists some of the technical specs in a better manner with an actual grid of sorts along the bottom. We now at least know what kind of audio tracks are on it and what kind of aspect ratio and whether it’s anamorphic or not. Hopefully these will continue with other releases and take on important bits that we see from other releasing companies.
The individual keepcases have different artwork from the slipcover which look a good bit better than said slipcover. The third volume has an intriguing pairing of Keith and Physis together with her draped in his arm while Naska is set in the background. The fourth volume plays off of a similar idea as it has Soldier Shin reaching out across broken glass to take hold of Physis as she falls towards him. Neither cover is particularly strong in terms of artwork, especially with the fourth volume looking like a shot from the show itself. The back of the keepcases mirror what was on the slipcover but broken up to their respective volumes. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover to be found.
The menu layouts for the series are fairly straightforward pieces in that they’re set against a static background of stars. The right side has the navigation strip going down with basic access (but no top level episode access) while the left side has a display layout through which short clips from the show are playing back. All the menus load nice and quickly and they’re fairly easy to read even with the shadowing that’s playing around the text. Unfortunately, and strangely, the disc didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to Japanese language with no subtitles on each volume.
Toward the Terra has a couple of really nice original extras to it which are very appreciated. The clean version of the ending sequence is included on the second volume. Also spread across the two discs is a new original video interview with the manga author in which they talk about the manga’s origins, the characters and her views on breaking into the shonen genre at the time that she did. She’s an interesting one to watch since she’s fairly engaging and doesn’t seem to pause quite so often as many other Japanese creative types tend to do.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first third of Toward the Terra was somewhat of a slow starter if only because of Jomy’s arc which felt like it was stretched out too much. Once we began to shift to Keith’s arc and understood the larger society that was at work in this story, Toward the Terra started to come together in a much stronger way. What was readily apparent by the end of that set however was that the two stories are most definitely connected and will cross paths multiple times in the episodes to come.
The end of that double disc set left us very hungry for more of the story. This set takes us through another eight episodes, the middle arc of the series, and really starts to bind things even better. One of the things that I tend to enjoy about a lot of science fiction novels is that they easily move forward in time to tell their story. They don’t keep to just one particular period of time to tell things, but rather move it forward any number of years necessary. Toward the Terra already started to explore the way time moves slower for the Mu and it dealt with Soldier Blue’s lengthy life and how that’s affecting how he plans for things. We don’t get the same large leaps of time here as we did from his own creation to the present, but the series in these eight episodes moves ahead eight years, twelve years and more in order to expand on what it wants to tell.
The split in the storytelling can be problematic however if you really don’t care for a particular character. While Jomy’s story annoyed me initially because it was going slowly, I have to admit that I found it to be very engaging once it got moving. Keith’s story had me from the start so watching these two stories run in parallel hasn’t been a problem for me. With these episodes, we see the story starting to interact with each other again after the Mu have headed off for deep space in order to avoid fighting with humanity. This allows for some good passage of time to occur on each side through which there are a number of changes that happen.
For Jomy and his people, they’ve managed to avoid fighting for quite some time while they search for Terra. But as the journey continues, the people are wearing down from all of it and it’s hard to resist temptation when they come across a remote isolated planet that was abandoned by the government some one hundred or so years prior. The red planet of Silvester Seven is enticing for the younger members who haven’t suffered through the horror of what the elders went through and they’re able to coax everyone into agreeing that they should spend some time there. Everything turns comfortable as time goes on and they provide a stealth cover for the ship in orbit and for the colony below, but that’s simply a recipe for disaster because they’re getting lax in every way.
The trip down to this planet, which is renamed to Naska by the Mu, is interesting to watch at this point in time because it’s so reminiscent of an arc in the updated Battlestar Galactica series. There aren’t all that many parallels within the story itself, but the setup is eerily familiar and sort of fun. The difference here isn’t that there are mysterious Cylons in the mix but rather the idea that the Mu should experiment with how they reach towards the future. The idea has been to seek out Terra in order to connect with the past to find their proper future. But the new thinking by the younger group, oddly encouraged by Soldier Shin, is to try natural creation of life to give them the connection to the future.
There be babies being birthed here!
This is actually a really fascinating development when you add in the entire psionic aspect of the Mu and how they handle everything. The ease through which many have lived their lives in regards to controlling their abilities becomes challenged under duress, and there’s no duress like giving birth. These are eye-opening moments for everyone involved, both for the pain and pleasure of it all, and it starts to splinter and change the entire group even more. The series takes some slow but fascinating twists as it explores this avenue of through while events go on elsewhere. But like all such storylines, you know it has to end at some point and the search for Terra has to continue. It really comes down to wondering what that impetus will be.
What doesn’t get quite as much play in these episodes is the storyline with Keith. With the shift forward in time being about twelve years or so all told, Keith has moved up easily within the ranks to become a Member Elite, one of the renowned National Knights that has seemingly easy access to everything he needs in order to finish his mission. Ever since his time on the training satellite where everything went haywire except for him and he was forced into a terrible situation with another member, he’s become even colder and more calculating than ever before. The disappearance of the Mu for so long has likely unsettled him, so learning that there’s potential to find them again when he hears about ships disappearing around the Silvester System, he’s ready to go. In his cold and professional manner.
Keith’s story takes a strange twist when he arrives there and begins to interact with the Mu. In a way, there’s so much thrown out here at once that it’s hard to really figure out exactly where it’s going to go. Physis has a fascinating role to play as we start to see some of her past with Blue from years ago as well as the way she’s got the Terra system in her head, something that Keith apparently does as well. The ties that bind Keith and Jomy together is what has set all this in motion again as we get brief glimpses at both Sam and Suena. In the end, Keith has always been a cold character but with this segment of episodes he’s become even more so. The events from when Jomy tried to reach out to the satellite years ago have really changed Keith and he’s intent on achieving the complete and utter annihilation of the Mu. And for good reason as well. He simply has given up all his humanity in order to do so.
Toward the Terra has been positively fun to watch. While it has its moments of predictability to it, it also goes out in unusual areas to tell its tale. The culmination of these episodes with that simply beautiful looking Magiddo was one of the highlights of this set but it’s also the smaller personal moments that shined. Watching the younger Mu finding their way to becoming actively involved with each other, to begin creating life in the traditional sense, showed a very different mindset from how they were before. Jomy hasn’t been the best leader for the group since he signed on years ago and was thrust into the position, but he’s proving to be a definite influence on them and guiding them in a way that Blue never would have been able to. As eagerly as I’m looking forward to the next and final set, I also dread it because it’s the end. Thankfully, Bandai and Nozomi appear to be cross promoting each other as this release has a trailer for the movie that Nozomi will be putting out. Now that’s called working together and deserves some praise so fans know there’s more Toward the Terra goodness to come.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with creator Keiko Takemiya Parts 3 and 4, Clean Ending, Toward the Terra Trailer
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.