To Terra... Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Vertical, Inc.
  • MSRP: 13.95
  • Pages: 344
  • ISBN: 1932234675
  • Size: 8.2" x 6.2"
  • Orientation: Right to Left

To Terra... Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     February 19, 2007
Release Date: February 20, 2007

To Terra... Vol.#01
© Vertical, Inc.

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Keiko Takemiya
Translated by:Dawn Laabs
Adapted by:

What They Say
The future. Having driven Terra to the brink of environmental collapse, humanity decides to reform itself by ushering in the age of Superior Domination (S.D.), a system of social control in which children are no longer the offspring of parents but progeny of a universal computer. The new social order, however, results in an unexpected byproduct: the Mu, a mutant race with extrasensory powers who are forced in exile by The System.

The saga begins on educational planet Ataraxia, where Jomy Marcus Shin, a brash and unpredictable teenager, is nervously preparing to enter adult society. When his Maturity Check goes wrong, the Mu intervene in the great hope that Jomy, who possesses Mu telepathy and human physical strength, can lead them back home, to Terra...

The Review
To Terra... is a damn good book that shouldn't be missed; another important classic release from arguably the most important manga publisher in today's growingly homogeneous manga market.

Vertical goes unflipped!! Outside of a few pages early on which suffer from light printing, the print reproduction for the rest of the volume is gorgeous; especially once you remember that this material is almost 30 years old! The paper is of good weight and has the off-white hue that makes reading a very nice experience for the eyes. The color pages are printed grayscale which results in some moiré. The alignment and binding is damn near perfect as well. And let's not forget we are getting 350 pages of content here for a mere $14.

I'd also like to suggest that it be a mandate that Chip Kidd do every single cover for every single manga book that Vertical puts out in the future. Man, this one is just breathtaking and very appropriate for the content.

It's space opera with 70s shoujo eyes and bellbottoms!! Yes, the artwork is pushing 30 years of age, but it's definitely not something that should be shrugged off by any means. The pages are wonderfully rendered with creative layouts and great detail in the backgrounds. From the spaceships to the supercomputers and other machines, the detail is there to bring Takemiya's world to life. I personally also get a kick out of the 70s psychedelic feel that some of the panels convey.

The English script just might be the best adaptation work I have ever read. It's a very smooth read and perfectly matches the tone and personalities of the work and its characters. Unfortunately, SFX were not translated. For some, this may be ideal, but it's my belief that a translation should always include SFX. I also noticed a couple panels where small text was not translated. However, as a package I think the great script outweighs the SFX issues.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Vertical could simply be described as the house that Tezuka built, with Buddha and Ode to Kirihito proving that the Japanese novel publisher could handle manga. But up until now, their releases have been flipped in a move to appeal to the mass market of graphic novel readers. To Terra... marks Vertical's first un-flipped manga release, and why not kick things off Keiko Takemiya--a member of the "Magnificent Twenty-Four-Year Group" and Fabulous 49ers.

Originally serialized in Gekkan Manga Shounen from 1977-1980, To Terra... is space opera set in a dark, ironic utopia that features indoctrination and genetic engineering. Humankind have fled their home world "Terra" after centuries of abuse and misuse, taking to the stars and mastering space travel to gather resources to try and save their planet. However, it was determined that the true plague was humankind itself, and so the age of Superior Domination (S.D.) was born; a social order that would control all stages of a humans life to ensure that once again Terra could sustain human life.

Children are conceived in test tubes, using careful genetic selection, and then placed in the arms of hand selected foster parents to give the child a healthy upbringing. In fact, there are "educational planets" whose sole purpose is to raise these ideal candidates for placement on planet Terra. Once a child reaches the age of 14, they are given a "maturity check", an exam conducted by a supercomputer with ESP abilities. Those who pass will have their adolescent memories replaced and now take a 2-year space journey to Terra where they will be groomed and indoctrinated; a process that will filter out the elite.

But the maturity check awakened special perception abilities that were lying dormant in humanity; a new stage of evolution that would put fear into the SD government and its citizens. These evolved humans were called "Mu" and were forced to go into hiding to avoid oppression. Over the hundreds of years, they now have their own ship, a floating city, with dreams of returning to their motherland--Terra!

The Mu versus Humankind, it's a battle that will stretch the vastness of space and tear apart the bonds and lives of the innocent. The story in this first volume introduces Jomy, the new Mu leader who was rescued from his maturity check, and Keith, an elite member in training aboard the indoctrination ship that is making its way to Terra. Two young boys on opposite sides of each other, but who share quite a few similarities.

The one thing that kept entering my mind while reading this first volume is that To Terra... is less space opera and more Brave New World. It's a total dystopian future that was given birth due to the ruling government's quest to achieve the perfect utopia. The political and sociological themes are thick, the type of material that reminds me of all the great, classic sci-fi that was born out of the postwar protests and fear of big brother. Extremism breeds a false sense of progression, a world of automatons who are bereft of emotions and individualism for the "greater good".

But Takemiya's story is not all just plot and solely a springboard for late-night blogging discussions. She makes sure to add deep characterization, especially with her two leads in Jomy and Keith. In fact, this first volume could be considered background info just for those two characters who will no doubt clash in future volumes. Or perhaps their similarities will lead to a peaceful resolution between Mu and Humankind as they all head home to Terra. The story unfolds like a great space adventure, something that will be sure to please almost every graphic novel reader.

At first glance, Vertical's To Terra... can be seen as quite the gamble for the boutique, classic manga publisher. It's an unflipped release of a 30-year old manga that features 30-year old shoujo artwork and strong dystopian themes. You don't really see this type of material flying off the shelves these days, as unfortunate as that may be.

But after reading this first volume, To Terra... to me is exactly the type of manga that I think could be a shot in the arm to the industry. The mass market readability is there. Shoujo fans will love the artwork and deep characterizations, while shounen readers will find an engaging space opera, sci-fi adventure. The Big Brother, Brave New World dystopia and political themes should please the older crowd as well.

In short, To Terra... is a damn good book that shouldn't be missed; another important classic release from arguably the most important manga publisher in today's growingly homogeneous manga market.


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