In a future where mankind has let Earth lay fallow to recover, a war between evolutionary tracks is taking place in space.
What They Say
In the future, mankind's seemingly utopian society is strictly controlled by the government, and anything that threatens to disrupt the status quo is ruthlessly suppressed. When 14-year-old Jomy begins to question the way the society is run, he suddenly becomes a target for both the government and the Mu, an outcast race with extra-sensory abilities who have been fighting against the government for generations. Now, each is determined to hunt him down - one to kill him and the other to save him.
Not surprisingly, Toward the Terra wasn’t a movie that was dubbed when Right Stuf originally grabbed it years ago and it wasn’t something that could be dubbed in the market as it stands now on its release. The feature retains its original Japanese stereo mix, encoded at 192kbps, and it’s pretty serviceable considering the age of the feature and the basic design that it has. The forward soundstage doesn’t really have much of anything in the way of serious directionality to it but it is a good clean and clear mix with only a little scratching here and there at the higher end. Dialogue placement isn’t much of an issue, especially when half the cast speaks telepathically, but how it comes across here works well enough and is problem free. This isn’t a mix that would wow anyone but it’s the kind of work that gets the job done.
Originally in theaters way back in 1980, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic displays. With its age, and without a serious frame by frame remaster behind it, Toward the Terra isn’t going to look pristine in general. Thankfully, outside of certain key moments here and there, the main issue with the transfer is all in the source with the bits of dirt and dust. The opening of the film is one of the worst moments with its blacks coming across rather blocky and noisy, which is made worse by the film grain itself. Once it gets past there, there are only a few very minor moments where such problems are noticeable again. The bitrate seems to keep to an average of seven and maintains a good film like feel throughout. The age of the materials is the only thing really working against it on a regular basis, but they’re issues that tend to fall off the more you adjust to it during viewing.
Though this isn’t a film that will look current no matter what, I really like the cover artwork that was used and the way it does come across as being a bit flashier than I would have expected. The central artwork of Jomy, albeit with very different colors to his design, really has a striking feel to it with its angled nature and the vibrancy it has. With the bright blonde hair set against the inky blackness of space, contrasted by the blue Earth as well, it stands out in a way that really is quite appealing. The simple framing around it and the simplicity of the logo brings it all together in a very lovely way. The back cover is done in a similar style, though with different pieces as Keith is given the main nod with his bright red uniform as the focal point. A few shots from the show are lined along the top and the background is kept dark and murky to let everything else stand out. The summary runs through the basics of the plot nicely while the bottom is rounded out with the always strong production and technical grid that I’ve come to expect from Nozomi. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Toward the Terra is quite simple but it uses some decent pieces of artwork as it features three of the characters, headshots mostly, looking outward while set against a star filled backdrop. There likely isn’t a lot of really strong artwork out there to use, but I admit to wanting to see the front cover artwork used here in a more striking way. The navigation strip is along the top and is rather simple since there’s nothing here besides the show, the trailer, scene setup and trailers for other series. Navigation is a breeze and player presets for language options are a non-issue.
The only extra included is the US trailer created to promote the feature, which is a relatively recently made trailer at that.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally licensed by Right Stuf back in the early nineties, it was released both on VHS and Laserdisc subtitle only. The feature gained a small but faithful fanbase but never the kind that got the company to haul it out on DVD over the ten years that the format has been out. With Bandai Entertainment now releasing the new 2007 TV series in the US, subtitle only as well, it certainly made sense for Nozomi to dust this bad boy off and give it a new lease on life. And it’s one that is certainly deserved as classic science fiction shoujo is hard to find to begin with, never mind a decent quality theatrical film. Theatrical shoujo science fiction! On the big screen! Inconceivable!
Based on the manga by Keiko Takemiya, Toward the Terra takes place some several hundred years after Earth has been left by mankind to recover from the damage done to it over the millennia. In order to ensure that mankind is a proper steward of the planet again when they can return home, there have been a number of changes to how humanity operates and conducts itself. One of the biggest is that as a race, it no longer breeds through actual interaction but rather deals with test tube babies and artificial wombs. The children that are born that way are then assigned to parents with whom they live for fourteen years.
When they turn fourteen, they’re given an Adult Evaluation where it’s determined where they belong in the world. What a good deal of this test is about is to determine whether they can fit into society proper and if there are any issues that need to be stamped out. When they pass the exam, the participants lose all of their memories of their parents and childhood so they can function without issue in adult society. The not so secret part of the testing is to determine if the person is a Mu. Over the centuries, an offshoot of humanity has developed that deals in psychic powers such as telepathy and psychokinesis. These people are considered the ultimate evil in society and they must be exterminated.
Toward the Terra revolves around a number of characters, but the principle agent of change is Jomy Marcus Shin. Jomy has just been determined to be a Mu during his Adult Examination and now finds himself on the run and picked up by the Mu themselves. He rebels against the idea of being a Mu but comes to learn that they’re not what they’re made out to be. What he does discover is that he’s a very different Mu than everyone else. Most of them seem to compensate for the greater mental powers by being weaker physically, even though they live longer. Jomy on the other hand is quite physically fit and incredibly strong on the psychic side as he discovers over time. This puts him on something of a peculiar fast track for becoming the leader of the Mu in their efforts to bring their “race” to Earth in order to end the persecution they face.
Though Jomy is the central figure of the series, other characters shape and focus events as well. On the side of humanity, guided by the central computers that are helping mankind to stay on the straight and narrow, is a young man named Keith Anyan who has been rising up the ranks since his Adult Examination. Incredibly gifted with intelligence, capable and seemingly impervious to psychic attacks, he becomes the opposite of Jomy in a way, but one driven to find out what’s really going on with the system that he’s a product of while staying within the constraints of it. Keith is a conflicted character, one at odds with himself quite a lot, but one that is intent on knowing the truth and that’s something that drives him hard.
With a good supporting cast that is used as best as it can be considering the compression that this goes through to adapt a three volume manga series, Toward the Terra portrays an interesting story that does jump all over the place at times. With the shifts forward in time, sometimes by a few months and sometimes by years, it can be difficult to really trace the progress of events because of how quickly it changes. When one of the young children is suddenly commanding the Mu fleet, it feels very off. This is even more striking when you compare to the more laid back and detailed TVseries from 2007 which fleshes much of this out in a very fascinating and engaging way.
Watching this feature was admittedly somewhat awkward as I haven’t seen the end of the TV series yet and wondered how much was spoiled. It certainly makes sense for Nozomi to get this out when they did since before or after the TV series would likely cause it to fade a bit from view. This is a great classic feature, something that’s nearly thirty years old at this point, but still has some real freshness to it. With a nearly two hour running time, it keeps you engaged throughout and really makes you want to see more. If I had seen this first, it would have really piqued my curiosity for the original manga and for a more detailed TV series. Thankfully, we’ve at least got the TV series. This feature stands well on its own though and it’s the kind of great old school anime that’s so rarely brought out anymore. Wonderful designs, fun if erratic pacing at times and a sense of self confidence in how it tells its story that almost feels out of place in today’s anime. This is an easy recommendation both for fans of the TV series and for those that haven’t dabbled at all. Experiment in something different, take a risk and see what else is out there. This is the way to do it. Nozomi has done a bang-up job for the most part here and fans who have clamored for this for years should be ecstatic.
Japanese 1.0 Dual Mono Language, English Subtitles
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.