Toward the Terra Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B=
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: A=
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Toward the Terra

Toward the Terra Vol. #1

By Danielle Van Gorder     August 13, 2008
Release Date: July 15, 2008


Toward the Terra Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment

Sci-fi with a vintage flair - this is an easy show to enjoy.

What They Say
Earth, no longer able to sustain life due to the rapid development of human civilization, was abandoned. Leaving Terra behind, mankind set out in search of new planetary systems to inhabit. With this cause in mind a new unified government was formed and dubbed the Superior Domination. Now spread across the cosmos, humanity lives in peace, their lives dictated by Superior Domination's computers.

Jomy, a young man fast approaching his fourteenth birthday, stands at the brink of his adult life. On the day of his adulthood exam, his mind races with the remnants of dreams that haunt him in the dead of sleep. Mu, a word unheard amongst the denizens of the human systems, plays upon his lips. Abilities previously unknown soon manifest within, and Jomy's race towards adulthood becomes frenzied fleeing from the powers that be and toward 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.  The cover has shots of both Jomy and Soldier Blue, along with the series title in both English and Japanese.  The visual balance on it is just fantastic.  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 1 of an interview with Keiko Takemiya, the creator, and trailers for other Bandai titles.  The trailers were very well chosen - Code Geass, Stratos 4, and Planetes.  It's a nice combination of new and older titles that actually make sense to advertise with this title, unlike the usual mishmash of random trailers.  The interview offers some nice insight into the history of the series, and should make the fans who want more Japanese extras included very happy.

Content:

In a future where Terra has been rendered unlivable and mankind lives under the control of computer systems known as Superior Domination, a person's fourteenth birthday is considered their Day of Awakening, when they take a test to permit them to enter the adult world.  It's an abrupt transition, from going to school and hanging out with friends one day, to not even being able to depend on your parents the next.  Jomy, a seemingly ordinary boy who has some unusual reoccurring dreams, is right on the verge of his Day of Awakening.  Concerned that he might pose a threat to their society, Jomy is subjected to an intense psychological screening the night before his adult examination to determine if he is a Mu.  While he passes the psychological screening, his adult examination is another story.

Essentially turned out of his own house and told to go wherever he wants, Jomy ends up at a theme park, where a ride on a harmless roller coaster ends up being the rather traumatic adult examination.  It isn't completely spelled out, but the intent of the "exam" seems to be to wipe out a person's memories so that Superior Domination can reprogram them.  The mysterious man from Jomy's dream, who calls himself Soldier Blue, appears in spirit to rescue Jomy from the society that now wants him dead and take him to the Mu mothership.

Soldier Blue and the Mu have big plans for Jomy, and Jomy is welcomed with open arms, but reacts badly to the Mu's telepathic communication, enthusiastic welcome, and dramatic change in everything he knows.  His culture shock in turn causes most of the Mu to doubt if he's even one of them, and wonder why he's on board in the first place.  After a nasty confrontation, Jomy finally manages to track down Soldier Blue in person.  When asked what it is he wants to do, Jomy asks to go home - and to his great surprise, Soldier Blue agrees immediately.

Going home, however, is nothing like Jomy imagined.  His house is empty, his parents gone, and he's pursued and captured by security forces who manipulate him in an attempt to discover where the Mu are hiding.  Pushed to his limit, Jomy's powers awaken, setting off a chain of events that leaves him with a terrible responsibility.

In Summary:

There are some fairly standard elements here - the coming of age story, the computer-controlled civilization, the chosen one who just wants to live a normal life, and dozens of others.  But, while there's nothing other than the character designs that really stood out for me initially, everything is  pulled off with a charm that really drew me in from the very beginning and left me wanting more.  The story thus far isn't anything spectacular, but it's a solid, enjoyable science fiction series that definitely has the potential to become something incredible.

There's not a whole lot of character development here - the focus in these first four episodes is definitely on the story, which hits the ground running and never lets up.  And I do have some complaints - Jomy, at least at this point, isn't the most compelling lead character ever written, and it's clear that some portions were animated on a very limited budget.  But with a large cast to work with, there's hopefully going to be more of that in the works.  Really, the key word here is potential - there's a ton of potential in this setup, and it's going to be fun seeing how things play out.  The real test of a show is if it makes you want to keep watching, and this one passes with flying colors.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,  English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Interview with the Creator Part 1

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

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
ChrisBeveridge 8/13/2008 5:20:57 AM
The first volume is definitely awkward at times, but there is a good bit of material here that makes a whole lot more sense once the second volume comes in. As much as I enjoy the show, I'm glad I got to see the first eight episodes together instead of split up.
1 

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