I've never been a real sci-fi buff, but I always had the general opinion that technology is cool and that the future is definitely going to be awesome. I say "had", because Toward the Terra - presumably on behalf of a particularly resourceful Luddite lobby - stepped up to shatter my utopian illusions and present a vision of the future so utterly drab that I feel entitled to add "sat through ALL 24 episodes of Toward the Terra" to my CV.
To its credit, Toward the Terra's particular brand of boredom doesn't result from a lack of things happening. In fact, it exhibits a veritable surfeit, and it's precisely this that caused my attention to consistently wander to more exciting things, such as the fluff between my toes and the pattern of my wallpaper. As a rule, explosions are great, superpowers are thrilling and deaths are moving, but being force-fed spoonful after overflowing spoonful of all three without respite caused my stomach to rupture with the knock-on effect of bruising my "I care about what's happening" gland (located just above the pancreas, if anyone's curious). Further to this excess, the story saturates itself with subplots, which serve no real purpose other than to keep its myriad characters occupied. These unnecessary subplots then cling parasitically to the main story in a way that does nothing to disguise their superfluousness and redundancy.
At times, the anime seems almost as though the creators designed it with the express purpose of causing apathy. The Mu, for example, are the good guys of the series, fighting against those evil humans who don't understand them and instead fear them. Well, that's swell, I can always get behind a good underdog story. However, when the Mu suddenly have the power to stop bullets, fly around in space sans spacesuit, spaceship or any of the other generally accepted necessities, and then destroy stuff simply by crashing into it, it suddenly becomes a lot harder to sympathise with their plight. Worse still, the powers aren't explained or enumerated, so any suspense that might be generated by them getting into some intergalactic scrape or another doesn't survive the realisation that they'll probably just produce some new and unprecedented power in order to sail handsomely over the proverbial hurdle.
The series causes further irritation with its moralising bent. Now, I understand that mankind is slowly destroying its planet, and the philosophical line of inquiry about our animalistic tendency towards belligerence and our natural intolerance of differences is an interesting one, but I usually prefer to keep my entertainment and my guilt trips separate. To compound the issue further, the guilt-tripping doesn't even come across as subtle or clever, but rather the animated equivalent of a giant hand pointing at you through the screen while a disembodied voice shouts "You! Yes, you! You have broken your planet and you fear and shun those who do not fit into society!" I appreciate the merits of being challenged to think about important issues, but the clumsy rhetoric simply reeks of preachiness.
Toward the Terra's animation can be safely categorised as standard. It's certainly not poor, but at no point does it reach the giddy heights of eye-catching or memorable. Aside from the pleasingly impractical Megiddo cannon which makes an appearance in the latter stages, there are no interesting and futuristic designs, which somewhat defeats the point of science fiction. Standard-issue space ships house Start Trek-esque generic bridges, while the space suits used seem to be relics of the Apollo missions.
The character designs don't break any molds, but they are sufficiently varied that it is possible to distinguish between the large number of protagonists. Aside from this, however, there are few pluses in the concept or design. Buildings are uninspiring, uniforms are run-of-the-mill and alien landscapes are dull and do nothing to stretch the imagination.
Toward the Terra has a solid soundtrack. there are a couple of memorable numbers in there, and it works to raise the drama at crucial points.The OPs and EDs are passable without being great, with the exception of the first ED which - perhaps inevitably, given that it samples Pachelbel's Canon in D - is now a favourite of mine.
It's hard to talk about Toward The Terra's cast of characters, as the word "cast" doesn't adequately convey the sheer number of people and stories that are crammed into the anime. The show expects you to become emotionally invested in as many as thirty characters, which would present a daunting challenge even if they were all interesting. Perhaps I'm just misanthropic, but I can barely name that many people in real life whose trials and tribulations are of substance to me, and I've been around for a fair bit longer than the length of 24 episodes.
As a result, when this endless parade of protagonists step forward to get killed or disappear for half of the series or get killed or become irreversibly brain damaged or get killed, it's all I can do to muster sufficient empathy for a quick "Oh. That's a pity. I quite like his/her seiyuu". Indeed, the crushing weight of this bloated array of characters and their attempts to be in some way consequential almost single-handedly suffocates the anime. Whatever marks the series may have gained from the inclusion of the emotionally complex Keith Anyan or the beguilingly crazy Seiki Rei Shiroe vanish when they are buried under an avalanche of pointless personalities vying for the attention that they have done nothing to merit.
Toward the Terra is a generic sci-fi with numerous failings and an inability to tell a simple story without waving its arms around to distract the viewer with pointless tangents. It has mastered the art of overkill, both in terms of moralising and in terms of generating tragedy, something it does with both the force and subtlety of a Megiddo cannon. With its lack of innovation, failure to develop characters and complete ineptitude when it comes to maintaining a straightforward and coherent plot, Toward the Terra lends itself to a simple, one-word description: forgettable.
Centuries ago, humanity carelessly ravaged the Earth’s environment, forcing them to leave and form a colony elsewhere. To prevent the same mistakes from happening again, they allow a supercomputer to run their lives. Children are genetically engineered and at the age of fourteen take ‘adulthood exams’, a process whereby the supercomputer ensures they are suitable for membership in this perfect society. Those who pass have their memories erased and are guided into the next stage of their life; those who fail are immediately destroyed. Jomy is a boy about to take his adulthood exams, but things go terribly wrong when a man wreathed in light interrupts the process. He is a Mu -- an aberration, a new generation of human with extraordinary powers usually detected and eliminated by the supercomputer. This man tells Jomy he too is a Mu and introduces him to the Mu society. They are a rebel group in hiding from the oppressive human regime, who live in the hope that they will find a life of peace on Earth some day. Can Jomy leave behind all that he has known, come to terms with his awakening powers, and help the Mu return to their beloved Terra?
When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.