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Terra Formars Vol. #01 Manga Review

4 min read

Terra FormarsRevenge of the roaches!

Creative Staff
Story: Yu Sasuga
Art: Kenichi Tachibana
Translation: John Werry

What They Say
In the late 26th century, overpopulation on Earth is reaching the breaking point, and humanity must find new frontiers. The terraforming of Mars has taken centuries, but is now complete. The colonization of Mars by humanity is an epoch-making event, but an unintended side effect of the terraforming process unleashes a horror no one could ever have imagined…

After humanity’s first manned mission to the Red Planet was lost, a second expedition arrives. The explorers prepare to exterminate the cockroaches that were used to transform the Martian environment. They are shocked to discover that the insects have mutated into giant, aggressive humanoids with one overriding goal: exterminate the humans! But this crew of explorers has each undergone the “Bugs Procedure,” terrifying experimental surgery designed to make them more than human…

The cover here is a rather striking image of our hero, his face half in what appears to shadow at first, but on closer inspection turns out to be him shifting into bug form. There’s also a silver silhouette of a cockroach with an x over it, which is a nice touch. The back cover mirrors the stark what of the front with pure black, adding a synopsis and completing the image from the front. Honorifics aren’t used, text reads smoothly, sound effects are translated in stylized text, paper quality feels solid, and character summaries are included as a bonus.
The art here has a nice style to it, with the characters all appearing distinct and containing a good bit of detail. The bug forms also look nice, and the action comes across quite well. What really steals the show, though, is the design of the humanoid cockroaches. Be it the giant staring eyes, the way they’re shaded, or just the subtle way they’re just almost human, there’s something thoroughly unnerving about them. A lot of the power of the volume is in the way they’re depicted, so it’s fortunate that the artist absolutely nailed it. Add in decent backgrounds that appear when needed, and you get a book with a solid and unique style about it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Shokichi Komachi and Nanao Akita, two childhood friends from Japan, are members of an international crew sent to Mars, where terraforming has reached its final stages. As part of the terraforming plan, cockroaches were introduced in great quantities to the formerly red planet, much to Shokichi’s chagrin. Other members of the crew though, such as the Russian Maria Viren, Thien from Thailand, or the final Japanese member Ichiro Hiruma, don’t seem to mind quite as much. Before they can advance too far into the conversation though, the American captain D.K. Davis appears to tell the crew to prepare for landing, as well as some large scale cockroach extermination. Upon landing, we learn that the brave crew of the Bugs 2 are all poor people with a rough past who underwent an experimental “bugs procedure,” including Shokichi, who murdered Nanao’s stepfather. The crew also ends up receiving quite a shock as well, when they discover that the cockroaches have become massive, humanoid creatures. Shokichi and Nanao approach one in hopes of diplomacy, only for the massive beast to snap Nanao’s neck with a single blow.

It turns out that these creatures wiped out the crew’s predecessors, but thanks to the bugs procedure our heroes stand a chance, as they’re no longer normal humans. From the attitude of Alexander Gustav Newton, the project chief back on Earth, it becomes clear that the higher ups knew what they were dealing with, but unfortunately our heroes were left in the dark. Meanwhile, we finally learn that the bugs procedure has given the crew an ability to shift forms and use the powers of various insects. Even this proves futile though, and they find themselves wiped out one by one,

As the volume continues the situation grows worse and worse for our heroes, and we learn that they’ve been conspired against and used up by their employers. Will anyone make it out of this hell alive, or are they doomed to fall prey to their cockroach foes?

In Summary
Having gone in completely blind, this volume ended up hitting me hard. Though most of the large crew only gets a bit of time to develop, they’re a colorful cast with a lot of personality. Furthermore, there’s a ton of twists even in this single book, which set up quite a few seeds for the series. Most of all though, it was shocking to see just how brutal the book turned out. It almost feels like a mix of Saturday morning Sentai/Power Rangers fare and pure horror, which is a fascinating combination that packs quite a punch. This volume honestly works as a strong and powerful standalone work, and it’ll definitely be interesting to see where the series ends up going from here on out. For now though, be sure to give this book a look, as it’s certainly an exciting specimen.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
MSRP: $12.99