Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Jul 27, 2009

Classic Manga: To Terra Vol. 1 - Keiko Takemiya

To Terra was originally serialized in Gekkan Manga Shonen from 1977-1980. It won the very first Seiun award in 1978, and in 1980 won the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōjo/shōnen series.

Synopsis: In the future of mankind, Superior Domination has been established, where the population has become digitally run by computers. The human race has colonized the stars and all children are genetically created in test tubes and raised in an educational space colony by approved foster parents. They are carefully monitored by a supercomputer and must endure strict psychological testing until they are of 14 years of age when they are declared mature. At this time they are then sent to isolated space stations to be groomed into the perfect social beings for the planet of Terra. The story begins with main character Jomy Marcus Shin quickly approaching his 14th birthday in the Education City of Ataraxia. His boisterous and inquisitive personality lead the adults who care for him to be suspicious, and he endures frequent checks for ESP. During one such painful session he encounters another essence that remarks on his dormant telepathic powers. On the day of his birthday he is sent to his "awakening", where his memories of his parents are suppose to be erased so that he is a blank slate when he is sent to be programmed to become a Terran. In Jomy's case, he hangs on to his memories, and using telepathic powers is ejected from the reconditioning and collected by another group of people known as the Mu. The Mu were once the same as the humans on Terra, but over time developed telepathic powers, and became shunned as mutants. Forced out of Terra they have banded together and are currently led by Soldier Blue, the essence that contacts Jomy. Jomy has been chosen as Soldier Blue's successor to lead the Mu, because he is not only telepathic but is physically healthy and strong, unlike a lot of the Mu. The first arc ends with Jomy learning to become one of the Mu. The second arc starts at one of the education stations in space where the character of Keith Anyan is introduced. Keith is close to graduating and becoming a member of the Terran Elite. His grades and conduct are near perfect, and he is looked upon by others at the station as a role model. Unlike the other students at the station, Keith realizes he has no memories of his former time at an educational city. This and other events lead him to question the current supercomputer system of socialization. When Jomy attacks the station with his telepathy trying to trigger the students to remember their pasts everyone is affected but Keith. This drives Keith to discover what makes him so different from everyone else. The final arc of this volume is back with the Mu on Naska, a new colony that's been established for the sanctity of the Mu. Here we see Jomy come in contact with aspects of his past, and the Mu defy the Superior Domination of society by biologically conceiving and birthing a child.

Review: Takemiya's grand vision of the future is thought provoking and sensitive. With skillful hands she has related a tale of human resilience and self-discovery. As this is the first volume, much of the development was exposition of the key characters, Jomy and Keith. Takemiya assumes correctly that readers will empathize with Jomy's escape from the Superior Domination's super computer, seeing as it is human nature to preserve one's humanity. No one would want to lose their childhood memories unwillingly. As for the Mus, their position as outcasts is unfortunate. As the result of having telepathy, they are shunned from society. Yet, once again, it is another characteristic of human nature to classify, separate from others, and fear what you do not understand. Even the Mu colony has the same fears when Jomy arrives. His upbringing to become a Terran is most obvious until his telepathy is no longer dormant, and others belittle him for his thoughts and appearance. I found it astute of Takemiya to next show the audience what might have happened to Jomy, when she introduces Keith at the space station where the mature students arrive for training. It provides another viewpoint of how the system works, and gives readers an opportunity to decide for themselves how they feel about the Superior Domination social system. Keith's own journey of self-discovery and interaction with the system are a contrast to Jomy's painful one. Yet even Keith begins to question how effective such a system is. What impressed me most about this work was the ease of reading, despite the dated style. This is the oldest work of manga I've read to date. I expected some of the style to be a turn off, since I am used to the modern paneling style of manga. These panels have older transition styles and bubbling, a more boxy look than current trends in manga. Despite that, Takemiya's talent still shines. The space scenes are epic in proportion. Machinery and settings still look futuristic in this day and age. What an imagination! The dating is more evident in character design, because the manga/anime style of drawing has evolved since then, but that doesn't affect Takemiya's ability to express human emotions. If you are a science fiction buff, or just want to see some quality classic manga, this is a title you can't miss. I personally can't wait to see how Takemiya resolves this story line.

No romance rating for this title as that is not the main focus of the story.

Media Status: To Terra is complete and available in North America from Vertical publishing in three volumes. In 1980, To Terra was adapted into an anime movie named Toward the Terra, produced by Toei Animation and directed by Hideo Onchi. Right Stuf International has released the North American version of the Toward the Terra film within the past year.

Review copy provided by Vertical publishing.


Laura said...

Special thanks to Ed Chavez from Vertical for expanding my manga horizons and increasing my appreciation of the art form.

MizzFWA said...

I saw this on TV! I didn't know it originated as a manga. I really loved the anime and I'd love to check out the manga :D

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