Reviewby Theron Martin,
Toward the Terra Part 3
Soldier Blue gets help from a surprising source in protecting both the Shangri La and Naska from the Meggido's blast, but that only delays the inevitable. Ultimately the Mu must abandon their new-found home and continue their quest for Terra. Hardened by the losses suffered at Naska, Jomy takes a less compromising approach in leading the Mu back to where everything started – the education planet Artemesia – in order to force Terra Number 5 to reveal the location of the planet Terra. As they do so and then progress towards Terra, the next generation of Mu takes the lead in the inevitable fights. On the other side, Keith Anyon swiftly rises in rank and power as he leads the human efforts to eradicate the Mu, even while keeping one close by his side. Discoveries about his true nature and Makka's unswervingly loyalty give him pause to consider matters even as he resolutely pushes forward with the defense of Superior Domination's absolute will, however. On Terra itself the full truth behind Superior Domination and the Mu will finally be revealed, and the final reckoning will come.
Every year at least a couple of series worthy of serious consideration in “Best of Year” ratings get overlooked, and in 2008 this may have been one of those omissions. Though hampered slightly by their predictability, these final two volumes otherwise overcome the minor flaws that held the storytelling back in earlier volumes, thus producing a strong finish for this TV series interpretation of the 1970s manga on which the original 1980 movie was based. If you have been following this series through its first sixteen episodes, the last eight will not disappoint.
Fair warning, though: these episodes are considerably harsher than any earlier content. The producers are not shy about killing off “name” characters as the series progresses towards its end (much moreso than in previous volumes), and some characters meet very graphically violent ends. None of those deaths, nor their timing, will probably surprise anyone, as the plot not only follows predictable paths but tends to telegraph its upcoming developments, but a couple of them are heartbreaking.
For all its predictability, though (only a couple of major developments could by any stretch be called surprises, and one comes up immediately in episode 17), the series executes its dramatic components supremely well. From the beginning of episode 16 until the end of episode 24 the story never slackens or breaks, creating an uninterrupted run of involving and sometimes powerful drama. It is also sometimes rather sad, as the joy of watching Jomy transform from an anxious youth into a hardened and determined adult leader who does not flinch over ordering the death of defeated enemy soldiers is counterbalanced by his loss of the optimistic innocence. It can get a little scary when the impressive powers of the Mu children cause their arrogance to go to their head, and Keith ever remains the intimidating figure. Next to him, the final foe – the computer system known as Grandmother – is a letdown.
The series also waxes philosophical in its final episodes. Race relations would seem to be an obvious underlying theme, one similar in execution to the complex human-mutant relations found in Marvel Comics' X-Men-related titles, but that never actually gets played up as much as it could. The focus instead falls much more on the core of human nature and whether or not it can be trusted. Superior Domination exists and is necessary, the series says, because mankind has deemed itself incapable of controlling itself sufficiently to behave responsibly. Such suppositions are hardly new to sci fi, as they date back at least to the early 20th century writers like George Orwell who made disturbing projections about the ultimate extent of totalitarianism, but the slant this series takes on it, and Keith's fierce conviction in not only defending it but insisting upon its necessity, gives the concept a fresher spin and lays the battle lines down as being about much more than fear of powered individuals; the Mu are, in effect, the embodiments of the chaos that the tightly-regimented system cannot tolerate. Naming the planet-killer systems after the fabled plains from which the word Armageddon originates is also an interesting bit of symbolism.
The many battles the Mu must face in their ultimate journey to Terra also allow plenty of opportunities for action and displays of power, which the animation generally handles well. The distinctive and finely-detailed character designs, convincing aging, good CG integration, and distinctive color scheme seen in earlier episodes all hold true through to the end, marking this as one of the better full-length series out there when it comes to quality control.
Nothing carries the dramatic feel of these final episodes better than the musical score, which mixes gentler piano themes and melancholy numbers with haunting vocals with more dramatic themes as it ably promotes the mood and feel of the series. The Japanese voice work also remains impressive, handling key emotional moments well. The more rock-sounding opener “Jet Boy Jet Girl” continues through to the end, while the more adult contemporary-styled “This Night” serves as the close for this entire run of episodes, with the visuals occasionally updating.
As with the previous two pairs, volumes 5 and 6 can be bought separately or in an inexpensive bundle. Both discs have additional parts to the interview with franchise creator Keiko Takemiya.
True sci fi dramas are rare, but for all its vague shonen influences this series is ultimately much more a drama than an action or adventure piece. It does not reach quite as deep on the character front, nor is it quite as ambitious, as series like Simoun or Banner/Crest of the Stars, but it does give an old story the deluxe treatment and bring it to a reasonably satisfying resolution.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Excellent pacing, plotting, and use of drama.
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