To Terra… 1 by Keiko Takemiya: A

From the back cover:
The future. Having driven Terra to the brink of environmental collapse, humanity decides to reform itself by ushering in the age of Superior Domination (S.D.), a system of social control in which children are no longer the offspring of parents but the progeny of a universal computer. The new social order, however, results in an unexpected byproduct: the Mu, a mutant race with extrasensory powers who are forced into exile by The System.

The saga begins on educational planet Ataraxia, where Jomy Marcus Shin, a brash and unpredictable teenager, is nervously preparing to enter adult society. When his Maturity Check goes wrong, the Mu intervene in the great hope that Jomy, who possesses Mu telepathy and human physical strength, can lead them back home, to Terra…

Review:
There’s no shortage of sci-fi stories in which the natural resources of Earth have been used up, prompting humans into space in search of new homes. In To Terra…, this situation works out a little differently. Instead, the humans are deemed to be the problem, and the original population of Earth (Terra) is forcibly removed while a eugenics program begins to breed a new race of people willing to submit to the will of Universal Control, part of the Supreme Domination system devised to regulate all aspects of life.

Fourteen-year-old Jomy Marcus Shin is a product of this system and has spent his life thus far on Ataraxia, a planet where children are raised by carefully selected foster parents until such time as they are ready for their Maturity Check. Jomy chafes against this orderly society, however, and is repeatedly subjected to tests designed to weed out ESP abilities—a sign that he is actually a Mu, a race of evolved humans noted for their telepathy and “emotional instability.” None of these tests detect Jomy’s latent powers until the Mu leader hijacks his Maturity Check and recruits Jomy to be the new leader of the Mu and help them achieve their goal of returning to Terra.

Meanwhile, those children who pass their Maturity Check have their fate decided for them by the computer. Some go on to their assigned jobs while others are destined for further schooling. Among these is Keith Anyan, an elite student destined for a position as one of Terra’s most powerful citizens. Currently, Keith is the star pupil at an educational satellite, though he’s not without his doubts about the system. His world is shaken up by a rival student, Seki Ray Shiroe, who refuses to relinquish his own free will, no matter the consequences.

There’s a lot going on in To Terra…, but though it’s definitely a complicated story, it never stops being a compelling one. No matter the differences between characters or their circumstances, all are united by yearning of one kind or another. Jomy yearns for a family life that was real, and it’s his recognition of the depth of the Mu’s longing for a home that helps him to finally understand them and agree to be their leader. Keith, though repeatedly assured of his own place on Terra, secretly yearns for a more inclusive system that would enable his less talented friend, “gentle Sam,” to achieve the same. As it is, Sam will probably spend his entire life in space, not being deemed good enough for a place on the surface.

Nobody is happy with things the way they are, but change requires action. Jomy is bold in his approach, starting the Mu off towards Terra immediately after taking charge, but Keith is constrained by expectations and some surprising revelations about his background. Too, anyone around him who might be of aid either conveniently forgets their dissent after a visit with the mother computer or ends up like Shiroe. In a way, this reminds me of Tezuka’s Adolf, as we are introduced to sympathetic characters on both sides of a conflict and seemingly poised to follow them over many years. In that scenario, Keith would be the Adolf Kaufmann, the sympathetic young man being educated by a fascist government who will either learn to embrace their beliefs or risk losing his place of prestige.

Visually, To Terra… is just as epic as a story like this warrants, with many gorgeous two-page spreads and pages upon pages of star-flecked darkness, emphasizing the vastness of space and the isolation between worlds, cultures, and individuals that’s causing so much pain to the characters. It does bother me that the sound effects haven’t been translated, though, since sometimes they could add a lot to a scene.

Even though To Terra… is technically shounen, the emphasis on the emotional lives of the characters and their simple desire for a home results in a story with universal appeal. No pun intended.

I reviewed To Terra… for May’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Kate Dacey. Other reviews and commentary can be found at Kate’s blog, The Manga Critic. The series is published in English by Vertical and is complete in three volumes.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Michelle Smith (Soliloquy in Blue) echoes Evan’s praise for Takemiya, awarding To Terra a very rare grade of A in her review of volume one. In Takemiya’s refusal to establish an obvious bad guy, Michelle sees parallels with Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf: Nobody is happy with things the way they are, but change requires action. Jomy is bold in his approach, starting the Mu off towards Terra immediately after taking charge, but Keith is constrained by expectations and some surprising revelations about his background. Too, anyone around him who might be of aid either conveniently forgets their dissent after a visit with the mother computer or ends up like Shiroe. In a way, this reminds me of Tezuka’s Adolf, as we are introduced to sympathetic characters on both sides of a conflict and seemingly poised to follow them over many years. In that scenario, Keith would be the Adolf Kaufmann, the sympathetic young man being educated by a fascist government who will either learn to embrace their beliefs or risk losing his place of prestige. […]

  2. […] Michelle Smith (Soliloquy in Blue) echoes Evan’s praise for Takemiya, awarding To Terra a very rare grade of A in her review of volume one. In Takemiya’s refusal to establish an obvious bad guy, Michelle sees parallels with Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf: Nobody is happy with things the way they are, but change requires action. Jomy is bold in his approach, starting the Mu off towards Terra immediately after taking charge, but Keith is constrained by expectations and some surprising revelations about his background. Too, anyone around him who might be of aid either conveniently forgets their dissent after a visit with the mother computer or ends up like Shiroe. In a way, this reminds me of Tezuka’s Adolf, as we are introduced to sympathetic characters on both sides of a conflict and seemingly poised to follow them over many years. In that scenario, Keith would be the Adolf Kaufmann, the sympathetic young man being educated by a fascist government who will either learn to embrace their beliefs or risk losing his place of prestige. […]

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