Antagonists in any novel, comic or movie these days are often multi-faceted, having their own set of beliefs or rules they live and die by no matter how misguided they may be. They aren’t just evil for the sake of doing so. Heck, you might’ve rooted for them on occasion rather than the heroes. Yagami Light from Death Note is an outstanding example.
Terra Formars has no intention of having a villain with that many shades of grey. Instead, you have perhaps the most irksome household pest as the antagonist of choice: the cockroach.
Grant them superhuman levels of strength, speed and intelligence thanks to centuries spent evolving on Mars and you have yourself an enemy that every reader will hate. Oh, did I mention that their sole purpose is to exterminate every single human being?
To add to the woes of the human race, an extraterrestrial virus with no apparent cure has been discovered, leading to a war on two fronts. Thankfully, all is not lost and mankind has a trick up its sleeve to combat these mutated household pests. Selected people have undergone genetic modifications, giving them the characteristics and abilities of a specific insect (or animal in later chapters) when activated.
These range from moths and scorpions to crabs and even octopi as the story progresses. The characters imbued with these powers are reason enough for me to continue flipping through the pages. Throw in an increasingly complex plot (the political agendas of each nation are exposed plus Earth receiving a very nasty surprise in the more recent chapters) and the manga becomes a weekly must-read.
These ridiculous events escalated from a simple premise. Humans planned to colonise Mars, terraforming the planet via the use of a modified algae to absorb sunlight and cockroaches to feed off the mold. Their corpses would then spread the mold as they fed and this process would eventually raise surface temperatures to Earth-like levels.
As you can see, Murphy’s Law decided to come into play, leading to all the members of the initial expedition to Mars getting killed by these superhuman cockroaches. Fast forward several more years and you have the ongoing Terra Formars storyline.
Making the increasingly complicated plot easier to understand is the art of Tachibana Kenichi. Adding to that is a single page summary at the start of every chapter showing what everyone is doing. Useful for more absent-minded readers.
Each character is incredibly detailed and the satisfaction you get from seeing cracks form on a humanoid cockroach’s shell and its innards spewing out as it’s beaten to a pulp will have you blazing through a 100 chapters in no time. Because who in their right mind actually likes these pests, let alone one that looks like its spent way too much time in the gym, right?
Terra Formars doesn't seem to ending its weekly serialisation soon and rightly so. Its novel concept, plot depth and attention to detail keeps it in my weekly must-read list.
Written by ET