(This has been adapted from my reddit thread)
One of the most frightening organisms on the planet is so miniscule that it's a wonder that it exists in the first place, let alone causes massive harm. This organism is, of course, the virus. A tiny, technically lifeless thing whose only function is to replicate to keep its existence going. In biology, it's a rather fascinating phenomenon that has been in place for millions, if not billions, of years. While human technology has improved by leaps and bounds in an immensely shorter time span, there are still questions and unknowns we have yet to answer. Among them include nearly incurable diseases. With this premise in mind, Terra Formars takes shape. That shape being a crooked and jagged mess.
Terra Formars starts with a man named Akari, whose fighting prowess has given him the opportunity to join a select group of people aimed at finding a cure to a deadly disease that has plagued the Earth. Him and many others undergo an operation to mutate their bodies and board a spaceship destined for Mars and the supposed answers they seek.
The story telling within the anime follows a rather inconsistent style. It begins by following a majority of the groups confined to the ship, providing us with a glimpse into who is on board, the countries involved, and the gravity of the situation. Once on Mars, the focus shifts from a group mentality to an individual one. At this point, characters are singled out and, for usually less than a full episode, he or she is given a small amount of background. The idea here is to give us a sense of connection. That the people we're watching risk their lives on a distant planet are more than just fodder to the cause. But it never comes off this way (save for one character, more later). The show tried to focus on the characters over the story because the story itself isn't compelling enough to engage the audience. They attempt to mix in some plot elements, such as parallel stories and espionage, but it isn't executed nearly as well as it could be.
This execution is unquestionably the result of the core of Terra Formars: the fighting. Instead of attempting to showcase more of what the world has to offer or how the mission is more meaningful than it at first seems, it instead highlights the fighting between the humans and the cockroaches. This prominent focus therefore defers to gore and violence instead of actual narrative balance.
Due to the nature (if you will) of the show, part of the "allure" is in the powers of the characters at play. The problem is that, in order for the viewers to understand the mutations, a considerable amount of literal narration and time is spent on discussing what animals the humans are using. More often than not, it occurs during the fights themselves. Meaning, besides the story telling already being as choppy as it is, what the anime puts on a pedestal also succumbs to the same choppy issues. The mutations may have ties to the characters' pasts, but the inelegance of their incorporation within the story leaves much to be desired.
Terra Formars maintains a rather mature look throughout the season. The characters themselves are usually well defined, with sharp lines and contours for the faces and throwbacks to the actual animals they are portraying. The same can't be said for the environments. The vast majority of the locations are usually just rocky terrain and boring to look at, with almost zero variety. As for the enemies, CG is used for the cockroaches when a large amount of them are on screen at once. It can be a little off-putting at first, but over time one gets used to seeing them in that state.
Actual animation suffers a bit, unfortunately. Not only do there exist a lot of still frames and only mouth movements for many of the characters during dialogue, but many of the fights contain little choreography. Coupled with the fact that the majority of the battles contain zoomed in shots or little animation, the core element of the anime is a major letdown across the board.
The anime can be watched either censored or uncensored, but it is not worth it to see with the former in place. The censorship present when active makes many of the scenes completely impossible to watch, once again impeding the anime's shtick (very violent killings).
Putting it rather bluntly, the entire cast is unmistakably bad. It's only saving grace is that there exists a single character who, without him, would render everyone as forgettable. I'll start with the bad and work towards the (only) good.
One of the first characters introduced is Akari, a rough and tumble dude dead set on saving the girl he loves from the disease gripping her. His motivations are clear, yet his underlying strength is not. Taking the chance to create a better tomorrow for the ones he loves, he accepts the task presented to him, hoping to do everything in his power to bring peace back home, even if said power consumes him. He sounds rather intriguing on paper, but beyond the first episode or so, we never really learn much more about him. That is to say, he never again takes the spotlight long enough to make him relevant to the story at hand. It's a shame, considering he is one of the cast members who we learn a little bit about. His underutilization sets the precedent for everyone else involved.
Sheila embodies kindness. Free spirited and filled with generosity, she tags along with the rest of the squad not as a fighter but more as a cheerleader. Unable to mask her fear of the mission at hand, she clings to a romance that she most likely knows deep down can never be. Her friendship with Alex and Marcos shows that, despite her ladylike demeanor, she isn't afraid of helping those in need. The precedent set earlier is used once more; she is shown, talked about, then subsequently put to the side for the rest of anime. It's a little more forgivable this time, since her overall purpose was to give Marcos a reason to fight. The justification is there, but not executed well enough simply because her character feels just as useless as the rest of the people on board.
The only (seriously, the only) good character found within Terra Formars is Adolph. The byproduct of a terrible experiment, his broken spirit and reason for fighting feel the most human, despite the beast within him. His dedication to the position of captain and composed behavior in the face of an incomprehensible scenario make him a sight to behold both on and off the battlefield. He's a great character not just for being bad-ass, which he most certainly is, but because he actually contains some semblance of depth. Where he begins and where he ultimately ends help to showcase the futility of getting one's hopes up. A tragic character, his inclusion gave this one a small light in the sea of darkness.
Suffering "Mirai Nikki Syndrome", arguably the best part of the show is the OP. The back-and-forth vocals coupled with the fast guitar make it extremely catchy and great fun to listen to, even outside of the anime itself.
The ED is at least okay. The drums bring about the tempo, the piano adds to its gracefulness, and the vocals are slow and simple to follow.
The soundtrack is largely forgettable, save for the signature, six-note, up-and-down piece that plays when a battle is about to begin. The sound effects involved at least add to the brutality of the aforementioned fighting.
In regards to voice acting, there were no standout performances to be had. The only notable voices were the cockroaches and their "Jo Ji" which is the extent of their vocabulary, yet the meaning of varies wildly.
When the anime first started, the censorship was quite unbearable. Black shading and polka-dots filled the screen, making much of the on-screen action hidden to the viewer. If the entire point of the anime is to show grotesque ways of murdering humans and "cockroaches," then it should be quite obvious that any form of censorship would ruin the intended goal. It was eventually alleviated, but the damage was done.
The anime doesn't focus on much else. Some attempts at humor are made, but it never tries too hard at it. Same for the drama; outside of Adolf, the rest feels lackluster and completely falls flat. Watching the good guys use their animal abilities should be really fun to watch. And at times, it is. Watching Alex hurl metallic spheres at incredible speeds, seeing Michelle crushing a foe to smithereens, or witnessing Adolf's almost god-like powers can be quite cool. But these moments are too few and far between to make the show compelling enough to keep one interested.
Terra Formars wasn't trying to do much. But even for what it set out to do, the execution just wasn't there. The story is bland, the characters are bad, and the rest is boring. Perhaps in the future, when missions to Mars are actually feasible, we can send this anime to where it belongs: anywhere but here.
Story: Bad, inconsistent, too much focus on the fights, poorly placed explanations
Animation: Bad, lame art style, little animation even for the battles, too much censorship
Characters: Bad, Adolf saves the day
Sound: Fine, good OP, okay ED, bad soundtrack, average VA work
Enjoyment: Bad, literally just humans squashing bugs
Final Score: 3/10