Toward the Terra
Directed by Hideo Onchi
Based on Keiko Takemiya’s Manga of the same name
Production by Toei Animation
I often wonder if Veronica Roth saw this film before coming up with Divergent, only changing the setting and the whole intergalactic travel to fit a dystopian America. Humanity has moved on to different stars after deeming Terra (Earth) unsustainable for survival, leaving behind an artificial intelligence machine and a couple humans. Many centuries later, humanity is born in vitro and put through brainwashing in order for the AI machines to continue ruling over them. But much like mutants, a subspecies of humans named Mu are born, with psionic abilities, and are then hunted by the supercomputers. A resistance of Mu has been created, and they try to locate and rescue as many Mu as possible before they are killed. It follows decades of a people that live with a telepathically-passed idea of Earth, the promised land they wish to return to, the humans that try to stop them, and the machines that have created the whole war between the same species, mostly through systematic hatred.
Now, this is old anime (the film), and as such, it carries the feeling movies from that era carried, a slow build. Unlike modern stories, with a clear three acts that are distinctive from each other, this anime takes a long while developing the characters, as the story, quite literally, takes place over many years. The manga and series are much faster than the film, and even offer much more in depth view of the story. But whichever form you choose to experience this series, they all stand out on their own, whether it creates subplots or adds new genuinely interesting characters.
What most people will see as a negative is that the animation is antiquated, and that it might not hold up to today’s standards. Unlike Akira, Studio Ghibli’s older films, and Paprika, the animation does not hold up as well. When we see those films, we are not transported to the earlier years but rather taken to the world they want us to be transported to, in here, it is clear the year is not in the 31st millennium, but the 1980s. Even the 2007 version has this style of animation, and even as I did not mind how generic some things looked, others might not look the other way.
The best part of the story is the characters. Jomy, the basic to-be leader who originally rejects his origin as a Mu, but who slowly comes to realize he is needed if people are to survive; Keith, a sort of android and anti-hero, willing to sacrifice anyone in order to carry his orders until he is challenged by what he has done in the struggle for freedom of the sub-species; Tony, who depends on which version you watch can be related to Jomy or not, the first natural born human in centuries, who comes to lead humanity on their home-bound quest; Sam, a human whose story develops into tragedy after the next, and who plays an important part on his friend’s decisions; Seki, a boy who is Mu, but serves Keith in his destruction quest, even saving him using his powers. They are all incredible! They are layered, and filled with deep philosophical quests when it comes to their struggles and choices. A story is as good as its characters is often cited to be what makes plots so fantastic, the people that can carry the story, and in here, they definitely do.
Something to take from this franchise is that most of the Mu (particularly Jomy) don’t see the humanity that is trying to kill them as the enemy, but as people being controlled by machines, who in turn, are the true enemy, as they take personal freedom and choice away from all.
We are also posed with a question, humanity will not be extinct because the Mu exist, but rather, the Mu are the next step in evolution, and destroying them could be the end of humanity. They survive despite all odds because they are our future. Something to think about for the people that hate mutants in the Marvel Universe.
It is a good franchise, sadly the animation is not great, and neither is the score choice, but the characters and plot will give you a Battlestar Galactica feel, and we all need that in our lives.