Ultimately Toward the Terra is more of a manga tribute than a movie in its own right.
Long after Earth has been abandoned to recover from pollution, humanity lives under a totalitarian system administered by computers. Within this system psychic humans known as the Mu have begun to emerge, and seek to return to Terra. Naturally the government opposes this, and mayhem ensues.
Judging by the movie the original three volumes of the Toward the Terra manga cover a span of about 20 – 30 years, and covering the entire material forced some rather drastic editing. The result is a two hour movie with multiple timeskips, the longest of which is 10 years.
Much like Toward the Terra‘s contemporary Space Firebird 2772 there is either pompous infodumping happening, or events simply signal the fuller explanations within the manga.
Either way the result is a movie where I found it hard to care about the characters on either side. This isn’t helped by a mix of Heel Face Turns and Face Heel Turns that should have had minutes, if not a full episode, to explain just…happen. There are other emotional shifts and unexplained events that again just… happen leaving me wondering why or how.
The net effect is to waste that potential and leave me wondering what would happen with competent execution at longer length.
The Caricatures, er, Characters
Possibly the worst aspect of the editing is what is left of the characters afterwards. You can almost see what these characters were supposed to be, but are instead left with what feels like empty, emotionless, caricatures instead.
That was my biggest frustration with Toward the Terra, and the one that I would most hope to see fixed should I order the TV series.
Which I’m seriously thinking about doing, there’s enough of a story here that I want to see it told competently.
In one sense Toward the Terra is another The Pilot’s Love Song: epic world building used to produce a pedestrian story. But I think that comparison is unfair to Toward the Terra. The Pilot’s Love Song had 13 episodes to use the world building, Toward the Terra had to fit more story into less than two hours.
Instead Toward the Terra is an artefact of its time, where movie adaptations could assume familiarity with the manga, and one where a fuller treatment could be rewarding.
Overall I think Toward the Terra is more a tribute to the manga than a movie in its own right, and not one that I’ll be likely to watch again. If anyone has also read the manga, and seen Toward the Terra the movie, please let me know what you think in the comments.