Tag Archives: space

May MMF: To Terra, A Space Holocaust

There was something chilling about reading To Terra from Vertical for the first time this weekend. I couldn’t really put my finger on it until I started thinking about how I wanted to write up the series for this month’s MMF.  It reminded me of the Holocaust in different skin.

The obvious comparison, is the on-going oppression of the Mu. The Mu are killed when found before or after the Maturity Checks (think eugenics) and any Mu hiding in human society is likely to be killed on the spot as well. There’s no death camps or labor camps for Mu, but they are discriminated against for their telepathic abilities and weaker bodies despite the fact that they are still human. While the Jews didn’t exactly have telepathy, there were plenty of other “qualities” that the Jews “possessed” that made them so reviled by other Europeans.

On top of that, human society uses the Mu as lab rats, much like the infamous Josef Mengele. Much like the Jews, the Mu go into hiding and must use the most desperate measures in order to stay hidden, moving from place to place and hoping they are safe there. My grandmother did the same thing after Kristallnacht, moving from Austria to Hungary and then into the Hungarian countryside when the Nazis came for the Jewish men and took my grandfather away. (He later was freed from Auschwitz-Birkenau by American troops while waiting in line for the gas chambers.) That intense journey to find a safe place to call home reminds me of the Mu in so many ways. Much like the Jews, the Mu have their own resistance and there are even a few humans who are against the Super Domination regime like Seki Ray Shiroe.

Even the human side of things reminds me very much of Nazi Germany and the anti-Semetic attitude of the rest of Europe at the time. All the humans listen blindly to the super computer, Mother, while she dictates every detail of their lives, from the level of the education to whether they get to marry or not. That may not be totally Hitler-like, but it certainly matches certain aspects of the Nazi regime. Educational Station E-1077 isn’t that far from the Hitler Youth, weeding out the elites of society from the inferior chaff, preparing new leaders and also new soldiers. Keith Anyan is the perfect example of this. He’s breed right down to the very last gene to be Mother’s perfect child. The foster parent system on Ataraxia and other planets in To Terra are similar to Nazi eugenics that attempted to promote Aryan dominance through careful marriage choices and create the perfect genetic and mental environment. There are even some hints that Mother is not what she seems or promotes,  much like Hitler’s supposed Jewish ancestry.

Of course, the comparison isn’t perfect. There’s no real equivalent to Jomy Marcus Shin, Physis or Soldier Blue as the Jewish resistance was scattered at best and the Jews in hiding certainly did not have one leader.  However, if I were to make a comparison on a smaller scale, you could equate them to being like the rabbi of a shtetl, many of whom kept their communities together after being taken to concentration camps. Such people were pillars of their communities no matter what happened to the people and Jomy and Solider Blue are similarly exalted by the Mu.

A quick edit: I forgot to add that the Mu’s spirit and drive to return to Terra is never extinguished, much like the Jewish spirit was never truly trampled no matter what indignities they faced.

Don’t get me wrong, To Terra isn’t about the Nazi regime or the Holocaust, but the similarities struck me so hard when I realized it that I can’t help but wonder if Keiko Takemiya researched the time period as an example for her totalitarian society and it’s victims. All of this is making me so eager to read the third volume and see if this similarity continues.

As for the the quality of the story and the art, both are amazing. Like I said before, I’m kicking myself for not finding volume three a little sooner before the MMF started. Takemiya’s writing kind of smooth in that way that I keep reading without noticing how far I’ve gotten or really noticing the craftsmanship of it. I think that’s the best kind of writing, where you just sit down, finish and go WOAH because you’re suddenly hit with awesome. The art is just what I want out of a scifi story. A lot of scifi manga decide to do something I like to call “detail porn” where every little technical aspect of a device is drawn. I’ve always thought that kind of art was overdone. Instead, Takemiya uses her shojo stylings and some of the aspects of the story to make the background art not just about the machines behind the people, which is great because this manga is very much about the people. Another thing I noticed was the way she differentiated between the soft, ethereal Mu and the somewhat harsher humans. The Mu all have light hair, clear eyes and slightly pointy but delicate features whereas the humans are either sharper or fleshier. I like how the Mu are sort of fairy-like while the humans are very real and kind of pudgy or something.

As for the editorial side, the translation is excellent and I noticed only a few mistakes like not erasing the Japanese text behind the English text. The biggest recurring problem I saw was with word flow that occasionally split out into the art. I kind of come from the school where art is top priority in manga and we’d best not interfere with it.

Overall? I’d recommend it. It’s a masterpiece of a different kind and it’s wonderful to see different kinds of classics released in English.

If you’d like to check out other Manga Moveable Feast entries on To Terra…, please check out Kate Dacey’s roundups at The Manga Critic.

5 Comments

Filed under manga

A Rare Review: Planetes vol.1

I got this volume of Planetes by Makoto Yukimura through Ed Sizemore of Comics Worth Reading via my Anime and Manga Blogger Letter Exchange. It actually wasn’t the first time I’d come across Planetes as my (really ridiculously awesome) college anime club showed the anime last year. I’d also gotten a chance to read vol. 1 while at TOKYOPOP, which is probably the one of the few remaining places to have a complete set. Sadly this manga will not be returning to print as it is an old Kodansha title and the two companies don’t do business together anymore.

Planetes (the manga) is about a team of debris collectors working in space 58 years into the future. Their job is to be the space-age garbage guys, except it can get pretty dangerous. The debris can ruin space ships and kill people, which we learn right at the beginning of the manga, as well as make it difficult for ships to pass between Earth and space.

This first volume shows us the lives, ambitions and motivations of the three main characters, Hachimaki, Fee and Yuri. Each chapter and arc carefully shows us each character’s normal lives in the most authentic way possible, despite the (relatively) unrealistic setting. Hachimaki has big plans for himself, but keeps getting hurt on the job, Yuri has deep emotional reasons for being a debris collector and Fee just wants a smoke every once in awhile in order to help her relax after a stressful day.

This attempt at showing us how life is in space is my favorite part of this manga. There is no pioneering some ridiculous new space mission, just what life would be like if you had a job as a debris collector in a time when humans were living in space like it was not a big deal. Drama comes from real issues like eco-terrorism,space-related diseases, families separated by jobs in space and the serious damage that space debris can do if left unchecked. If this isn’t what real life would be like up in space in the future, I don’t really know what life WOULD be like because Yukimura has done such a good job in painting a realistic scenario. He also uses the current history of space exploration as a means of creating this world, which is a nice touch. It certainly shows to me that Yukimura loves the idea of living in space and knows his stuff.

Planetes is all about the story-telling for me because the art just doesn’t really do it for me. That isn’t to say that the art isn’t serviceable or doesn’t have it’s good points, but overall, I cannot get very excited about it.  It’s plain old seinen art that has decent-looking characters and incredible technical detail and way too much dark tone. I don’t know if this is JUST me, but a page filled with various shades of super dark tones make things a little hard to read for me. I applaud the skill it takes to draw this well, but it’s not the most eye-appealing art out there either.

Now for the comparisons to the anime!

I have to say that I like the anime a little better. It starts off from the perspective of Ai Tanabe, a character who we don’t see in vol. 1 of the manga, but I am certain joins the cast in later volumes. She plays an important role in the anime of introducing the rest of the debris team to us through the eyes of someone completely new to life in space and to the main characters. Because of this, we get to learn as she learns instead of just being thrown into this new society in space at a very dramatic flashback in the manga.

While Ai’s importance as a main character lessens in the anime over time, she also provides us with a bit of levity when it’s needed. In comparison, the manga is just a huge chunk of heaviness. I missed Ai even though the first volume was chock with some of my favorite stories, because Ai would come in with her cluelessness and cheerfulness, the audience has something to smile about. There’s no character in this first volume like her that allows us to do that. She makes the pacing a bit better in the anime and does wonders for people who aren’t that into seinen,or serious moods as well. She’s the reason why a girl like me has no problems sitting down to watch or read this series in the first place.

I can see why this manga wasn’t as popular as it should have been. It’s hard to digest, the art isn’t that terrific and it came out at a time when the majority of Americans as manga consumers weren’t quite ready to accept something with ridiculous depth and not much else. It makes me sad, but I can’t help it.

I would like to recommend this manga, but I feel that it’s a little hard to recommend it ALONE and JUST after this first volume. This volume alone isn’t enough to hook me on the series (assuming I was reading it before I’d seen the anime, that is)  so I would give it another few volumes.  If you’re able to get your hands on copies of Planetes, go find a store that sells the anime too.  Watch the anime first and THEN dive into this manga. You will enjoy the anime a lot better, but you will also enjoy the manga little bit better than if you would alone or before watching the anime. I would most certainly recommend the anime ANYTIME because it is quite fun and is of a higher quality than your average futuristic space anime out right now.

Thank you again to Ed Sizemore for giving me this copy of Planetes. I certainly enjoyed it IMMENSELY, but for the sake of this review I had to be truthful. I do rather hope that all of you buy both the anime and manga because I feel it’s worth it.

6 Comments

Filed under manga