TERRA FORMARS: A BIZZARE YET FUN APOCALYPTIC BUG WARS; OKINAWA 2016 REVIEW
Director: Takashi Miike
Production Company: OLM, Inc., 2016
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Japan
Selling more than 15 million issues since its first release in 2011, the original mega-popular manga series created by Yu Sasuga (writer) and Kenichi Tachibana (illustrator) might not be as popular as the other fantasy manga outside Japan. Yet to some, mostly its fans, the star-studded fest, hi-profile VFX we’ve seen from the trailer and the name Takashi Miike might be one of the most anticipated Japanese movie this year. With Miike’s two sides of film style, extreme showcases like ‘Audition’ to even ‘Crows Zero’ and kids-friendly ‘Ninja Kids’, it’s also exciting to see how he will be landing in his rare sci-fi genre and colonized Mars in ‘Terra Formars’.
In the 21st century, as a solution to Earth’s over-population crisis, humankind has chosen to colonize Mars by sending mosses and cockroaches to terraform the planet. The failure of first mission after 500 years now have left the last ‘chosen ones’; 15 outcast and misfit criminals recruited by eccentric scientist Dr. Honda (Shun Oguri) in a suicide mission to exterminate those previous life forms; only to discover they had been genetically modified with insect-power to fight the violently mutated and decapitating creatures called ‘Terraformars’. It’s now a bugs – mutants battle royale in Mars.
Adapting the ‘Bugs 2’ story arc of the manga, ‘Terra Formars’ had layered interactions of various characters; from a convicted killer Shokichi Komachi (Hideaki Ito) who joined the crew to protect his sister Nanao Akita (Emi Takei), corrupt cop Moriki Asuka (Rinko Kikuchi), an eccentric terrorist God Lee (Kane Kosugi) to a protrude captain Dojima Keisuke (Masaya Kato) and Rila Fukushima as Sakakibara, the new original character, which are something to look at though some were underused.
The high concept of the manga adaptation also comes smooth with its set and production design, from the opening part that resembles Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner to apocalyptic Mars set mostly shot in Iceland with the film’s joint production. Character design by Katsuya Terada and VFX supervisor Kaori Otagaki are the other top notch things that shaped the terra formars with a funny look which resembles the source but scary in gestures, especially the decapitating parts without being bloody-gore. Being a black-comical violence, fun too, it’s not yet ‘Starship Troopers’, but if it was meant to bring out the Katsaridaphobia (extreme fear of cockroaches) out of you, then it really works.
Add the nice theme song, ‘Break of Dawn’ by J Soul Brothers (3rd generation), over these exciting marks, it’s Miike’s way to transform the manga into the live action apocalyptic wars which keep ‘Terra Formars’ interesting to watch. Yes, there were only thin plots to deliver the repetitive boom-bang battle royale, but there were enough parts of manga style of superhuman ensembles with the monstrous portion of bug wars mixed into one quite disturbing fiction we’ve rarely seen in any manga adaptations. On the last note, Miike successfully avoids the racist criticism in the manga source, if you ever read about it. Might work better for fans, but had some points to keep it interesting to watch. A bizzare – yet fun – apocalyptic bug wars. (dan)