Towards the Terra

How does the passage of time affect a movie? Some films are glaring examples of a particular period, whereas others seem to stand still. Even the best of these, though, tend to have a few nitpick points. 2001 and Star Wars, for instance, take us to faraway worlds, but they still have just enough of the era in which they were produced to occasionally distract us now. Such is the case with Towards The Terra, a 1980 production that has a strong story and plot, along with good characterization, that is weakened only by those elements that harken back to 70s animation.

Mankind has poisoned Earth with pollution, and the human race has fled for distant parts in the galaxy to wait for Terra to heal itself. 500 years have elapsed, and society is rigidly controlled by computers that dictate virtually everything about a person's life. Although most humans simply come to accept this as a way of life, there are others that don't. One is Jomy Shin, a young boy on the eve of his fourteenth birthday. He is about to go through Waking Day, where the young have all of their unimportant memories erased and start following the computer's destiny for them. Jomy is a free spirit, though, and he balks at having to grow up. Before his birthday is out, however, he discovers a terrible secret that will make him an outcast from the human race and guide him for the next 20 years...until he can reach home.

I hate to go into too much detail about this film, simply because discovery is part of the whole story. Although it starts with a basis in Orwellian philosophy, it is not all-consuming, and it's a jumping point for the story itself. The characters are interesting, and the story is focused enough that you get to know them rather well for a two hour movie. Although action sequences exist in the movie, they only serve to move the plot itself--it's a talkie drama, not standard action sci-fi.

Now for the drawbacks...they are slight to me, but they could possibly affect other viewers seriously. The film looks like a 70s film. The characters look like they were designed in that era, not all that different from the style seen in Harlock or GoShogun. They lack the exaggeration of the current style seen in anime. There is also a thankfully short breach into 70s music (but only for maybe 40 seconds). A couple of scenes also seem vaguely out of place, especially those that attempt to visualize psychic powers. Those who can't stand older anime should take this as a warning--stay away.

I enjoyed Towards The Terra far more than I expected. It is slow, yet fascinating, and it quickly grew on me. If you like science fiction drama, don't mind somewhat downbeat endings, and can look past older art styles, you're in for a nice surprise.

Towards the Terra -- mild violence, brief (male) nudity -- A-