A week or so ago, I was invited over to my friend's place to hang out. There, I pretty much just sat and read "Toward the Terra" vol.1 while my friends were hanging out.
I had read "Toward the Terra" (Keiko Takemiya) many years ago, possibly during my last year of high school. Yeah, that's a while ago. I remember being intrigued by the TV anime series that aired around that time, and got a hold of the original comics (in Japanese). I think I let go of the comics when I left for Canada.
It surprises me how I could've forgotten. This is such a sophisticated, intense story. And as I reread it, it really hit me how innovative and challenging this must have been in the 70s when it was first released, because it is still so relevant and powerful today.
"Toward the Terra" is an epic science fiction about Jomy, a young boy who is chosen as the leader of the Mu (a race of ESP-powered humans), and his struggles with trying to bring peace between the humans and Mu while simultaneously trying to return to Terra, the homeland. This is mirrored by Keith Anyan's story, who is a 'perfect' human in the human world - he has his own struggles with the government/social organization system that he must confront as he climbs up the social ladder.
There are many heavy themes in the story - social oppression, racism, activism, morality, playing god, ableism, classism, questioning modernization and technology - that are not 'typical' of shojo manga stories. It is about standing up for yourself, about knowing the story of both oppressor and oppressed, and about the strenuous, painful search for identity. It is intense and emotionally charged, and quite possibly trigger-y for some people.
In first semester, I wrote a paper that compared a contemporary shojo manga with a 'classic' shojo manga, Hi Izuru Tokoro no Tenshi (Ryoko Yamagishi). "Toward the Terra" came just before Hi Izuru... and shares the same social background of when shojo manga as a genre was in its formative (and revolutionary) years. The masterpieces from that era introduced innovative storytelling and "unconventional" plot/ stories that deviated from 'normal' shojo manga as if to break free of the constraints of the shojo genre.
"Toward the Terra" is a challenging, intense, and therefore extremely engaging story because it was so fresh and did not pander to the audience (or look down on them). Rather, it presented a social commentary through beautiful and flawed characters that makes it so intriguing and appealing - the readers learn and grow along with the characters as they are led through the futuristic utopic (dystopic?) world.
Now all I want to do is read the entire thing (hopefully in Japanese). Ok maybe I'll give in and just go to the nearest bookstore to get the English version.
((I was pleasantly surprised with the English version I read at my friend's place. The translation was actually quite good! I definitely won't mind reading it in English if it's from that publisher, but I would still prefer the original Japanese one... that's just my personal preference.))