The most insidious kind of racism in media is the kind that exists just under the radar. The kind that’s loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to be seen. Maybe the writing of a show happens to portray all Asian men as effeminate and ineffectual weaklings, perhaps all black characters in a movie just happen to be layabout brutes with no thoughts or original ideas of their own. Yes, racism in media is most potent when it’s hard to spot, yet is simultaneously clear as day. The racism in the manga and anime series Terra Formars by Yū Sasuga isn’t like that at all. There is no subtlety to it, it serves no discernible agenda, and is the purest form of stupid; however with that said, it’s also kind of hilarious.
The plot for this series is the age old “humanity screwed up the Earth” story. Centuries ago (which is the 21st century as this is a sci-fi series that takes place in the distant future), humans decided to try terraforming Mars in an effort to make it inhabitable in the event that the Earth stops being so. Part of the process involved sending roaches up there (since they apparently spread algae), and because this is a manga, those roaches have evolved into giant monsters. These super evolved roaches (known as terraformars, the manga’s namesake) are what I assume to be the most terrifying thing imaginable to your average manga reader…
Blatant black caricatures! Approximately 2 meters tall, these dark skinned, nappy haired “roaches” are characterized by their ability to run incredibly fast, hit things incredibly hard, and be incredibly aggressive to humans. The main goal of our heroes in this series is to slaughter all the savage native roaches in order for their race to colonize Mars. To them, this mission is of grave significance, one can almost characterize it as a burden of sorts. To truly grasp what our righteous heroes are dealing with here, why don’t you have a look at some screenshots from the manga/anime:
These savage brutes seem to favour firing their guns with a side grip, no doubt some sort of strange ritual these thugs have concocted that is beyond our comprehension. It’s best not to think about it, although that gun gripping method seems sort of familiar…
Savages walking across an empty field in a land that does not belong to them! Well, sure they lived their first, but they’re clearly less advanced than the humans coming in right? Obviously, this means their existence is worthless, so the only sensible thing to do is exterminate them all!
This savage apparently likes to accessorize! And check out that massive phallic cannon conspicuously situated between its legs… Nope, nothing of note in this picture! Moving on…
That fiend! Look at him, brandishing that poor humans head and running as if he was some sort of athlete. The particular athletic activity he is emulating escapes me, but the NERVE of him.
… The less said about this image, the better.
Okay, okay, so I’m sure most of you get the picture by now. This manga has some of the most clearly racist imagery that’s considered acceptable today, but what if it’s all a coincidence? Maybe the writer and artist are subconsciously doing things this way without realizing any of the deeper implications? I mean, you could reasonably see it that way, until you find out who the author dubbed the “Apex of Mankind”.
Meet Joseph Gustav Newton, a character described by the author as “Second only to God” and “#1”. He’s humanity’s deadliest roach killer and the product of centuries of selective breeding. He rides into battle shirtless, slaying every roach in his wake, and any woman who lays eyes on him apparently. He’s a genius, his body is perfectly sculpted, he’s capable of effortlessly killing his “black foe” (a phrase used to describe the mutant roaches) in combat, and he’s highly charismatic. This man truly is a perfect human being (he’d move Heinrich Himmler to tears). Usually in fiction, eugenics is depicted in a negative light. With the aspirations of certain individuals in history, one should think that eugenics is ultimately an abominable endeavour, yet here it is portrayed in a disturbingly positive light. Joseph is charming, laid back at times, serious when appropriate, and above all, he’s powerful beyond measure. One would think that a person whose existence was the work of several teams of men seeking to achieve a single goal would have a lot of baggage, but no, the man is pretty much flawless. I don’t know what else to say but that it sheds a lot of light on the mindset of this writer.
Even with all of that said, there are still a lot of people out there who would readily defend whatever passes for this manga’s integrity. They will cite the existence of the human black characters of this manga such as Wolf Redfield and Victoria Wood.
Victoria (right) here is characterized as a thieving opportunistic slime ball, while Wolf (left) is, well pretty much a non-entity actually. He can’t fight (he’s certainly no Joseph Gustav Newton!), and he isn’t particularly relevant, but most importantly, he doesn’t diminish any of the obvious racist content on display here. His very existence is a mere smokescreen, the writing equivalent of “having a black friend”. He is pretty much meaningless in the discussion of this manga and anime series. I mean, this is a series that prominently features two German characters named “Adolf” and “Eva” who share a close relationship, and are portrayed in an overwhelmingly positive positive light. That on its own shouldn’t mean anything, but in the face of all that other stuff… I mean come on.
Besides all the racist imagery, this manga/anime series is also monstrously sexist and weirdly offensive in its portrayal of Chinese characters (they’re mostly unscrupulous schemers in this). I would tell you to stay away if it wasn’t so funny in its overt offensiveness. Seriously, this manga/anime is an abomination, but it’s the kind of abomination that you can laugh at with your friends, similar to a B-movie. I will say though that it’s still a little unsettling how hugely successful this is in Japan. I guess Joseph Gustav Newton really struck a chord with folks over there huh?