Vampires are a dime a dozen, so what does it take to make a bloodsucker show stand out? MARS RED aptly blends a period piece, the anxiety of Westernization, and a growing military with all the showmanship of the theatrical stage. Is it too obtuse for genre enthusiasts or just what vamp fans need?
This series is streaming on Funimation
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the movie ahead.
Vampires reciting Salom: for when Carmilla references just aren't enough.
But yeah, today we're covering MARS RED, the surprisingly esoteric supernatural action show of the season. And since I don't have your particular bias against the undead, I'm happy to say I'm really digging this show so far!
Secret vampire government taskforce in Taisho-era Japan....My editor would kindly appreciate for me to expand a bit more, I'm told.
So, we have a secret vampire government taskforce in Taisho-era Japan. The main character, Maeda, is the head of a team of vampires who are the prototype of a proposed initiative for vampiric soldiers for Japan's armed forces. He's in charge of a zany team of two soldiers, a mad scientist, and a weird loner. He's human; the rest are blood-suckers.
I feel like a jerk for applauding such a detail for a first episode (I swear, this isn't performative damnation by faint praise), but this is a textbook case of showing and not telling and it's sad that this show made it look so effortless when so many other shows can barely pull it off. I live for this kind of lowkey, smart storytelling. Like, snark aside: I would just recommend this one episode to people because it's such a good stand-alone episode.
That said, I do get it if people were put off by that kind of intro. Even as someone who was paid to pay attention, it took me three viewings to realize Maeda has a prosthetic arm because it's established with a single piece of dialogue thirty-odd minutes before it ever becomes relevant.
And not just the fact that this blond obviously-undead twerp is hanging around like he got lost on his way to Anne Rice's house.
GEE, I WONDER IF THIS LITTLE BLOND FUCKER WITH THE NOCTURNAL PUPILS IS A VAMPIRE. I FUCKING WONDER, MARS RED.
He does have a militaristic streak that would be worrisome if it were more prevalent, talking about stuff like how people have gotten soft in peacetime. But yeah, he does have a refreshing bit of humanism towards his team of leeches.
I'll grant MARS RED that it's nowhere near as boring as Noblesse in any capacity. But much like Noblesse, the show is at its best when the characters are allowed to be themselves and breathe. The actual "action plot" is the least interesting thing about this show.
...Just a thought.
It's still left a mystery what, if anything, they're trying to accomplish, but it holds potential for some interesting historical commentary. Like hey, British aristocrats smuggling drugs into an East Asian country to undermine the populace? That sure sounds familiar.
I know my tastes are unique, so my griping aside I can confidently say people are really gonna get a kick out of MARS RED. The visuals are sumptuous, the writing is nice when it delves into the emotional core of the cast, and the music is pretty good too. Also vampires, folks like vampires I guess.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero