Hi everyone, Irina and I decided to collaborate on a couple of shows this season and the first one to air an episode was Mars Red. Irina will be in bold for the review.
Set in the Taisho era of Japan, one we’ve visited in a number of previous anime occasions, Mars Red sets up an alternate version of reality where vampires are real and so the Japanese government is creating a unit in the army to take down vampiric forces. Though if you are expecting a brawl and a bloodbath you aren’t going to find it in this quieter, more contemplative first episode. While this wasn’t what I expected going in, I found myself drawn into the narrative, particularly through Maeda’s character, and by the time the end credits rolled I was already looking forward to the next episode.
How did you find this premiere, Irina?
You know if I had to sum it up in one word, I found this episode very Theatrical. In many ways, this looked like something that could have been shown live on a stage and that’s quite the achievement for an anime. Everything from the presentation, to the pacing to the voice acting had this deliberate quality that I associate with theater.
Of course Maeda’s monologue which served both as a metaphorical narrator and a sort of Greek chorus also added to the impression.
I will admit, at the end of the episode I actually looked up who the director was for this series (and not just to do the series credit for my post) but because I wanted to know if I’d watched anything else they’d worked on. I really enjoyed the way we’d be drawn in close to characters, the slightly odd movements of their head or feet, before the perspective would shift out and we’d see the scene at large. I liked that in the episode climax where what could have been a fairly over-wrought character moment occurred, this anime just let the moment pass simply and quietly and then moved on, leaving the audience to consider, or not, the choice that character made. Basically, I thought the episode was really well put together.
Well??? Don’t leave us in suspense! Who was the director? Has he done anything we’ve seen?
Weirdly enough, no. MAL has the director listed as Kouhei Hatano and looking at his credits he’s done storyboard work on a few anime I’ve watched (C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, Dance in the Vampire Bund) and he’s been an episode director and assistant director on a bunch of stuff including Tsuritama, but I was expecting to see a somewhat longer listing of credits.
I have to say the last thing I was expecting when I saw a vampire themed sci-fi anime was to be watching a terse and somewhat dour political drama. And I’m not angry about it. There is a little something that is keeping me cautious. Maybe a touch of pretense that makes me fear the series has aspirations beyond its means. But I am definitely intrigued. I’m curious if this serious and precise tone will be kept up for the rest of the series.
I agree, there is definitely the concern that maybe this one has got some aspiration and it may or may not achieve them. But I’m definitely curious to see if it can or even if it just decides to go a different way.
There seems to be a less is more mentality to a lot of this episode. Other than one character, most of the human characters are fairly quiet and seem to use words relatively economically. This means the audience isn’t being spoon-fed massive info-dumps of information through unnatural conversations, but rather we get small pieces of info scattered in amongst other interactions and between that and the visuals we start to put together a picture of this setting, these characters, and start to draw conclusions about where the story might go. Whether any of our current thoughts turn out to be right or whether this anime takes us in a wholly unpredictable direction is yet to be seen.
They are sticking to classic vampire lore. Vampires are people who have been turned and bite people on their necks. They can’t go in the sunlight or else they burn up. The whole spiel. The great advantage to not changing up lore to make it more unique or something, is that you can cut out a lot of exposition.
Like I know exactly what the vampires in this universe are and just from the buildings, cars and uniforms I have a pretty good idea of the era and type of people we are dealing with. I don’t know all the details and there was a lot left to discover but I wasn’t confused or having a hard time following what was happening either.
This first episode definitely wasn’t what I expected and yet I’m actually kind of glad. Given the era and the idea of vampire fighting we could have ended up with a story that more or less ended up looking and feeling like Sirius the Jaeger (set in 1930 and spending a lot of time in Japan). Right from episode one, Mars Red seems to have established its own identity and I look forward to what it will do.
I’m still very curious to see how that science fiction element will fit into this whole thing. For the moment all we’ve seen is the supernatural aspect so I’m wondering if we’re going to get some retro spaceships or something along those lines. I hope so!
MAL isn’t listing this one as a sci-fi so genuinely not sure on that one.
Images from: Mars Red. Dir. S Sadamitsu. Signal.MD. 2021
Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi
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