Review Mars Red review

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Review

Mars Red is an action/military, vampire series produced by the studio Signal.MD. Me being a sucker for vampire series I couldn’t help but give this a look and I was encouraged when reading the premise of the show. Mars Red is set in Tokyo during the 1920s and follows a special vampire unit led by Yoshinobu Maeda. This vampire unit is an experimental team that is deployed to undertake covert vampire hunting missions. It is also assigned the additional task of procuring additional vampires into the military.

On paper it would seem Mars Red has a lot going for it, right? Good setup for a plot, potential for both action, intrigue and perhaps a unique look on the vampire genre not to mention the 20s setting which could lead to atheistically pleasing scenes. So, does it deliver on this early promise? For the most part my answer would be no. You see whilst Mars Red does indeed have an interesting start albeit a slow building plot with decent character development given to Yoshinobu the series suffers from pacing issues throughout.

There are many parts in the anime when the series will get bogged down on scenes that don’t carry much relevance later on. On the other end, when big events do occur there is a tendency for these moments to go in a flash of an eye which instead of heightening the key scene only serves to undermine them as ultimately it is over so quick you think you either missed something or you are left wondering: is that it? This feeling is pretty grating as quite often there is quite a long lead time leading up to those big events. This dynamic occurs on two occasions once during the midpoint of the series and another near the end. Out of the two it is especially frustrating at the end as the series makes it a thing to build up to this climactic event only for it to end quickly. It really left me wondering what happened and why did they do that?

In all, I do not think the story overall was a bad one but it was heavily stifled by poor pacing and if it was delivered in a more consistent manner with a greater emphasis on spending time on the things that mattered rather than bits that were nice to have then it would have been a considerably better show.

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In terms of characters Mars Red does relatively well but again even here the early potential we experience is not ultimately delivered on. For example, we are introduced to Yoshinobu’s backstory early in the show and the things mentioned here are repeatedly referred to and have a large impact on future events in Mars Red. In addition, Yoshinobu’s personality and outlooks make you want to know more and he is the main you want to learn more about. Unfortunately, this is not built upon and character growth for him becomes stunted after a certain point.

On the plus side the members of his vampire unit are explored in greater detail with each member facing their own trials and demons providing substance that gives us a reason to sympathise with them. Whilst this character development does redeem some of the earlier shortcomings, I cannot help but feel if they focused more on Yoshinobu’s character development the series would have fared far better. It is frustrating because I have seen this aspect of development utilised well in the anime Ga-Rei Zero. In that series there was a character not too dissimilar to Yoshinobu and that character turned out to be one of the most memorable characters I can remember.

In terms of animation the quality is pretty good at the beginning however as we progress through the series there was a noticeable decline in quality. More disappointing than that however was many of the action scenes were poorly done. Yes, I can understand vampire action can be a little faster than normal but the way it was depicted seemed like a copout and the animation tricks deployed were clearly in favour of the budget rather than delivering an enjoyable experience.

One thing worth mentioning is in the dub many of the vampires have Scottish accents which is the first I have heard in an anime series. I thought it was a nice touch and I liked it. I can understand however this not being to everyone’s cup of tea though. Where it scores higher though is the opening and ending songs. Whilst the opening song of Aria of Life by Wagakki Band is pretty good it is the ending track On My Own by Hyde that really sticks out. In a way this great track stands out as being the one great thing in an otherwise very average to mediocre series.

Note: You may need to turn the volume up as the sound on this video is rather low.

Overall, I would say that Mars Red is a series that promises much but ultimately delivers little. It is frustrating because the basic backstory is good and you can see potential but the way the plot is executed leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest issue with Mars Red is the pacing which can at times make the series drag but at other moments it will be rushed. This rush undermines the series further because it serves to diminish a lot of the key moments. If Mars Red had omitted some of the less important scenes and gave more weight to the key moments it would have done better. I also felt that Mars Red should have given more time in developing Yoshinobu further. He was initially the key character holding this show together and if they spent more time developing him, I think Mars Red would have benefited greatly. As it is these significant issues stifled the series and because of this I cannot recommend watching Mars Red as it is distinctly average.

Story 5 – Good start but is hampered by poor pacing. If it could deliver better pacing then the story would be immeasurably be better. I also think the finale would have had a far greater impact if they spent more time developing key characters.

Character 6 – Yoshinobu had potential but like the story, this potential was not delivered on. On the plus side the vampires in the special unit are explored more fully so Mars Red redeems itself somewhat in this area.

Animation 5 – Starts out good but then deteriorates later in the series. Battle scene animation is particularly disappointing. Op is good and the real standout is in Ed.

Overall 5 – Very average show that could have been good even great. The flaws are too significant to overlook. If you have a thing for grand gestures or are into English literature you may get more mileage out of Mars Red as that is recurring theme in the series however, I question if even that is enough to recommend this show. The spring season of 2021 was a good one and there are better series to watch than Mars Red.
 
I am not going to write as many words and hardly any positive ones. Yes, the show started interesting, but very quickly is started going nowhere. I waited and waited for the plot to pick up and somehow it never did. And then suddenly it was over.

SPOILERS ahead, so you be warned.

Essentially, I got the feeling that this series is parasitizing on the success of Demon Slayer. Both series are set in 1920 give and take and both have vampires as a central theme. Both try to be different. But whereas Demon Slayer succeeds, Red Mars is literally just a cheap promise.

Things that particularly rubbed me the wrong way were for example:
1. whats the point of turning Maeda into a vampire, if he never gets to do anything good and dies pretty much in vain 3 episodes later?
2. What purpose served Tenmaya? I thought his quirkiness was going to be explored deeper and I was sorely disappointed.
3. Was there even a anti vamp unit 16? The members of the unit didnt get along or worked together, everybody was kind of doing their own thing and in the end they all went separate ways in the most anticlimatic manner.

4. But more importantly.... and this might be an odd question to ask: what happened in this show? Honestly, I cant say. Yes, there were vampires, there was some obscure scheming, there were more vampires. In the end nothing got resolved and everybody just went their seperate ways. Uhmmm, ok.
 
I am not going to write as many words and hardly any positive ones. Yes, the show started interesting, but very quickly is started going nowhere. I waited and waited for the plot to pick up and somehow it never did. And then suddenly it was over.

SPOILERS ahead, so you be warned.

Essentially, I got the feeling that this series is parasitizing on the success of Demon Slayer. Both series are set in 1920 give and take and both have vampires as a central theme. Both try to be different. But whereas Demon Slayer succeeds, Red Mars is literally just a cheap promise.

Things that particularly rubbed me the wrong way were for example:
1. whats the point of turning Maeda into a vampire, if he never gets to do anything good and dies pretty much in vain 3 episodes later?
2. What purpose served Tenmaya? I thought his quirkiness was going to be explored deeper and I was sorely disappointed.
3. Was there even a anti vamp unit 16? The members of the unit didnt get along or worked together, everybody was kind of doing their own thing and in the end they all went separate ways in the most anticlimatic manner.

4. But more importantly.... and this might be an odd question to ask: what happened in this show? Honestly, I cant say. Yes, there were vampires, there was some obscure scheming, there were more vampires. In the end nothing got resolved and everybody just went their seperate ways. Uhmmm, ok.
This post will be spoiler filled so open the spoiler tag at your own risk!

It was a curious direction to take. I don't think turning him into a vampire was a bad move per say but they needed to spend a lot more time exploring why his values changed and why he was in effect forced to do what he did. Maybe if they had inserted a backstory of a previous vampire betrayal or perhaps a vampire did such a heinous act, he lost all faith in them. They needed to provide some reason as to why he went from supporting the vampire unit so strongly to wanting to kill vampires at all costs. Yes I understand the reason given was that he was simply following the wishes of his master but to me that is a really lame excuse.

It is not quite the same but in Ga Rei one of the characters does a 180 turn when it came to changing their moral values however this change in character was much more believable because the series spent time explaining why the character changed their outlook in life. Because of this explanation, you understood where the person was coming from and could relate to them. This all meant that the climatic fight at the end was much more poignant and tragic because you could root for both characters; the senpai and pupil. If Mars Red had tried to make a better job of explaining the sudden change in Maeda then that scene would have been far more memorable. All this was only made worse by the fact that they removed one of the major antagonists making it seem like this final fight was simply tacked on to include a 13th episode.

For points two and three I think this stems from the lack of focus this series had. As for four a big thrust of the series was centred around the various military units trying to gain favour with their team performance. The vampire unit was supposed to be the main elite force of the Japanese army but various factions wanted to outmanoeuvre Maeda for supremacy. Then the British agent wanted to control the Japanese army by stealth by assisting in creating another vampire unit. He was even on the cusp of gaining control but then the creators suddenly remembered that the climactic battle between Maeda and vampire was supposed to make place so the Rufus had to go. Again, the same issue is propping up; the series lacked a sense of focus and direction as to what it wanted to be.
 
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