Okay, there are a lot of vampire anime out there. Like, a whole lot. There’s also a lot of military anime out there... again, a whole lot. But what about vampire military anime? While there are a few for sure, the overlap is not that high. This season, Mars Red adds another entry onto the list!
Mars Red is a currently airing anime based on a successful manga that only began publishing in 2019. It's set in 1920s Japan, where there has been a rise in vampire attacks and a strange artificial blood source called Ascra has surfaced. To find the source of Ascra and deal with the vampires, the Japanese military puts together a special unit, Code Zero, made up of vampires themselves! It’s fighting fire with fire as these vampires try to put an end to the vampire crisis in Tokyo.
Mars Red is just three episodes in right now, but here are our first impressions!
Please be aware of mild spoilers ahead.
Pro: The Setting
1920s Japan is not a popular setting. Historical, Edo-style Japan, sure. 1920s America, we’ve got it. But 1920s Japan, when things were beginning to modernise but tradition was still holding on strong? That’s a lot more rare to see. Mars Red has some great views of Tokyo during that time period, and the setting affects the clothing, weapons, and architecture which all lend themselves to the overall atmosphere of the anime. It’s really cool to see something different!
Pro: Opening/Ending Themes
Okay, so the opening and ending themes may not be about the anime itself, but they definitely affect our feelings when we are watching! The opening song, “Seimei no Aria,” is performed by Wagakki Band, and the ending song, “ON MY OWN,” is by HYDE. These two artists are huge in the Japanese music scene, and rarely do anime music. It’s really special that they’re performing the music for Mars Red, and both songs should be added to your playlist ASAP (they’re already on ours).
Pro: Doesn’t Waste Time on Lore
Most people know the basics of vampire lore; they burn up in the sun, they drink blood to survive, they are basically immortal, they can turn humans into vampires with their bite. We do not have to be told this kind of information because we already know it. The only time that vampire lore needs to be explained is when something new is being added or twisted. So far, Mars Red follows very traditional vampire lore, just in a Japanese setting. Thankfully, the anime does not waste time explaining vampire lore unnecessarily. We already know it, so Mars Red can focus on its own plot and characters instead of rehashing age-old information.
Con: Slow Pacing
While Mars Red has had a little bit of action in the form of some short-lived fight scenes, it’s also had a lot of talking. And most of that talking has been lore-heavy, which means it can get a bit boring at times. The anime has thus had a bit of a slow start, only touching on the main plot a little bit, so we have our fingers crossed for more vampire action and fight scenes in the coming episodes to liven things up!
Con: Lack of Character Introduction
Mars Red has quite a few characters, but only the main one, Yoshinobu Maeda, has had very much information given about him. Several of the other members of Code Zero have cool designs and seem to be quite interesting, but Mars Red had spent little time developing them. Many have only said their name once or twice, so it’s hard to remember them. Mars Red will only have 13 episodes but we hope that some of the side characters will get a bit more development before the end of it.
Overall, we have been enjoying Mars Red so far. The pacing has been a little slow, but it’s also a more mature, serious anime. We can get behind a slow burn as long as there’s a promise of more to come later! If you’re looking for an anime that is more like a live-action drama in style and story—but with the supernatural twist of vampires!—Mars Red is worth at least trying. We are looking forward to seeing where the rest of the season takes us and learning more about the characters along the way.
Are you watching Mars Red? What are your first impressions? Are you going to keep watching, or have you decided to drop it? Did we convince you to give it a try?—or maybe to avoid it, if it’s not your thing? Drop us a comment!