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.
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.
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.