Japan, 1923. Normal people go about their days with little to no idea of the horrors that exist in the shadows and hunt in the night: Vampires. When these creatures of the night become alarmingly more active, the government decides to fight fire with fire.
“MARS RED” tells the story of the Japanese Military and their creation of a Vampire Unit known as “Code Zero” that is tasked with capturing or eliminating vampires that put the citizens at risk. However, as their work begins, it becomes clear that there are far more interconnected threads to this problem than anyone anticipated.
With lots of great anime series premiering or continuing this season, it’s incredibly likely some lesser-known gems may have been overlooked. In an attempt to fix that, we’re going to take a look at one such series here: “MARS RED”.
“MARS RED” is a supernatural shounen series featuring Vampires set during the brief period between the First and Second World Wars, referred to as the Taisho Period in Japan. Based on the stage play of the same name by Bun-O Fujisawa, this series presents a fresh setting and interesting premise that may be just what you need to get a break from the newest Harem Isekai or Shounen Tournament.
I do have to admit that I, personally, was unimpressed with the first episode. It seemed mildly confusing as nothing was explicitly explained; however, I am glad I gave it another chance. The second episode and beyond have been fascinating and definitely worth the watch. Don’t believe me just yet? Keep reading!
Setting and Background
As I mentioned, the series takes place in 1923 during the Taisho period in Japan. Historically, Japan has just emerged victorious from the First World War alongside the Allied Powers of the West. Domestically, they began to see political and governmental changes of varying degrees. On such a background, it makes sense that the Japanese would be fearful of losing their position of power and would work to stop everything that might pose a threat to that.
Enter the fictional elements of “MARS RED”. In this version of history, Vampires exist and are a hidden threat to humanity. In this world, Vampires exist in Classes: S-Class, A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, D-Class, and Unranked. A Vampire’s Class corresponds to its relative power and capabilities.
However, Class cannot increase over time, even if the Vampire’s abilities do. A Vampire’s Class is derived from its ‘parent,’ the person who infected them. If an S-Class vampire successfully infects someone, that person becomes an A-Class Vampire, and so on. The closer to S-Class a vampire is, the stronger they are.
In “MARS RED,” Japan has been able to weaponize vampires despite the dangers associated with them. For twenty years, Lieutenant General Nakajima has been working on Special Forces Unit 16, a Vampire Unit. This unit aims to counter any Vampiric threats to the country while also providing an edge for Japan in a unique way. Four vampires of different Classes and a human who leads them make up Special Forces Unit 16, also called Code Zero. Next, let’s take a look at who they are.
The first character we meet is Lieutenant Colonel Yoshinobu Maeda, the human leader of Code Zero. The series does not provide a lot of information on him at first. We do know he is a distinguished military leader who has faced vampires before. He is highly aware of the abilities of vampires and how to counter them. This and his ability to face vampires in battle have led to his status as an “Elite Human.”
Next, we meet the Vampires themselves. First up is Suwa, a C-Class who is 300 years old. He became a Vampire around the end of the Sengoku period in his early teens. His speed and power are incredible. He is the least social of Code Zero, often heading out on his own and generally minding his own business.
A-Class Vampire Shutaro Kurusu is the highest-ranked in Code Zero. Despite that, Kurusu is somewhat reluctant to engage in combat, a weakness he will need to overcome. His abilities are great, but he is still learning. When we first meet him, we see him struggling to come to terms with his undeath and inhumanity.
Next is Takeuchi, my personal favorite. He is a D-Class who is essentially a mad scientist. He develops tools, weapons, and more for Code Zero. Although he is not very combat-oriented, Takeuchi performs operations with the rest of Code Zero. His main desire is to continue to research and experiment forever, so he sees his immortality as a wonderful gift.
The lowest-ranked vampire on the team is Tokuichi Yamagami. As an Unranked, many of his skills are inferior to the others. Since he was formerly a higher ranking and influential member of the military, his new status as a bottom-tier Vampire continuously grates on him. However, we do get to see him make use of his ability as Unranked to track higher-level Vampires.
MARS RED: Vampires and War
Now, we’ll look at the series itself. “MARS RED” premiered on April 6th at 1:59 JST (that’s UTC+9) and will have 13 episodes. As we mentioned, it’s based on the stage play by the same name written by Bun-o Fujisawa. It features voice talent from Junichi Suwabe (Maeda in “MARS RED”, Shouta Aizawa in “My Hero Academia”), Kenichi Suzumura (Suwa, Kakashi Hatake in “Naruto: Shippuuden”), Akira Ishida (Takeuchi, Gaara in “Naruto”), Tasuku Hatanaka (Kurusu, Denki Kaminari in “My Hero Academia”), and Kouichi Yamadera (Yamagami, Spike Spiegel in “Cowboy Bebop”).
The intro is beautiful with the opening theme “Seimei no Aria” performed by Wagakki Band. The ending is just as good with the song “ON MY OWN” performed by Hyde, a former member of L’Arc-en-Ciel (the band I know well for “Ready Steady Go” of “Fullmetal Alchemist”). Signal M.D. which is the studio that is also responsible for this season’s “Dragon Goes House Hunting” produces “MARS RED”. Jun’ichi Fujisaku, the Executive Producer of Moriarty the Patriot, is also responsible for the scriptwriting for “MARS RED”.
As you can see, “MARS RED” has talent and power behind it. This crew combined with a fresh premise concerning Vampires will no doubt make for a fantastic smaller anime.
Check out “MARS RED” on Funimation before next week’s episode!
Images via Funimation Stream.