Mars Red – 01 (First Impressions) – On a Silver Platter

Tokyo, Japan, 1923: Major Maeda Yoshinobu is escorted to a maximum-security underground prison at Tsukishima Island housing a single inmate: Misaki, an actress who was performing Salome at the Imperial Theatre when she was turned into a vampire. When Maeda meets her through thick glass, she’s still reciting the lines of the play, as if she were still on stage.

Later on, a suspiciously vampiric-looking young man at the theatre tells Maeda that when the lights go out and the curtains rise, the audience is transported to the underworld. I can’t help but watch Maeda and his chatterbox underling’s journey deeper and deeper into the Tsukishima  facility and think they too are on a journey to the underworld.

While Japan and its military are rapidly modernizing and westernizing, it’s ironic that the covert vampire hunting unit Lt. General Nakajima has created deals with ancient monsters. The general reminds Maeda not to allow sympathy or pity to dull his blade, and Maeda assures him if Misaki cannot be brought to their side, he’ll promptly dispose of her.

Maeda visits the theatre, where the stage is still a mess of blood and ruined scenery, and he meets the inscrutable actor Deffrot, who played Jokanaan, AKA John the Baptist, whose head is served to Salome on a silver platter as payment for her Dance of the Seven Veils. In a very neat piece of “camera”work, the shadow of Maeda’s head is cast on the play’s poster, held in Salome’s hands.

Outside the theatre Maeda is approached by a young lady he mistakes for Misaki, but she introduces herself as Shirase Aoi, a reporter for the Nitto News. Maeda ignores her requests for comment and access to the theatre, and then Moriyama arrives by car to report that Misaki has escaped. For a second there, I wondered if Aoi was Misaki after all.

As Moriyama speeds Maeda back to Tsukishima, Misaki effortlessly smashes through all of the steel doors and barriers in her way, takes a bullet with barely a flinch, bleeds black blood, bites a neck, casually nudges a bullet away and dodges the others with her vampiric speed. Through it all she moves with a dancer’s grace, embodying the role of Salome—whom I learned was transformed by French writers from her biblical role to the “incarnation of female lust”.

A different dance ensues, with both Maeda and Misaki gradually making their way to the same spot: across the Nihonbashi bridge to Marunouchi Plaza at Tokyo Station. It’s the capper to an episode that serves as a Where’s Where of Taisho-era Tokyo.

Misaki gets closer and closer to Maeda, but when he grips his sword and prepares to draw, she places her hand over his, embraces him a little while longer, then steps aside and lets herself be consumed by the morning light, without further bloodshed. The same stigmata design on her tongue appears on the spot where she incinerated.

Back at HQ, General Nakajima promotes Maeda to Colonel and puts him in command of Code Zero, with the mission of apprehending or disposing of vampires in Japan. If I had to describe Mars Red in one word, it would be classy. Given another word, I’d use deliberate. As Maeda navigates a Tokyo in flux and deals with Misaki, every scene is given room to breathe.  Maeda is a bit of a stiff, but still…I’m intrigued.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 11

This episode is a turning point for Makoto, in which he actually openly reveals truths about himself to others. Since he was a youngin, he’d always been okay with giving up on things if he percieved them as too hard. We haven’t seen a lot of that, of course, because everything in the series has come to him very easily and with little or no effort.

Most of the episode is a series of conversations with all of the girls in his life. He’s kind of become a player of sorts without having done anything. Maekawa invites him to her house and makes him lunch, and then they play Mario Kart. How awesome an afternoon is that? Then a phone call with Ryuushi, that’s interrupted by an attention-starved Erio. His encounters are also sprinkled with the blindingly-white-haired space cadet Yashiro, who acts as a guru of sorts – with wisdom beyond her years.

As Makoto, Yashiro, Nakajima and Hanazawa (the latter two on a date) watch Ryuushi play basketball, Makoto recalls how he handled his apparent athletic inadequacies. He simply prevered observing. Playing the onlooker. This harkens back to something Maekawa said verbatim; she may be growing weary of being the onlooker. Makoto innocently thought she was talking more generally, but she was talking about her role in the show, watching Makoto progress with Ryuushi. She may not want to give up on him after all.

Ryuushi isn’t the best basketball player, but Yashiro blabbers on about her esper potential. Everything Makoto has heard thus far is stewing in his head and finally erupts in a “cheer” to Ryuushi that’s actually the most personal, heartfelt commentary he’s delivered yet…including his narration. It’s just the ticket for Ryuushi, and Yashiro has a look of knowing satisfaction. Well done, grasshopper. Makoto still faces tough choices. Will he give up and simply observe, or get off the sidelines and act? Rating: 4

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 10

Makoto meets his second “alien” since arriving in town. Her name is Yashiro, and he has a sneaking suspicion she’s a local runaway girl he’s heard about. And naturally, Meme invites her in. When her astronaut’s helmet finally comes off, she’s revealed to possess the same otherworldly beauty as cousin Erio, only with glowing white hair rather than blue. Erio’s beauty, btw, is what engenders so much envy and resentment among other girls in the town, according to Hanazawa-san.

Yashiro is more forward with Makoto, and readily insults him, due to the “half-assed” way he and Erio live their life. I’d beg to differ, especially since Makoto pops his phone-call-with-Ryuushi cherry this week as well. He even learns that Nakajima, the guy he played ball with last week, is a guy she turned down, and she heavily hints that if it was Makoto who confessed, her response would have been very different. She also invites him to join her at the town festival. Despite the fact they didn’t meet in person this week, things are moving along very nicely in the girlfriend arena.

But this Yashiro kid has the same bewitching power that Erio has; perhaps more concentrated. And even I can’t explain how she made so much water fall on Makoto when he was fifteen feet away behind a fence, except to concede that perhaps she is in fact an esper as well as an alien. It was certainly the most “supernatural” phenomenon to occur so far, if you don’t count the fact the rather plain Makoto is attracting so many ladies. Finally, was it just me, or did this episode contain an unusual amount of cutsiness? Rating: 3.5