Do you ever feel like you have too many interests? That’s how I feel about myself sometimes. There are just too many things that I like studying and I think that informs how I research and look into information when it comes to this blog. What interest am I speaking of? That of history. In high school, I took the higher leveled history courses on purpose. I’ve also really enjoyed the history portion of general education requirements because I liked learning more about how the world became what it was. So yes, I like digging into the history of some anime and how it got there.
I also really like when anime of all kinds references some historical events or use them in a way that grounds them. Or, in some way, makes them historically plausible. Mars Red, with all of its insanity and vampires is like that. Now, I am not saying that an anime series about an anti vampire corps made from Japanese controlled vampires is realistic at all. I mean, it’s not. Vampires are fictional beings that every culture has some form of. But the background events of Mars Red are what make it interesting. Especially since they are incorporated into the story in some fascinating ways.
Disclaimer: While I am not going to spoil the series itself, I am going to I am still going to give some plot details away. While I am not sharing character names, I am detailing why some elements happen.
The Taisho Era
Mars Red takes place in 1923 which is near the end of the Taisho era or the Taisho Democratic period. This era lasted under a sickly emperor Taisho from July 30th 1912 to December 25th 1926. So not an large amount of time, but an intermission period between the start of the modernization of Japan called the Meiji period and the pre war and more war focused early Showa era. That doesn’t mean that war didn’t occur in the Taisho because this was still during WW1 where Japan joined the allied side and staked claim of land in Korea and Russia. That stint for democracy in Japan during this period didn’t work out.
But afterwards, Japan put its name with the western imperial powers by help finding the League of Nations. This helped provide a movement for western art to come in and influence Japanese art so there was a merging of culture in some unique ways. That must be a reason why plays and art are a staple of anime series that take place in the Taisho era. Well, at least from what I’ve seen with Mars Red having plays take center stage (ha) and Sakura Wars having girls who act in plays also fight monsters with their mecha in Tokyo.
With Japanese agreements with the western powers comes the 1922: Five Power Naval Disarmament Treaty. While this was a treaty that involved lessening the naval forces, mainly battleships, that each national power had, I feel like it also influenced the disarmament of other military forces at that time. I imagine that the sickness of the death and carnage from WW1 was still deep in each countries thought patterns. Considering that Mars Red takes place in 1923, the disarmament was heavily in effect and this is the reason why the military was downsizing so much in this show. Everything was being disarmed.
1923 Tokyo Earthquake
Called the Great Kanto Earthquake, the devastation caused by this massive event is what separates the two halves of Mars Red. The first half of Mars Red’s cour literally starts with this event happening. Its so huge that it shook the structure of the show into a fit of free flowing madness and a lot more abstract ideas until the end really does occur. Its real chaos. The vampire virus is being spread by false vaccines, our heroes are separated until they return together, and no one knows where the boss we’ve spent time with is.
A sense of Japanese recovery is happening, but it’s a background element until the two sides meet again for their final conclusion. I mean, there is still hope and some characters carry that hope with them for the people living in Tokyo but that isn’t necessary what the story is about. We are here for vampire drama after all and that needs to play off. In the in end, that is what really matters. Mars Red good conclusion that could have been set up better, but was still decently executed. A sequel would be nice.
So yeah, I am not sure what else to say here because I said it all already. Mars Red is an insanely interesting and chaotic show but also digs deeply into the time period that it exists in. Especially the year with the Tokyo Earthquake. That is what makes it so much more interesting to me then it would have already. I’m saying that despite the fact that there is some Mamoru Oshii stuff going on in this anime with vampires. It’s already interesting enough to watch, but history can add quite a bit to it.
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