by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
MARS RED ?
MARS RED punked me good. Here I was brushing up on A Midsummer Night's Dream to prepare for this episode, based on its title, only for the events to turn around and reference the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice instead. I could have anticipated this, though; the titular play is probably Shakespeare's most renowned comedy, and there's not a whole lot of humor left in the ruins of this earthquake- and vampire-stricken Tokyo. Orpheus' tragedy is a lot more appropriate. Still, doom and gloom don't yet monopolize the mood of MARS RED, and there's reason to believe that Code Zero might yet be able to defy fate and escape this underworld.
The most positive development in this post-quake arc has been seeing our heroes stick their necks out for the vampire refugees still in Tenmanya's care. Despite some friction last week, Kurusu and his buddies are fully on board with helping now. Suwa, most notably, has leveled up from a child killer into the grumpy older brother of the troupe of vampire kids, and it turns out that's the quickest way to endear me to his character. I'm especially fond of the relationship he's forming with the older vampire girl Ayame. Her indefatigable pessimism, in theory, supports Suwa's previously-held position that there's no place in the world for the uniquely tragic existence of vampire children. At the same time, however, his refusal to abandon her betrays his own hopes. Even though he does so with his typically standoffish attitude, he still tells her to dream.
Takeuchi, meanwhile, does a lot more than just dream. He's firing on all cylinders, hypothesizing about the effects of ultraviolet radiation on vampire blood, and putting together a very large kite. In a way, I guess he's always been the most unfalteringly proactive character—no time to brood when there's so much science to do. Thematically, though, I'm glad he doesn't fall into the selfish mad scientist stereotype. In this episode especially, there's a humanitarian bend to his aspirations. Many characters in MARS RED have been wary of modernization, for good reasons, but MARS RED seems a lot less equivocating when that modernization is fueled by a desire to help the downtrodden. And contrast Takeuchi's ambitions with Nakajima's, which can't help but be weighed down by the old man's reactionary motivations. His vampire units shuffle ponderously on the ground; only Takeuchi is looking to the sky.
That strain of optimism isn't limited to our heroes either. The rest of Tokyo continues to go about their daily lives, the nightly vampire scourge be damned. My thoughts keep returning to the short conversation Tenmanya has with the bamboo seller, which is a mundane exchange of pleasantries that nevertheless acknowledges the vampire problem. The seller, however, brushes his own worries aside by expressing his hope that the following year will see things return to normal after the vampire panic is over. He is, of course, making a pretty huge assumption there, but so, apparently, is the rest of Tokyo. And there was a point in time where I would have criticized MARS RED's writing for not reflecting the gravity of its apocalyptic scenario in the eyes of its background characters. I cannot in good conscience do so now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. It might attenuate itself in fits and spurts, but society doesn't just stop. Generally speaking, people will always want to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, and if they're being held back by a problem they can't ignore, they will simply integrate that problem into their lives as best they can. I'm definitely not saying that's a good thing. It might just be an adaptation we have, but I can't say that for sure either. All I can say is that we've all seen it happen now, and I can believe that we would treat a vampire epidemic in the exact same way.
Recently, Defrott's choice coping method has been moping by himself in the attic. He's certainly powerful enough to do something about the vampire apocalypse, but he'd much rather make dark musings in the darkness of his room than, say, punch Rufus' lights out. While that's a little frustrating from a narrative perspective, it's consistent with his character. Outside of a handful of exceptions, Defrott doesn't care enough about other people to be a hero. He'd much rather play one. He's too focused on himself and his own depression, using his acting career as a safe and sterile means of releasing his emotions. One of his exceptions, however, is Shirase, and she not only manages to drag him out of his room, she also manages to drag him back into the conflict with Rufus.
Rufus might be experiencing the same kind of self-loathing that Defrott does. While Defrott turns his feelings inward, however, Rufus points them outward, sowing chaos in the streets and pitting vampires against themselves just so he can watch them self-destruct. I still think he's a little too flatly written to be a compelling antagonist, but at least he's having a lot of fun this week. Just to be a bastard, presumably, he lures Defrott to Tsukishima in a manner purposefully evoking Orpheus' descent to rescue Eurydice from Hades. He then proceeds to turn Defrott's theatrical flair against him, raising the “curtains” to let sunlight in and even turning the boy's own words into a poisonous jeer. Depending on your perspective, Orpheus is either a tragic romantic hero, or he's a pompous poet whose vanity spurred him to defy the forces of nature in vain. It's hard to say which one better fits Defrott.
It's also hard to say whether Rufus intended for Maeda to join the scene, but I imagine he's probably delighted at the apparent cheapness of the twist. At the last minute, the episode's title proves its relevance, as Maeda growls Misaki's name while looking at Shirase. A Midsummer Night's Dream builds its story on a farcical and fairy-facilitated web of mistaken identities, although they're resolved and dismissed in the end as flights of dreamlike fancy. I imagine it will be a bit more difficult to wake Maeda from his walking nightmare, but it's up to Shirase and Defrott to save him now.
MARS RED is currently streaming on Funimation.
Steve is hungry for anime and on the prowl for Revenge this season. Learn about this and more (i.e. bad anime livetweets) by following him on Twitter.
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