WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 2 of Mars Red, "Till Death Do Us Part," now streaming on Funimation.
Mars Red is a historical vampire anime set in the Taisho era, chock-full of theatrical references that mirror the show's plot and character arcs. Episode 2 is structured around two classic romantic tragedies: William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and the Okaru and Kanpei michiyuki (dance of the traveling lovers) from Tale of the 47 Ronin.
While Okaru and Kanpei's dancing interlude concludes within the episode, the Romeo and Juliet arc will continue through the season and probably reflect the subplot that follows the two youngest, most innocent characters of Mars Red -- journalist Aoi Shirase and her childhood-friend-turned-Government vampire Shutaro Kurusu, who was bitten by an unspeakably powerful vampire but is still learning the ropes about his undeath.
Aoi, whom viewers met in Episode 1, fits the part of Juliet. She's not only human but a modern Japanese girl who has a modern job as a journalist and embodies the spirit of her times. She has a mile-wide romantic streak and enjoys covering society gossip, but her heart is also set on uncovering the series of mysterious spontaneous combustions that are happening all over Tokyo. To narrow down the cast of possible Juliets, she's also the only woman who hasn't died a horrible death yet.
Shutaro Kurusu, Aoi's longtime friend, is the newest, youngest and most powerful vampire of Code Zero, the secret Government vampire squadron. Shutaro was deployed to Siberia and Aoi made him promise that whatever else happened, he wouldn't die. While there might be some scientific or supernatural explanation to his ability to survive a vampire bite -- which kills nine out of ten victims -- it is telling that the very first explanation Mars Red offers is that he wanted to keep his promise to Aoi. However, Aoi believes that Shutaro fell in the trenches, and despite her sunny personality, she's mourning him to the point that she mentions his disappearance to a perfect stranger.
Aoi and Shutaro's romance is also hinted at in the opening credits, which show Aoi walking on water on a bright summer day as Shutaro falls on the snow in the dark of night, transforming into a vampire. The very next scene shows Shutaro looking at Aoi disappearing in a blaze of sunlight.
While it could be tempting to dismiss the theatrical references as a background flavor, they are most definitely not. Mars Red's creator and director, Fujisawa Bun-o, cut his teeth in the theater and is an expert on Western plays. The entire anime is structured around theatrical conventions, from the act structure to the hand-painted backdrops and the sound design.
Episode 1 took Oscar Wilde's Salomé and weaved its themes and visuals within the opening plot, setting the tone for the rest of the series. Furthermore, the villain and mastermind of Mars Red lives and works in the same theater and is the protagonist of all the Western pieces showcased in each episode, hand-picking his co-stars and choosing to which key character he talks to outside of his role (Maeda in the first episode, Aoi in the second one.)
Mars Red's plot also lends itself perfectly for a tragic love story -- while vampires are not as feared or respected as they are in other lore, they are definitely "othered" by the general population. Their hunger is great, their bite carries a deadly infection and, worst of all, the industrial revolution has displaced most of them to the point that they've become obsolete.
There are far greater foes than the supernatural leeches. Even the Government's Code Zero vampire team is kept secret and deployed only to capture and kill rogue or unregistered vampires. As Episode 1 has already shown, a romance between a human and a vampire is most likely going to end in tragedy.