I rewatched this on a whim and was doing my usual quick reaction thing over at Letterboxd. I intended it to not be much of anything, but I ended up writing way more than I thought I would, so I figured I’d post it over here. In a lot of ways this is just a rewrite of what I said in my original write-up for this on my old blog.
By the way, yeah, Mars of Destruction is still pretty “unique.”
This is the closest I’ve ever seen an anime get to the sort of unintentionally awesome, totally sincere, totally inept, accidental “masterpiece” you see from the likes of Ed Wood.
It’s an entire series crammed into less than 20 minutes. A mission to Mars disintegrates upon reentry to Earth, spreading whatever’s on board across the world, but primarily in Japan because this is an anime. Weird stuff starts to happen shortly after, as alien-looking creatures called Ancients start to… shamble around in empty public parks at night? I imagine these things are supposed to be murderous creatures killing anyone who gets in their way, but that’s all we really see them do. It’s like their only crime is loitering and/or homelessness, so OF COURSE they have to be killed by a special ops squad consisting of a bunch of young women whose only identifying traits are their different hair colors and styles.
These women supposedly come from different police agencies and are expects in various fields of combat and intelligence, but they all fight with the same gun and all go about their business lining up next to each other, running forward, and shooting blindly. Also, the one who has the least elaborate and easiest to animate hair style gets her head blown off by an Ancient laser in the first two minutes. The awkwardly animated blood spray is beautiful.
Also, there’s your requisite timid young dude who’s father created a super weapon called MARS that turns him into a Super Sentai type who apparently does most of the actual Ancient killing, thus rendering the all-girl special ops squad kinda meaningless outside of the fact that no dude otaku would watch this thing if it didn’t have a girl with pink pigtails or a redhead with a bow in her hair. In a flashback he wines about having to get in his
Eva Unit MARS armor while his unseen father tells him its his destiny and slaps him off camera.
Oh, and when he talks his voice actor sounds like he was recorded with a bowl over his head to simulate his being in armor. There’s no simulated radio static or anything like that. It’s just that hollow sound you get when someone has something over their head.
After the main dude who’s supposed to be awesome gets whupped on by some of those park-loitering Ancients, goes into a coma, has his flashback, and comes out of it, those mysterious whatevers from the Mars mission need to be taken to America for REASONS. The squad loads it up into a convoy to take to the airport and they get ambushed by more Ancients and some Super Ancient who absorbs bullets with an unseen force field. The bullets just DISAPPEAR and stop getting animated when they get too close to him.
The big fight consists of the girls doing their “let’s run right up to the monsters despite having guns” routine. The dude gets crucified and has his waist cinched like he’s wearing a corset in order to put on the MARS armor. Some cops get their faces disintegrated by Ancient lasers, but don’t get the blood sprays the girl got in the opening scene because only pretty anime girls are good enough to have blood. The main dude gets a new laser weapon that’s never been mentioned before to kill the Super Ancient, who’s been using the brilliant tactic of walking right up to the girls with guns, picking them up, and throwing them.
The laser works. The Super Ancient dies. Then we cut to a scene where two scientist types in America are talking about their discoveries. Turns out the stuff that crashed in Japan has human DNA on it. They surmise that humanity started on Mars, that there was an ancient human civilization there millions of years ago, and that human life on Earth is the result of ancient meteors from Mars landing on Earth.
BIG REVEAL! SHOCK!
Except then we cut back to the previous scene. Never mind that the scene we just saw likely takes place days or even weeks after the previous events, we’re going back to what happened after that Super Ancient died… wait, he isn’t dead. He goes after the main dude and tells him that the Ancients are the REAL Earthlings. Humanity INVADED Earth, and the Ancients are simply fighting to take back what was rightfully theirs.
Then he dies.
I’m sure this is all sounding very sarcastic, and in a way it IS, but it’s all due to the obvious short cuts these peeps made to cram all of this into a 19 minute cartoon with far more ambition than most multi-season prestige cable drama series. They clearly wanted to make a show that played off of what’s popular with mainstream otaku audiences. You have a cast of cute girls who fit into various “waifu” stereotypes. You have the audience cipher, nondescript lead dude. You have a plotline that was common for this time period, with a convoluted sci-fi plot with twists and turns and shocking revelations and symbology that means something despite it meaning nothing.
That’s what makes this very much in the vein of someone like Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau. It’s a strange little passion project where everyone is TRYING, there’s nothing really there to warrant said effort, and yet it goes beyond those means and limitations while simultaneously failing at anything resembling conventional animation or storytelling.
This is the sort of cult abomination that deserves audience participation and shadow casts. This should be regular viewing at anime conventions. Yeah, it has its own little following among that crowd, but it deserves so much more. This should be a THING rather than a curiosity.