What’s it about? In 1930, a group of European monster hunters known as the Jaegers arrive in Tokyo to track a gang of vampires. Meanwhile, Japan’s own police force has their hands full finding an escaped serial killer and dealing with a group of Robin Hood-esque thieves. Could the sudden flurry of crime be related?
Content Warning: Violence (somewhat graphic).
I am extremely annoyed that I had to stop watching Sirius the Jaeger to write this review, which gives you a real good idea of how much I enjoyed it.
This premiere is the anime-est anime to animake my anicquaintance this year. It’s chock-full of bombastic blood-splattered fights across historical cityscapes, a dozen characters discussing snippets of another dozen plot threads, brooding heroes with dark pasts, busty ladies with big guns, and lots of grotesque toothy vampire faces. All of which is to say it’s a bit of a mess but a whole damn lot of fun.
It’s also one of the busier premieres I’ve seen in a while. In 25 minutes we’re introduced to the five Jaegers, multiple vampires, a couple different Japanese military and political groups, a serial killer, a young woman training in kendo, and a gang of thieves. Trying to summarize it would take most of the review (and I’d be lying if I said I had a perfect grasp on it all myself), but suffice to say there are a lot of conflicts charging out the gate.
It never feels rushed, exactly, but there’s very much the sense of this being a “teaser” meant to hook the audience before taking time in the coming episodes to flesh everything out. Or, at least, I hope that’s the plan. How Sirius juggles its many parts and pieces will determine if it coalesces into something coherent or if it falls to dust like a staked vampire.
The good news is we have a solid crew steering this anime-original ship. Series director Masahiro Ando is a personal favorite of mine, with a directorial style that tends to weave every element of a production—art design, animation, storyboarding, music, and so on—into a thematic whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts (the exquisite Snow White with the Red Hair is a perfect example of this). Series composer Keigo Koyanagi doesn’t have a ton of history as a head writer, but he has worked under Mari Okada on individual scripts for multiple projects (including this year’s HisoMaso and Ando’s Blast of Tempest, which I will stan for any day of the week). Hopefully that experience pays off here.
Point being, I can’t guarantee Sirius will come together, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. And hey, even if it does turn out to be a big monster-murderin’ mess, with Ando and P.A. Works on it we can pretty much guarantee it’ll look real nice along the way.
I’m pressing hard on the Pulpy Fun button, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Sirius is all style and no substance. The series opens with Kushner the Vampire waxing poetic about change and evolution—about whether to adapt to the times or force the times to adapt to you—and that idea of “the changing world” isn’t so much an undercurrent as a flood that runs through every scene.
Sirius is thoroughly embedded in its 1930s setting, from the influx of new technology to the increasing power of the Japanese military. The concept of “foreign influence” is especially prevalent, as a lot of people express skepticism (if not outright hostility) about the European Jaegers being allowed to move freely in pursuit of their target(s). This same theme seems woven into the fantastical elements as well: protagonist Yuliy considers vampires a kind of “unknowable other,” remarking that “the two worlds may collide, but never will they come together.”
This could break real bad if the series ultimately gives in to the xenophobia and fascism that was on the rise in actual 1930s Japan, but as of this premiere it seems to be taking a fairly nuanced tack. Yes, the vampires are non-Japanese, but so are the Jaegers trying to stop them, and Japan has its own serial killer on the loose as well. Based on that opening speech, I also get the sense the vampires are very pro-traditionalism themselves, trying to force the world back into “the good ol’ days” when they could kill with relative ease. It’s something to keep an eye on, but I’m not ready to throw any red flags yet.
I’ve hardly spent any time talking about the actual characters, but that’s just because with so much Stuff Happening there wasn’t a ton of time to dig into the cast’s personalities. That said, there are ample hints that we’ve got an entertaining group of squabbling monster hunters on our hands. Protagonist Yuliy is a perfectly serviceable version of the “reckless loner who’s bad at teamwork” archetype, but I’m far more interested in his coworkers, particularly Dorothea, a Hispanic woman who seems to be the second-in-command.
Her outfit has an obligatory boob window (yay), but the camera doesn’t ogle and she seems rad as hell, wielding weapons, vehicles, and legal documents with ease. One of her coworkers (Fallon) comments on her appearance early in a way that earns her ire, but then we see her teasing him later, so it seems they have a fairly equitable back-and-forth that helps ease any potential discomfort.
Beyond Dorothea, the cast is fairly sparse in female characters, but we do get a glimpse of a young sword-wielding Japanese woman. There’s also a prominent lady vampire who seems high in Kushner’s ranks—which is a relief, frankly, after an opening scene that saw a bunch of male vampires stylishly murdering human women. I don’t expect Sirius to engage with the sexism of the 1930s in any meaningful way, but it seems willing to let its ladies kick ass alongside the boys, which is really all I ask of my supernatural action series.
There are few things I enjoy more than historical fantasies. Combine that with some pulpy paranormal elements? I’m putty in your hands. Add some striking storyboards and dynamically animated fight scenes? Shut up and take my money.
Sirius probably won’t attract any viewers who aren’t interested in that particular brand of genre fiction, and I kinda doubt it’ll be a contender for Anime of the Year. But if this premiere is any indication, its sheer entertainment value is gonna be through the roof. And with the year we’ve had, some exquisite trash may be just what the doctor ordered.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some anime to binge.