Things that go bump in the night should watch out.
It isn’t all that often that I watch a Netflix anime (or I should more accurately say it isn’t often that I finish one) and there’s a lot of reasons for that, however having read some mixed reviews about Serius but seeing it was a bit of an action story featuring vampires, I decided to take the plunge. I watched a handful of episodes one afternoon and was hooked. Clearing my schedule the following afternoon, I binged the rest of the series.
And it turns out, Sirius the Jaeger is actually great fun. We have a group called the Jaegers hunting down vampires and trying to exterminate them, meanwhile the vampires are conspiring with political activists and the like to get some shady and nebulous plot off the ground. It is a great set up and the pre-World War 2 setting really helps to allow some credibility for some of the goings on here.
That said, it isn’t as though Sirius the Jaeger is a perfect anime series. We’ve got a lot of cliché characters, some plot points that don’t really seem to make a great deal of sense, a villain who seems kind of together but ultimately makes stupid choices just to make things more interesting and as a direct result gets seriously burned, and just some general moments where if you applied any kind of real world physics to a situation you could write most of the characters off. Yet, none of that really gets in the way of the story because the story doesn’t really let it. It isn’t taking itself all that seriously as it powers through introducing ancient tribes, vampires, vampire hunters and building in a subplot about nations arming for war. It just wants us to enjoy the ride as we see Yuliy first work to kill all the vampires and then to try to find out about his tribe and the Ark of Serius.
Where some anime might get very exposition heavy while trying to balance all of that, Sirius the Jaeger limits talk time between characters and information about all of these different aspects comes to us over time and fairly naturally. It’s built into exchanges between characters in small bite size chunks with only a few longer more focused conversations to flesh out key points. There’s only one point where the Professor stands with Yuliy and essentially information dumps and it’s about three quarters of the way through and is a fairly significant reveal that directs the final turn of the series. Given it comes on the tail of a fairly impressive battle between the Japanese military and the vampires, the down time isn’t too much of a problem.
However, what really drives this story is the action. We will be taken from one action set piece to another and be prepared for lots of jumping over roof tops, a car chase sequence, a battle on a train, fighting in the woods, and finally fighting on an airship because why not. Each fight is fairly distinct and while Yuliy is at the centre of most of them, the conditions are vastly different as are the other participants and potential collateral damage and so it continues to feel fresh.
There’s also a sense of urgency around a lot of the fight sequences. While it never gets to a point where you actually fear too much for a main character, it always feels like losing a fight will cost the characters something and even if they win the fight there is always damage. The near destruction of the house they were staying in while in Japan and the company having to pay compensation to the owner is one example but in every fight it felt like there was a lot potentially riding on their decisions.
I really enjoyed how the series dealt with Yuliy. Even though we ultimately get a standard chosen one fantasy plot where he’s lost his family, last survivor, needs to take control of the shiny powerful thing, his character manages to feel reasonably fresh as it treads this fairly standard path. While his surly revenge driven opening isn’t exactly a breath of fresh air (think Eren from Attack on Titan only competent and less shouty), Yuliy actually manages to have quite a well developed personality and his interactions with the other characters are usually entertaining.
Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same about Ryouko, the daughter of the family who host the vampire hunters (Jaegers) in Japan. Her character is kind of a love interest for Yuliy only she’s utterly unnecessary. Though at times she delivered crucial items or got herself into trouble at particular points, realistically her character brought nothing to the table and honestly her following Yuliy around into increasingly dangerous situations just struck me as slightly stupid so I couldn’t really get behind her character.
They did far better with Mikhail (Yuliy’s brother) who we encounter throughout the story, despite Yuliy thinking he died when the vampires attacked his village. The interactions between Yuliy and Mikhail, while at times pushing at the boundaries of logical, always have a good chemistry about them.
However, this is a vampire story so how are the vampires?
A bit hit and miss. The royals are very entertaining and classic kind of vampires (other than the whole able to deal with daylight thing). The control older vampires have over those they’ve turned is a feature that I really like in vampire stories as is the fact that turned vampires retain their memories of being human but at the same time aren’t any longer. The slave vampires and their monstrous form was a bit less likeable because it essentially turned a lot of the fights into waves of red bat things that had very little to distinguish them and none of them were really strong enough to be of note anyway.
One interesting bit they threw in was that the vampire race was dying because of a sickness that had no cure. That was an interesting addition to the story and actually worked as a good catalyst for moving the immortal vampires with a sense of urgency.
So overall, a pretty fun action story. Definitely not a horror despite the presence of vampires. It move along at a nice pace, has some good fight sequences and largely decently realised characters. While it isn’t going to be anime of the year or anything like that, this one was certainly an entertaining romp.