Reviewby Theron Martin,
Sirius the Jaeger
Episodes 1-12 streaming
Vampires have come to Taisho-era Japan with a specific objective in mind, but so have the Jaegers, dedicated vampire hunters who operate in secret under the guise of a shipping company. Yuliy, the last of the Sirius people, is one such Jaeger. Under the guidance of his leader and father-figure Professor and with the help of a team of compatriots, he fights to avenge his clan, which was wiped out by vampires ten years prior. He quickly attracts the romantic attention of Ryoko, the daughter of their host in Japan, while his team catches the interest of military intelligence officer Iba. Of much greater concern, however, are the machinations of the vampire Royals, who have plans that deeply involve Yuliy's heritage.
This 12-episode series is an original anime production by P.A. Works and Masahiro Ando, whose previous directorial credits are as varied as Hana-Saku Iroha, Snow White with the Red Hair, and the movie Sword of the Stranger. It originally aired in Japan during the Summer 2018 season and is finally available on Netflix in both subbed and dubbed form in Netflix's standard array of languages. So is it worth the wait?
If you're not expecting much more than a violent vampire action show, then the answer is definitely “yes.” While Ando doesn't have the resources for this project that he did for Sword of the Stranger, his talents still shine through just as strong. Action scenes are dynamically staged and feature better movement and choreography than normal for a TV series, including one sharp mid-series scene where Yuliy used his segmented pole to do a jumping split above the head of an oncoming attacker. Fights rarely feel hampered by animation limitations and don't skimp on the bloodletting or severing of limbs, heads, or bodies, though the content never rises to a gruesome level. If you can generally handle anime vampire fare below the Hellsing Ultimate level of gore, then you can probably enjoy this. There's even a character who wouldn't normally get to be a combatant that gets a brief but eye-popping action spotlight of her own at one point.
Outside of the action content, the series impresses much less. The vampire lore and culture is uninspired and barely defined at all, with the only distinguishing characteristics being the Royal vs. Slave grades; Royals have additional powers like flight and the ability to pass as human, and they can seize direct control of their Slaves through an exertion of will. They have no real sense of unique culture to them and exist for little more purpose than to be the bad guys, although the motives of the main vampire antagonist are admittedly different from normal. The Sirius have a much more defined culture, but the script never clarifies what separates them from regular humans; they seems to have an enhanced sense of smell and some ability to briefly power up under the right circumstances, but that's it. The MacGuffin that everyone is searching for never becomes more than a pure plot device either, as in the end the series wimps out on defining its real abilities. Story progression is also largely formulaic and predictable, though the series does make up for that with some atypical settings such as South Sakhalin Island. (Between 1905 and 1945, Sakhalin was split between a southern Japanese-controlled part and a northern Russian-controlled part.)
The characters are a likable but mostly ordinary bunch. Yuliy starts out as the standard vengeance-minded hothead but gradually softens and matures as the series progresses. The team around him includes a gregarious big guy who claims to be Irish (though that has no meaningful effect on his character), a short blond guy who has a chip on his shoulder, an officious-sounding professor who's still capable in a fight, and a free-spirited woman warrior who isn't shy about showing off her ample bosom. We get at least a basic sense of their backgrounds, but none are delved into heavily beyond Professor, Yuliy, and one of the surprise villains. More interesting are Ryoko, the sword-trained girl whose infatuation with Yuliy eventually leads to some character growth, and the sharp-witted intelligence officer who largely blunders into the supernatural realm but handles the situation remarkably well when all the cards are on the table. All of the villains conform to standard tropes, so the only thing even slightly novel that they offer is an unusual “we need to save our own race from extinction” sentiment that isn't connected directly to a conflict with humans.
Aside from the standout fight scenes, the series visually distinguishes itself most in its detailed renditions of Taisho-era settings, vehicles, and (beyond the anachronistic Jaegers) styles of costuming. CG-based vehicle animation is also a strong point—it's not perfect but still an upper-tier effort in terms of how it blends with the traditional animation—and the rich vibrant color scheme is also a plus. Monster designs are entirely unoriginal, but at least they are suitably threatening.
The musical score for the series features a number of violin pieces, but what makes it unusual is that it sometimes relies on those string ensembles for action scenes too. It's a different approach to enhancing action scenes that works better in some cases than others. Opener “Sirius” by Kishida Kyōdan & The Akeboshi Rockets (the same group who did the opening themes for GATE and Alderamin on the Sky) is a respectable J-rock number, while closer “Hoshie” has cuter visuals but a less interesting song.
The English dub for the series, provided by Bang Zoom! Entertainment, is one of the best yet for a Netflix Original. Khoi Dao felt trapped in the role of the sullen Gai Ogata in Sword Gai: The Animation, but he flourishes here in a role that is allowed more room for development, and he's but one of the many excellent casting choices. Not a single role sounds miscast, and every performance showcases a good effort. The translation does sometimes wander from the subtitles, but that's a good tradeoff to produce such a smooth-sounding effort.
Overall, the lack of originality in Sirius the Jaeger is sufficiently balanced out by the quality technical merits and action scenes to produce a generally entertaining series, but it's not likely to leave a lasting impression either.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good action scenes, strong English dub
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