You rarely reinvent the wheel, but you rarely have to.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Between the first and second world war, a coven of vampires flees China for Japan. They are pursued by the Jaegers, a covert squad of international vampire hunters led by Professor Willard. One of their number, Yuliy, is actually a Sirius, or werewolf. The group tails the vampires to Tokyo and are housed by Baron Naoe a friend of the Jaegers.
The vampires seek the Arc of the Sirius, a gift from god that may hold the cure for a vampiric disease that is plaguing the coven. The vampires are also funding a Japanese fundamentalist political party in order to provide cover for their targeted murder of many of the world’s leading scientists. This is so that the coven’s head scientist can potentially find a cure for the disease, but also create Frankenstein-style monsters. The coven is rounded out by Yuliy’s brother, who was turned into a vampire years ago when the coven slaughtered Yuily’s village looking for the arc.
Yuily, the Jaegers, Baron Naoe’s daughter, and a major from the Japanese army all team up to break the seal on the Arc of the Sirius to keep it out of the hands of the vampire leader Yevgraf. Yuily learns that the professor is the one who led the vampires to his village in the first place and that his father was the one who sealed the arc away years ago, in order to allow him, his brother, and his human mother to live a normal life. Yuily decides that all the races should live in harmony. He defeats Yevgraf, absorbs the arc of the Sirius into himself, and becomes a wandering messiah figure, pursued by friend and enemy alike as he tries to unite the world.
Sirius the Jaeger had me pretty early on. I’m a sucker for post-world war one period pieces, but luckily Sirius has more than enough under the hood to keep me satisfied. It doesn’t do everything right, but it’s hard to deny its sprawling, globe-trotting spirit. The series starts in industrializing Tokyo but soon expands into a global epic with twists aplenty and a winning ensemble.
Sirius is an interesting show because, despite its long episode count, it still feels like there is more story to tell. Each character in the Yeager crew gets their own personality and backstory, including a Yeager whose parents are killed by a Sirius, but after the operation leaves Tokyo, they feel pushed to the side in favor of a pair of characters (the major and Baron Naoe’s daughter) in such a way that only makes sense if the characters had deeper importance in a previous version of the piece. I felt this same thing about the villains too. We don’t really get a sense of who the main bad guy is for about half of the season. This doesn’t really hurt the series overall, but the constant knocking down of lieutenants only to meet another character who isn’t the big bad can be tedious.
This is a show with ideas, and it’s not afraid to show them. Between the main story about the slaughter of the werewolves at the hands of the vampires, there’s also Frankensteins, local political drama, and a deeper metaphysical mythos that all factor into the proceedings one way or another. While none of these ideas seem half-baked, they too suffer some from there just being too much show on this show.
The reason that I am still so positive despite all of these quibbles is that I am truly impressed just how solidly Sirius lands each new plot development. Everything feels authentic to the world, and when something isn’t understood, it’s a setup for later, rather than something poorly explained. I’m hard-pressed to think of a character I didn’t like in some capacity (maybe the Irish Yeager, but then only because he didn’t really get as much of an arc as the rest of them). The secret to this, in my opinion, is in the structure.
The show really has two halves. The first half is a mystery that takes place in Tokyo. It has a number of players all interacting with each other trying to figure out who is killing all of these scientists and why. It’s probably the stronger half, and the answer to the mystery leads directly to more traditional anime fare. There are more people brooding on mountaintops and secret locations to be mined for mystical treasure. By then, though, with the exception of our big bad, we have a feel for the supporting characters in a way that I don’t think most shows are able to match. So, when some minor folks come back for a last-minute rescue, it feels not only earned but joyful.
Some things may seem familiar to those well-versed in shōnen anime. Yuily has a rival, a brooding older brother turned to the dark side and a mentor who fails to live up to the lofty standards that Yuily holds him too. He has a tomboy love interest and a prophesied destiny, but none of that works against Sirius. It uses these well-trod tropes to tell an interesting and far-reaching story. It has no illusions about being what it isn’t, and as a result, comes out as the best version of itself. If that feels like damning it with faint praise, it’s actually the opposite. Sirius is the most fun season of anime that I watched this year, and it would be a shame to let it pass you by.
Not everything needs to be a Violet Evergarden, something playing with what an anime can be and who can be represented in anime. I think that those things are absolutely necessary to push the medium forward, but there is a place for the familiar hero’s journey if it’s thoughtful, interesting and well-executed. Sirius the Jaeger is that and more, and I think it’s a great way to end your year.