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Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu
Set in a world similar to Cold War era Soviet Union in 1960, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is set during the space race between the Zimitra Republic and United Kingdom of Arnak to attempt launching the first person into space. Lev Laps is part of a cosmonaut candidate training program, who was demoted to a backup candidate due to insubordination against a superior officer. Needing to test how the conditions of space would affect human candidates, Lev is tasked by the Zimitran government to train a teenage vampire named Irina Luminesk to be used as a guinea pig for testing out how humans would fare in a space expedition. As Lev becomes acquainted with Irina through their time together, the two come to confront their prejudices toward one another and become closer as the series progresses.
As commented on in my opening paragraph, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is meant to be a sort of historical fiction anime as the two major world powers in the space race within the series are obviously made to represent the real-life Soviet Union and United States, the former being given prominent focus through the Zimitra Republic. For the most part, the series is fairly accurate to depicting the historical times within 1960 Soviet Union with the government's oppression, purging, and censorship of anything that makes its country look weak to the world at large, is critical of the government, or threatens said government's authority and influence. Other elements of the country like naming, food, technology, and environmental conditions are also pretty accurate to the time period as well. There are some inaccuracies with elements to the anime's depiction of the Soviet Union through Zimitra that are mostly minor, but one glaring inaccuracy that stuck out was Zimitra having a female cosmonaut candidate with Rosa when this did not occur until 1961 with the Soviet Union months following Yuri Gargarin's launch into space. But whether or not you fret over such minor changes will depend on how fickle you are with the details of Irina's historical accuracy.
Setting aside the details of historical accuracy, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is largely focused on its main pair of Lev and Irina, and the series is largely pretty typical fare with how their chemistry plays out with Lev the "nice guy" and Irina acting largely like a tsundere. The series devotes a good amount of exploration on their characters with how both got to their present situations and how both overcome their personal prejudices for their different kinds and has its amusing moments with the chemistry between the two as Lev works to break through Irina's seemingly cold personality. The two become closer as they come to care for the well being of each other, with the series implying things are getting to a romantic point yet the series ends inconclusively before getting to such a point with their relationship developments. While the chemistry developments with the two are nothing new as far as anime titles go, the series still devotes enough focus and fleshing out of the pair to have you come to care for Lev and Irina.
As far as other characters go within the series, they are kind of hit and miss. Many exist to fulfill roles to aid in or deter the efforts of Irina and Lev in their training as test subject and cosmonaut candidate respectively. Some like Anya and Rosa do have development or fleshing out with their characters in regards to how they view their relationships with our two lead characters. Anya's developments come off genuine with the chemistry she has with the two characters and the effort she goes through to aid them. But Rosa's focus in a later episode comes off feeling kind of sudden as her character didn't have much in the way of fleshing out throughout the series beyond being antagonistic toward Lev and Irina in her occasional interactions with them.
In short, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut comes off feeling like a mostly solid series with the largely faithful historical accuracy of the space race between the Sovi... er, Zimitrans and Arnaks. Lev and Irina are pretty typical as far as characters go, but there's enough fleshed out in their chemistry and developments to have you care for them. Supporting characters, for the most part, don't have much to them beyond largely fulfilling some sort of role to aid or deter the two lead characters. While not breaking new ground to a good degree as far as plot and character developments go, I was still entertained with Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut for the most part and have interest in seeing a potential second season, as the title's light novel source material has yet to be fully adapted and recently wrapped things up with its story from what I gather.
Last updated Sunday, December 19 2021. Created Sunday, December 19 2021.
Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu
(Watch+ or Rent-)|
(All episodes watched):
What if, in order to make sure the first launch of a 'human' into space went smoothly, the Russians had first attempted to send persons who are technically non-human--vampires--up first? And once they were confident that they had gotten everything right, no matter how many vampires had had to be sacrificed, a highly publicized launch of an actual human would then take place? That's the basic premise of this show. With this bizarre new element the early Russian space program is re-imagined: the Soviet Union becomes the 'Zirnita Union', Laika becomes 'Maly', Sputnik becomes 'Parusnyi 2', etc. Vampires, it turns out, are 'a rare species, isolated deep in the mountains of USZR territory' and don't really suck blood or fear sunlight. Their only identifying features are their fangs and pointed ears. They do sleep in coffins, apparently, but that might have been forced upon Irina as a result of common misconceptions. In fact, they have been rendered so harmless by this show that I began to wonder why they were being included at all. Irina seems more like a human who looks like a vampire than an actual one. Maybe the idea was to make the premise less outlandish and more believable. And this supposedly top secret project seemed kind of slapdash to me. Why is one person being given so many tasks which he has little or no expertise in? And so much freedom to take highly important Irina around on 'tours' without guard? Perhaps I'm expecting this scenario to match history too much, but I had gotten the impression that this would be a remarkable anime that would really stand out from the crowd, and was slightly disappointed. But the scenario is so weird that I must keep watching for now.
Things are clarified somewhat in episode two: sometimes vampires do drink blood, but it is considered 'barbaric' and Irina has only done it once (apparently from a pig) in a coming-of-age ceremony or something like that. Also, vampires have no palate and cannot taste food (I thought the tongue does the tasting) but enjoy smell and texture. Yet twice in the episode Irina did make mention of tasting things, or so it seemed. Irina's training progresses and despite having been presumably press-ganged into this job she not only cooperates but excels (except when dealing with high places). Her motivation remains unclear. She has a definite fear of high places (which might be a problem for a cosmonaut), and Lev tries to overcome it. As usual, it immediately goes away once the right trick is employed.
On a side note, wouldn't vampires be much better prepared to feed off of blood if, instead of fangs, their mouths were designed more like that of a mosquito? Just thinking.
I couldn't help noticing that this show wasn't exactly exciting me. The most likely reason is that perhaps we haven't gotten to know either Lev or Irina well enough to care all that much about what becomes of them. The show has been more about centrifuges and parachute jumping and enduring high temperatures than about them. One high ranking official in Moscow--err, the Zirnitsa capital--argues that even if Irina survives her momentous flight she should be executed and her body studied for side effects of space travel; but that proposal didn't outrage me all that much, probably for the same reason. I wonder how this can all possibly end--surely Irina surviving a launch and then being kept a secret from the world won't be good enough.
I was tempted to quit this series but watched episode four anyway. Lev (and I) had assumed that Irina had been press-ganged into this job, but no, it turns out she volunteered. Even in the Soviet Union, one would think volunteers would be treated much better than people who were participating in a program against their will. She volunteered even though her parents and fellow vampires were slaughtered in a government pogrom which involved a full-fledged attack on her village with flamethrowers and sub-machineguns. Even under Joseph Stalin they held 'show trials' before executing or imprisoning people, but oh well. There's reason to believe that Irina will be risked in the launch of a spacecraft that is far from safe. I'm guessing that something will go wrong but Irina herself will save the day, with some help from Lev.
My interest was flagging at this point and watching additional episodes almost seemed like more of a chore than a delight. Maybe I was impatient for the one big question--will Irina survive her launch or not?--to be answered, because whatever romance exists between her and Lev seems to be moving at a snail's pace and there are no other plot threads that I can think of.
I almost quit watching but went forward and got a surprise. I was certain that Irina's launch into space would be the climax of this show and hence would take place in the last or next-to-last episode. But no, episode seven begins with the launch less than 24 hours away, and events move rapidly forward. I thought I must have missed an episode and paused to check (I hadn't). Where will things go from here? As a reward for his work training Irina, Lev is returned to the competition to be the first official cosmonaut. Will the remainder of the series be about his first launch? Maybe he will accomplish his mission then publicly admit afterwards that credit for being first really belongs to Irina. Maybe they will definitively fall in love. Maybe both. It isn't exactly clear what the main conflict of this show is. Having a vampire in a show about space exploration seemed sensational at first, but Irina could just as easily have been a Georgian or an Estonian or a Kazakh or any other subjugated minority in the USSR and the series would hardly change.
In the final episode things worked out more or less as I was expecting, which wasn't exactly thrilling. Lev comes clean in public about just who was the actual first cosmonaut--and the powers that be respond in about the total opposite way than even a cursory history of the USSR would make one expect. Of course this is the Zirnitsa Union, but it was still too good to be true, and therefore hard to believe, and deflated whatever tension had built up. I was expecting some sort of crisis, but for all intents and purposes it didn't happen. Had Lev been planning all along to do this, or did he make a change of plans on the spot? Does it matter? Anyway, my overall impression of this series is that the plot was ultimately pretty simple and unremarkable. There were some problems, but both space launches went fairy smoothly--I never had the slightest feeling that either Irina or Lev might wind up dead. And of course vampires turned out to be little more than a misunderstood minority.
Last updated Tuesday, December 28 2021. Created Saturday, October 16 2021.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site||https://tsuki-laika-nosferatu.com/|