Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
Episode 10

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut ?

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut has proven to be one of the more educational anime I'm watching this season. Okay, I haven't exactly picked up a lot of rocket science by watching it, but episodes like this one still have me pausing to Google to find out stuff like if you can actually see the aurora borealis from space (You can!) or what the heck kholodets is (It's a kind of aspic!). I swear I've learned more about Russian cuisine from this show than anything else. It's appropriate enough, I guess, given the heart of this show is about people learning more about each other, and themselves. The first part of this episode indeed follows up on the date we saw Lev and Irina leaving for last week, seeing them come as close as ever to realizing the very obvious desires we've glimpsed growing between them. It turns out the most important lessons that Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut might be able to teach us are all about…love.

Things actually ramp up with some heavier elements in the back half of this episode, so it's important to appreciate what an absolute indulgence this date segment is. We get to marvel as Irina's commonwealth moe attributes collect in her adorable unfamiliar reactions to watching a movie in a theater, getting way too into the adventures of fictionalized cosmonauts and excitedly spilling her popcorn everywhere. It can come off a bit infantilizing, but seeing her in an innocently adorable context becomes somewhat necessary given the more depressing trajectory Irina's on by this episode's end. And it's an example of the narrative recognizing how much these kids need all the time off they can get after everything it's had them going through.

That cute little bit is just the ice-breaker for the date though, since the main event, the so-called 'night picnic' (which I presume must be some kind of euphemism) is where, sans any direct confessions or moves on the part of Irina and Lev's feelings, they still make clear just how far their relationship has progressed. That's right folks, Lev is at last ready to go all the way with Irina, and here on this special night between the two of them, he whips out his…neck for her. I'm honestly in love with how frank the writing makes Lev's lingering appreciation for Irina's bloodsucking bite, wistfully reminiscing on it under the gentle light of the aurora, or the unapologetically passionate framing of her about to go in for the act, before they're cruelly interrupted. At this point I'm not sure of the nomenclature for what their relationship actually entails, but we know what's going on, and they know what's going on, so words might not be wholly necessary. Absent that though, the pair still promise to get together again once Lev successfully returns from space, and I don't know about you, but that definitely sounds like a death flag for somebody to me.

It's there that Vampire Cosmonaut turns back to its more serious, procedural elements. Even its more theatrical takes are pointedly manufactured, with Lev and remaining rival candidate Mikhail engaging in some good old-fashioned Soviet propaganda to sell the idea of them being ordinary citizens living daily lives in the legally-distinctive city of 'Sangrad'. Of course, even this nod is yet another lens to view how far Lev's character has come by this point, seeing as he had an easier time revolving his life around the nocturnal test schedule of an experimental space vampire than he does projecting the image of a 'regular life' here. The irony, then, is that he still makes the grade as the 'hero of the people' to be chosen as the official test pilot. Perhaps it's recognized that such adaptability will serve him well when he has to return to lavishments of praise and fame from his countrymen, or maybe it's that it makes him more prepared for the coming cultural revolution that Secretary Halrova alludes to. Either way, it would mean that should Lev's launch go off successfully, he'll still be going places after his return.

The pertinent illustration here is that said places might be in the exact opposite direction poor Irina is headed. The most on-the-nose portrayal of that is her being physically stopped from even interacting with him, despite being in the same part of the same city, while he's trying to project the image of his supposed 'normal life'. Vampire Cosmonaut is no stranger to outrageous melodramatic setpieces – hell, I just praised the absurd near-neck-bite scene for its audacious romanticism – but somehow the forlorn shot of Irina and Anya's discarded ice cream having rain pour down onto it registered a little more comical to me than I think they meant to. Really, it only sticks out because that's the sole tonal misstep of an episode that's effectively covering a whole spectrum otherwise; the rest of what we see of Irina's side of the story is good and depressing in all the right ways! We find out she's not actually assisting with work at the Design Bureau as she told Lev, but is simply being studied at the Military Medical Center until such time that she'll likely be disposed of out of convenience. She lingers in her solitary room with few visitors and not even a cozy coffin to sleep in. It's a simple, clinical cruelty to compare to the oncoming hero's welcome Lev might soon receive, the further irony being that the glitz and glamour is the last reason he's so passionate about making it into space.

I continue to be excitedly uncertain about where Vampire Cosmonaut will end up going with all this, but no matter the resolution, the contrast between all the raw, outlandish emotions illustrated in this episode is going to stick with me as an example of the series' strengths. When I think about this show, I'll definitely be thinking about that last solitary shot of the lights in Irina's now-unoccupied medical room going out, and the doors being closed for the final time. This show can portray the excitement of the individual people who contribute to the march of scientific progress, but also the sad facts regarding the inevitable passing of time said progress wrecks on those people. They do their best to assist it, and the way they're rewarded or discarded by society for that can be cruelly uneven. It makes this, as we close in on the anime's finish, a strong study of the contrast between the self and the collective, of those who do their best for their country and the people they loyally share it with, while at the same time just trying to survive and get by in their own small ways.

Rating:

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is currently streaming on Funimation.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.


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