Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
Episode 8

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut ?

Now what? With the vampire having made it to space by the seventh episode of the series, that's the question hanging over both the characters and the show as Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut heads into its next story arc. There's a necessary reshuffling of priorities and even tone as the anime settles into depicting the sense of relief that comes from the success of the mission we just watched all that build-up to, alongside the anxiousness of the changes that must follow as a result. The procedural elements of the past portion of the show almost seem to be supplanted by a slice-of-life feeling, giving both the characters and us something of a breather in this transitory period. And the result of that is one of the most generally pleasant excursions that Vampire Cosmonaut has provided us, particularly with how 'earned' it feels after all those efforts.

'Intimacy' is the word that comes to mind when trying to sum up the feeling of this episode. Of course we watched Lev and Irina grow closer necessarily over the course of that introductory arc, but with the relief of their mission's success, they're able to decompress and interact with each other as well as other characters in their orbit. It's downright heartening to see the UZSR at last giving Irina the acknowledgement and thanks she so earned after all this time, even with the backhanded understanding that they're only doing so now because things actually went so smoothly. She doesn't even get a proper 'celebration' for her particular efforts, just a general toast of victory and then it's back to 'the same repetitive, ordinary days'. It falls to a small, private celebration from just Lev and Anya to give Irina the rewarding recognition we know she deserves, a direct demonstration of that important intimacy.

Given how we've gotten to know these characters over that course of episodes, it feels like we get to be a bit more intimately acquainted with them now as well. The tone of the series overall has shifted a bit now that the immediate need for Irina's success isn't hanging over all of the proceedings. Sure, there's still some uncertainty, with the narration clumsily informing us that some within the military and space program would prefer our humble vampire cosmonaut to have an 'accident' befall her in the name of protecting state secrets. But even with that or Lev's montage of his own training now that he's been accepted back into the candidate program, there's less tense urgency moving things forward. That fits with the relief the story knows we need to be feeling at this stage, letting us take in understated moments like Lev's internal delight at having his status restored, or Irina's sly, knowing smile indicating how she's happy for him as well. Not that she'll admit it a scene later, as she's still doing the tsundere schtick at this phase in their relationship.

Even as we've eased off clearly-drawn deadly deadlines for the moment, Vampire Cosmonaut doesn't forget the million-ruble question of "What will happen to Irina now?". The current codification seems to be on how her and Lev's efforts might intersect even as he's been taken off handling duty, as focus on injury disqualifications and his potentially not-100% leg get highlighted, alongside Irina's love-bite still visible on his arm. The scenes of Lev in training, alongside his human cohorts, make for an effective parallel to what we saw he and Irina doing previously, but it's that honing in on the smaller, unspoken details of the man, speaking to the intimate pain shared between human and vampire, that indicates how things might actually be connecting up in the future. Thankfully in these moments, the show doesn't feel like it's dragging things out, rather that it really is respecting our time and ability to reflect on key details.

Even as well-constructed as the connection between Lev and Irina is shown to be, the real MVP of this episode turns out to be the other organizer of that little congratulatory party. Cute as she is, Anya's felt somewhat underutilized throughout the series so far, but the show finally seems to be putting some energy towards finding more for her to do. Taking Lev away for a bit is certainly one way to provide an opportunity for that, even though as clear as it becomes by the end that Anya herself is shipping the hell out of those two, it's hard not to think her and Irina wouldn't go together pretty well too. As-is though, this one does well in showing the girls as friends, adding in Anya having her own backstory connected to Irina's home nation. It's seemingly as a way to gloss over why Anya isn't beholden to the same prejudices that the other Fantasy-Russians hold against Irina, but past that mechanical point it lets us see story connection between the two and even some discussion of Irina's culture that her interactions with Lev haven't facilitated. The distinguishing spin on their relationship is exemplified in Irina getting an ice-skating scene alongside Anya that's basically the opposite of that one with Lev a few episodes ago: No dreamy esotericism or tinted idealizations of the other person, just two dorks who care about each other screwing around out on the ice after making wishes on pine cones.

The scope of the team's efforts and the relationships between our main characters have been expanded this episode, and the resulting shift in tone makes for an enjoyable clean break between story arcs. It's lovingly exemplified towards the end of this one in a flashback to Irina and Lev's post-launch reunion under the parachute: A scene of earned intimacy between our main characters, preceding a near-confession from Irina of how she really feels about Lev, before the rest of the cast catching up with them necessitates her scooching away. These two are close, but it's not over for them or anyone else, and there's still plenty of ground to cover.

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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