Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
Episode 9

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut ?
Community score: 4.4

The somewhat lighter, more uplifted tone that Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut has had since starting this new story last week persists. That's impressive, considering that in this week's episode one person nearly dies in a parachuting accident and another almost gets run over with a car! It's all down to the presentation, really. These cute kids we've gotten to know in this cosmonaut cartoon are growing ever more close and amicable with each other, and it's visible in their expressions and body language. Seriously, I'm not sure what the staff rotation is here, but the face game in this week's episode is some of the best it's ever been, with the character acting and animation not far behind. Vampire Cosmonaut has always seemed to be a smartly conservative production, so I'm not really surprised its resources have been able to keep up to make the show still feel like it's being delivered with care this many weeks in.

Even then, there are so many adorable little expressions and asides that they'd make the show a joy to watch even if they weren't also in service of communicating the close-knit growth of our soviet space heroes. Witness Irina's dejected little flop back as Anya reports Lev's progress in the training program to her. Check out Lev himself still acting like an excitable space nerd even when his flight-mates are worn out from the work so far. Bits like this, and all the funny faces these people make along the way, don't just make clear the relief they're still feeling in the wake of Irina's successful space-flight; at this stage, it's also here to communicate the rapport our main characters have established by rubbing off on each other. Sure, there's still increasing romantic tension that Lev and Irina will have to scale sooner rather than later, but that itself is predicated on the fact that they, along with Anya, are at a point now where they can go on scenic walks through the snow and dunk on each other like goofs.

That carefully-maintained production manifests in more 'important' points in this episode too, setting course for further corners this story is headed for. After all the efforts they paid to the element in the previous story arc, it's only fair this show reminds us that it can still animate the crap out of a parachute-jumping section when it needs to. And the sequence at the center of this week's episode also contains elements of that character-connection priority: Lev's daring mid-air rescue of Roza is a brisk, smart effort by him, but lacking the intimate aerial embrace that defined his similar interaction with Irina. Instead, he gets an intense, but goofy, crash-landing into some trees for his trouble, enhanced by the aforementioned character animation and facial expressions to really sell the intensity of that wild little moment.

The presentation of the action around Roza in this episode is nice, and almost gets me to gloss over the more substantial story sections it's in service of. Roza, like Anya who came more into focus last week, has always been a theoretically interesting element of the cast, but constantly came off underutilized due to the show's extreme focus on the main power couple. Here, the show seemingly seeks to define and develop Roza a bit more while also 'wrapping up' her development so we can pivot to the Lev/Irina romantic progression undistracted. So while Roza's gratitude towards Lev for saving her feels earned, the idea that she simply comes around to appreciating Irina and regretting her prejudice towards the vampire in what looks like the space of a single conversation feels abrupt. That's partially down to how under-developed Roza felt previously, given that her dislike of Irina was basically all she had going on, thus cramming in her struggles with 60s Communist Space-Program Sexism just makes this characteristic turning point feel even more crowded.

As well, Roza's newfound respect for Irina might have come off more complete had the two girls gotten to talk to each other about it, instead of Roza relaying her points through Lev as they both talk about Irina. Of course, that's because one of the main purposes of this conversation is actually for Irina to catch a glimpse of the two enthusiastically chatting out of context, setting up a stock jealousy subplot so that burgeoning romance can reach a more intense boil later on. Not only does this feel overtly unnecessary – it's pretty obvious that Lev is absolutely friendzoning Roza through any attachments the latter might be developing (He refers to her as a 'pal', she doesn't stand a chance) – but the show itself basically pivots away from that dramatic focus almost immediately, instead spicing things up a scene later as the threat of assassination against Irina hurtles towards her like she's a deer in the headlights. That reminder of dissent, and the executioner-style lengths we see Natalia is willing to go through to keep a lid on it, is a more potent complication than any amount of rom-com misunderstandings. And the comparison there just makes that element of the Roza storyline seem even more out of place.

Even then, I understand the mechanics of that bit with Roza, and in the interest of driving up the cuteness of the courtship between Lev and Irina, it admittedly works. Seeing the results of their date that kicks off at the end of this episode has me on as many pins and needles as the results of Irina's previous test flight. It even gives Anya more fun stuff to do, as we get to watch her matchmaking chessmaster efforts come to fruition. This kind of focus, and its integration with the ongoing space-training efforts, are where the harmonies of Vampire Cosmonaut lie, I think. And while I appreciate its efforts to do more with characters like Roza, that bit needed a little more development time so it didn't come off mostly as a distraction. Still, for a series that's had a fairly cozy pace so far, I'll give the show points for not getting complacent, in trying to branch out its ambitions a bit. Shoot for the moon, and all that.

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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