Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Irina – The Vampire Cosmonaut

Original Run: October 4, 2021 - December 20, 2021
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Supernatural
Based on the Series Created By: Keisuke Masano and 
Karei

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

On November 23, 1957, the Federal Republic of Zimitra (the FRZ) stunned the world when they launched the first living organism into space. Hoping to extend its lead over its rival, the United Kingdom of Arnack (the UK), the FRZ steps up its effort to be the nation to conduct the first human spaceflight. 

The FRZ has gathered its most elite citizens to determine the perfect candidate for this historic mission. Amongst this lot, the most promising recruit is Private Lev Leps (voiced by Kouki Uchiyama). Unfortunately, a run-in with a superior has seemingly dashed Lev’s hopes. However, he has received one last chance.

Since losing a human in flight would be a massive embarrassment to the FRZ, the higher-ups in the government have ordered Lev to train the next “test subject.” It turns out this subject, Irina Luminesk (voiced by Megumi Hayashibara), is from the rare – but very much real – species of vampire.

Despite Irina’s distrust of humans, she has always dreamt of flying to the Moon and stars. Thus, she diligently performs her duty. As for Lev, he soon realizes he might have found a kindred spirit.

Irina

Series Positives

Even after watching Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut (Irina), I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the premise of this show. Let’s see here:

In an alternate world, there is a near replication of the Cold War. However, instead of the US and USSR, there was the United Kingdom of Arnack and the Federal Republic of Zimitra,  respectively. Regardless of their names, this universe’s space race was playing out like our own – the Soviets (sorry, the Federal Republic) were winning. But, plot twist, vampires – because why not?

I won’t say I was against this idea. Instead, I will say that I was okay with giving it a chance. And the verdict was, meh.

Irina was fine when it was fine – helpful, I know. This series was pretty fifty-fifty, almost literally. The first half of this show was quite enjoyable, a.k.a, the bit that focused on the titular Irina’s training to become a cosmonaut. At the very least, this part of the story was the easiest to grow invested.

Now, to be blunt, this narrative wasn’t what I would call extraordinary. Nor would I call it unique, different, or unexpected. Irina relied on a tried-and-true plot pattern during the first seven episodes, so you can trust this series to be quite solid initially.

As a consequence of this safe approach, you grow attached to Irina. Above all else, the necessary preparation to make it to space was brutal. From constant training to lack of sleep to high expectations, there were a ton of things Irinia needed to do just to get ready. It is no wonder that in this world, as well as our own, only the fittest and brightest ever have a chance to make it to a launch.

And then there was everything else.

For centuries, humans had vilified vampires to be this monstrous race. Therefore, most people treated Irina as something to fear, never mind that certain stereotypes associated with vampires – aversion to garlic, suffering immense pain from religious symbols, and instant death when exposed to sunlight – were utter misconceptions.

Additionally, this story took place in an alternate USSR. This meant ideas such as personal liberties, free thought, and not being purged weren’t really things citizens enjoyed, and that was if they were human. Being a vampire, many saw Irina as no better (and no less expendable) than a dog. Heck, everyone in this show assumed Irina would be “disposed of” when her usefulness ran its course.

When we bring all these factors together, is it any wonder that Irina was the type of character you naturally want to cheer? Her big moment – her spaceflight – was as meaningful as it was because she had fought for it. 

With all that said, keep this in mind; Irina and her story were what held this series together. They didn’t get much help from anything else. To list off a few surface-level issues:

  • The animation was great.
  • Aside from Lev Leps, Irina was the only character worth caring about.
  • The soundtrack made this series sound so artificially whimsical.

Fortunately, Irina and her story saved this series from becoming a forgettable oddity. Unfortunately, though, this aspect didn’t last the entire runtime. Once Irina had completed her space mission, there remained five episodes to go. What came afterward simply wasn’t on the same level.

Series Negatives

Having never read the original Irina light novels, what I am about to say is nothing more than a hunch. And yet, it is a hunch based on how empath the second half of this series felt. It was almost as if this show needed to fit a much deeper, more involved story into a short twelve-episode run, and as a result, some narrative elements were never going to make it.

This series went dead once Irina returned from her spaceflight. Why? Well, let me ask you a question.

If it were up to you, how would you follow the tale of a star-loving vampire who achieved their lifelong dream after months of constant training, verbal abuse, and unapologetic discrimination? Are you thinking along the lines of: Do the same thing except replace the vampire with some straightlaced human whose likelihood of success was never in question?

Probably not because I doubt you’re insane.

Lev was a decent enough partner for Irina in a romantic sense. But when he became the sole star of this show, he didn’t have the same charm to recreate what Irina had already done.

Of course, I am open to the argument about this being the point. Since she was a vampire, many people would not accept the thought of Irina being the first cosmonaut. Nevertheless, since she was a sentient being, her account of space was all heart and wonder. Therefore, when Lev went through the same experience, his account wasn’t anything new.

That isn’t bad framing. Except, did that need to take five episodes to set up? If the answer is yes, then Irina fumbled the ball.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the ending of this series had no hint of satisfaction. On the contrary, the alls’-well-that-ends-well nature of this conclusion was incredibly irritating. It came off as painfully forced.

Remembering how sufficiently interested I was at the start of this series, it is a shame how done with it I was by the finale.

Again, I am assuming this anime adaptation had to leave a ton of material out of the final product. How else does one explain how hollow the second half of this show was?

Final Thoughts

If you don’t intend to finish this series, then I think you might be in luck.

There were good things about this show, all within its first half. Sure, the premise of this story is a bit out there, but it does work when said story centered around said premise. I do not consider this series to be a failure.

However, it wasn’t a success either. When the complete second half of a narrative loses life as it did here, there is only one conclusion to make.

You can skip Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut.

But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Irina: The VampireCosmonaut? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m Odyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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