Irina Finally Makes It to Orbit

WARNING: The following article contains significant spoilers for the first seven episodes of Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut, currently streaming on Funimation

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut's UZSR space program has always treated Irina Luminesk as an expendable asset. The only cosmonaut candidate to consistently advocate for her is Lev Leps, overseer of Irina's progress as she trains to go to space as a test subject. But, thankfully, things are slowly changing among the space program staff.

In Episode 7, Irina finally launches into space for the first time. Alone in her craft, she makes some important personal proclamations while outside the atmosphere. Not only that, but the ground control scene in this episode reveals just how much the space program has come to respect the vampire cosmonaut.

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After a successful launch, Irina's spacecraft is stable in space. Irina is scheduled to read a borscht recipe if she feels well, and a cheeseburger recipe if she feels unwell, in order to mislead any potential interceptors. Unfortunately, visual communications have failed and ground control doesn't receive any audio communication from Irina despite them being fully connected. Eventually, Irina's voice stutters through, reading the borscht recipe, and ground control cheers in celebration.

Desperate for a discrete way to somehow communicate the beauty of her surroundings to Lev, Irina segues to talking about oleaster nastoyka and lemon seltzer, two drinks that have special significance for her and her grounded friend. Lev introduced Irina to carbonated drinks because vampires don't have as strong a flavor palette as humans, and Irina got drunk from a small sip of nastoyka on their night off in the jazz bar in Episode 4. This was also when Irina heard "My Beloved," the jazz tune that she hums contentedly as her craft rotates above the Earth. Admiring the moon as she floats in space, Irina finally decides that she doesn't want to die.

An interesting element of this scene is the way the other members of the project react to the news of Irina's safety. In Episode 5, Chief Slava Korovin was told that Irina's craft would contain explosives so that it could be destroyed to protect manufacturing secrets if it landed outside of UZSR territory. He was shocked, but ultimately accepted the terms. This makes his relief all the more meaningful when he lets himself cheer with the others when she survives the initial launch, once again confirming that he is not so detached from Irina as he lets on.

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The craft eventually lands on Earth, but a broken cable leads to communication being severed. Lev rushes towards the microphone, snatching it from Chief Korovin to try to speak to Irina. This is perfectly in character for Lev, especially after he stood up to Training Center Vice-Director Savalevich in Episode 6. The craft has landed significantly off-course, but mercifully not so far as to be outside UZSR territory. This means that Irina manages to avoid being killed in a deliberate explosion while in her craft. Lev offers to search for her on the ground, and Chief Korovin allows him to.

Lev injures his leg looking for Irina, eventually finding her lying in the snow. Lev and Irina make shelter under a parachute, and the combination of relief for Irina's safety and Lev's dedication to her make it one of the most heartwarming scenes in the anime so far. Dr Mozhaysky breathes a sigh of relief when he learns that Irina is safe for the time being.

This is especially noteworthy as not only did Dr. Mozhaysky refer to Irina dismissively when he introduced Lev to her in Episode 1, but his love for a dog that died in a previous test is part of the reason why cosmonaut staff are encouraged not to get emotionally involved with test subjects. Perhaps working with Irina and watching her progress and dedication has made it harder for Chief Korovin and Dr. Mozhaysky to convince themselves that she isn't human, or perhaps they have been somewhat moved by Lev's conviction that she deserves to live.

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This unfortunately does not necessarily mean the UZSR will let Irina live after they've gleaned all the data they need from her. Fortunately, however, the subtle ways in which the space program staff have come around to Lev's way of thinking imply that her chances of survival are higher than they were at the start of the series. Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone in the program is on Irina's side. After correcting an apparent malfunction with the centrifuge in Episode 6, Lev learns from Natalia that his engineer friend Franz had deliberately sabotaged it to harm Irina in an act of espionage. Lev asks Natalia what will happen to Franz, only for her to chillingly claim that "no record of such a person exists here." However, because Franz's reaction to being caught is never shown, this could simply be a misdirection.

Irina has gone to space and landed safely back on Earth, despite only having had a 30-50% chance of survival. Even so, her challenges are not over yet. Irina still has to go to the moon before a human can, and she must also survive the UZSR government wanting to dispose of her after she is no longer useful to them. Despite this, Episode 7 has proven that Lev is not the only one standing behind Irina, and the vampire's future looks brighter than ever.

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Ciaran McGhee (21 Articles Published)

Ciaran McGhee is a critic and writer with articles in such publications as GamingBible, and Lancaster's SCAN. He is dedicated to analysing animation up close as well as looking at the big picture. Ciaran attends fan expos to learn about upcoming anime projects and engage with fan and production communities. He is a sketch artist who continues to practice character design on a daily basis, as well as writing scripts and performing in local theatre.

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