One Small Step for Vampire-kind!
What’s the Story?
Following the end of a great war, the world’s two largest superpowers, the Federal Republic of Zirnitra in the east and the United Kingdom of Arnak in the west, turned their attention to space. Both competing to be the first to land a human on the moon, they each came up with their own methods and technology to get them there. In the Repiblic’s case they decided that not enough was known about the effect of space flight on the human body and so decided to send something human-like first. Enter Irina Luminesk, a vampire with a burning desire to reach the moon. It’s up to former astronaut candidate Lev to prepare her for the trails ahead, but facing fear and suspicion from all around them will Irina even survive the training? And if she does manage to make it into space, what comes after?
What if vampires were involved in the space race? Now, you see, it’s these kind of out of the box ideas that I come to anime for and it makes a weird kind of sense when you think about it in the context of the world this series has created. In the real world all sorts of animals got sent into space to test whether it was survivable for humans, but what if there was another race that was very close to humans in physiology? I mean it’s absolutely horrible treatment for the vampires, reducing them to things and test subjects, but it’s not like governments across the world don’t already have a history of that kind of crap. Throw in that this series is set in a very blatant parallel to Russia and you have a recipe for a tense political thriller exploring human experimentation, social indoctrination and a host of other heavy subjects. Which is why it’s so strange that this series spends so much of it’s time trying to be a cozy little romantic comedy.
I still haven’t quite worked out how I feel about this series. I think I enjoyed it, but it’s that dissonance between the setting and what the plot is actually about that’s confusing me. On the one hand this is a genuinely sweet little romance. Irina starts off naturally wary and standoffish, but slowly the super earnest Lev manages to work his way past her walls and into her heart. Pretty soon they’re blushing at one another, going on dates by frozen lakes and Irina is getting drunk. It’s all really adorable and if the show was just about them falling in love and training together then I think this would be a fine series.
The problem is that this series isn’t just about that romance, it’s also got that magnificent setting. A setting that is just crying out with potential and it gets squandered almost in its entirety. Maybe this is just my expectations of what I want this series to be about crashing up against what it actually is, but there’s so much that can be done with this story and it just isn’t. There is frequent mention and showing of the blatant racism against Irina and other vampires. We get flashbacks to an attack on her village, we catch glimpses of vampires being treated as second class citizens by other countries, not to mention the authorities plotting to kill Irina the moment she’s no longer useful. Yet, for all the demonstrations of how bad this is, there’s never any meaningful commentary or exploration of the subject. The same applies to the criticism of the government in this series. There’s talk of purges and we see people disappear, but that’s as far as it gets.
Then of course we get to the ending and I’m going to have to talk spoilers here for a moment. If you want to watch this series completely blind then skip this paragraph and go straight to the verdict section, this is my spoiler warning for everything. We good? Okay. So in the last episode of course Lev breaks away from his prepared speech and starts telling everyone about Irina and letting the whole world know that the first cosmonaut was actually a vampire. Then Irina makes it up on the stage and starts giving a speech about herself and her dreams of making it to the moon with Lev someday. All that was perfectly fine and expected. Where I’m calling BS is that the crowd start off throwing bottles at Irina and calling her a monster only to suddenly have a change of heart and start applauding her. I wish racism was that easy to fix, but we’re still struggling with it in the present day and you expect me to believe a totalitarian Russia knock-off solved it in one afternoon? Nope, I don’t buy that for a second. I wish I could see this as a happy ending, but I can’t help but imagine all the multitude of ways that this country is going to screw over Lev and Irina in the coming years. It just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
In the end, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is a good romance series spoiled by having a far more interesting setting than it knows what to do with. There’s a lot of potential in the world of this series, with some meaty topics to talk about but all of that gets glossed over in favour of cute interactions between our leads. It’s a disappointment to say the least, but if you’re only interested in the romance than you should make it through this just fine. As for me I’m taking the next rocket out of here.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.