REVIEW: ‘Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut’ Tackles The Space Race and Prejudice.

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Irina The Vampire Cosmonaut - But Why Tho

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is an alternate history drama anime produced by Arvo Animation. In the post-World War II world, the great powers find themselves in a race for the stars. The UZSR looks to be the first power to send a human to space. Fearing the embarrassment of their first cosmonaut dying among the stars, the government decides to prepare a test subject to send up first. Her name will never be spoken. But, if everything goes according to plan, Irina Luminesk, a vampire, will be the first person to slip the surly bonds of Earth and drift through the vastness of space.

There are few topics more delicate to approach than those surrounding themes like racism and prejudice. When writing fiction to speak to the subject one must walk the difficult line between being informed by the real-world struggles of groups, while not pulling too directly from those groups’ experiences. We’ve all seen fiction writers use heavy-handed similies to drive a point home. When fiction leans on specifics of a particular social or ethnic group, rather than making the fictional work more relatable, it generally comes across as exploitative. The best writers keep the struggles of fictional groups familiar in the broad strokes and leave the direct similarities for the viewer to connect themselves. This is the strategy that Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut thankfully sticks to.

In the alternate world of Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut Vampires are real. But instead of stalking the night, preying on humans, Vampires have been pushed to the edges of society. Blamed for events that were not their fault and painted as monsters by politicians and fear mongers, the best most Vampire communities can hope for is to be left alone. At worse, they suffer mistreatment at the hands of those who call them “The Cursed Race”. And in this way, the UZSR is no different than anyone else. This is why they go to a vampire village to find a test subject for their experimental space flight. Someone who they can risk without worry and deny ever existed afterward. Someone most of them already view as more of an object than a person. Someone like Irina.

Irina comes into her role with the UZSR’s space program fully aware of what everyone around her thinks of her. She knows she is a disposable asset to them. But just as her government seeks to use her, so too does she wish to use them. Irina has always dreamed of traveling to space. If she must bear the insults and sneers of the ignorant to get what she wants she will. She will prove to all of them that she is better than any human. Though luckily for Irina, she won’t have to face this task completely alone.

When Irina arrives at the space agency’s training grounds she is introduced to Lev Leps. A young man who also hopes to travel to space. However, due to a recent altercation with one of his superiors, Lev is currently being held back as an alternate to the main candidates for the space program. Due to this downgrade, Lev is assigned with training Irina for her space flight.

While the journey that Lev and Irina go on through Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut‘s 12 episodes is fairly predictable, it is nonetheless handled in a way that gets the viewer fully invested in the duo and their journey to both the stars and each other. Seeing both come to understand the failings within their preconceived notions of the other is a beautiful message that is laced with hopeful optimism, while not shying away from just how ugly prejudice can make people.

Surrounding the main duo is a variety of characters that run a broad spectrum of viewpoints where Irina is concerned. From the outwardly hostile cadets who resent Irina’s going to space before them to the open-minded scientist that just finds everything about her fascinating and many others, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut strives to show that there are many different positions on the spectrum of prejudice, while never wavering from the position that tolerance and compassion is the only acceptable place to be.

The only major point in this series some may take issue with is the overall positive ending. While yes, I can acknowledge that things would most likely not play out as well for Lev and Irina in the end if some of the series biggest finale moments were to happen, I’m perfectly happy to see a few good feelings for the duo. Not every story needs to break my heart.

So while some may say that Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut delivers an overall optimistic tale of one young woman’s journey against the preconceptions of others, it manages this positivity while never coming across as ignorant of how bad people can be. Combine that with how well the series portrays the prejudice faced by its Vampires while not appropriating real-world experiences and I’d say there is far more to praise in this series emotional story than one could ever complain about.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is streaming on Funimation.


Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut Season 1
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

So while some may say that Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut delivers an overall optimistic tale of one young woman’s journey against the preconceptions of others, it manages this positivity while never coming across as ignorant of how bad people can be. Combine that with how well the series portrays the prejudice faced by its Vampires while not appropriating real-world experiences and I’d say there is far more to praise in this series emotional story than one could ever complain about.

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