Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut: Irina and Anya Ring in the New Year

Nov 25, 2021


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

Episode 8 of Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut has plenty of scenes that advance the plot, such as Lev Lep's renewed cosmonaut training and the UZSR cabinet's deliberation on Irina's fate now that she has returned from space. But one segment, "Long Live the Motherland," feels like a well-timed breather from the intense aftermath of Episode 7's climactic launch.

The segment sets the scene with a montage of subdued celebration in Zirnitra's snowy streets. Despite this, Irina seems to be spending New Year's Eve in her confinement cell. That is until her health manager Anya Simonyan arrives. Giving Irina a new winter gown, the two take to the streets of Laika44 to celebrate New Year's Eve. Anya teaches Irina about UZSR mythology and tells shares about her life and fascination with vampires. The pair eventually break away from the celebrations to make wishes on a frozen lake.

The scene in Irina's cell opens with Anya going through a flipbook that Irina created. The animation in this scene is reminiscent of the way Irina imagines Lev's chalkboard diagram of her parachuting from her craft in Episode 4. The fact that she evidently creates simple animations of space missions in her spare time adds to this consistent image of how she imagines space travel. Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is a series with exemplary animation, from the detail of Irina's tears floating upwards in zero gravity to the grand scale of the fiery smoke that billows from her spacecraft as it launches. Irina's charmingly simple flipbook feels like an understated tribute to the medium that has brought her story to life so vividly.

In town, Anya tells Irina that she was raised in an orphanage and eventually worked in the Air Force Medical Institute, where she learned about and became fascinated with vampires. Irina asks if she was scared, but Anya jokes that "the orphanage teachers were scarier. They're all like Sagalevich." Sagalevich being the curmudgeonly, vampire-hating training director who evidently conspired to sabotage Irina's centrifuge. Irina cringes, and they laugh. The girls' mutual disgust towards Sagalevich is an honest bonding moment as they come together over a shared enemy.

A young girl approaches Irina and Anya, giving them wrapped candy. Anya explains to Irina that the child is Snegurochka, and points out her "grandfather" Ded Moroz. These are real-life mythological winter figures in Russia, but Anya claims that they are an important part of the New Year tradition in the UZSR. Though Zirnitra is clearly strongly inspired by Soviet Russia, it is unusual for the series to reference Russian culture so literally. This raises interesting questions about the point at which Irina lore may have deviated from real-world history. Given the prominent fir tree in the town, perhaps fir trees in the UZSR are designated "New Year trees" as they are in Russia.

Anya takes Irina to Laika44's artificial Belka Lake to make wishes on pinecones. Irina visualizes the galaxy as she makes her wish, but when Anya asks what it was, she replies "long live the motherland." Anya is in disbelief, likely because Irina's "disposal" by the same government is still being debated. Irina repeats the phrase, doing a casual impression of UZSR Supreme Leader Gergiev. Irina's humble smile barely hides her sarcasm as Anya insists that she is lying. Irina playfully replies, "am not!" As she skates away on her boots. The fact that Irina can joke like this with Anya is another positive sign of their growing friendship, and an encouraging reminder that Irina is not letting herself be afraid of the UZSR's ruthless government, mocking them instead.

The segment builds on a motif of reflections from throughout the episode, ironic given that many other interpretations of vampires have none. One shot depicts the two girls smiling as they look into some reflective tree ornaments. Perhaps the round shape of the two most central ornaments symbolizes the Earth and the moon among the stars, represented by the hanging lights. In this case, the fact that both Irina and Anya are reflected in both of them could represent the idea that Irina deserves to be able to go to the Moon, and Anya will help her get there as her biomedical advisor, but she will always have a home on Earth with friends like her.

The lake scene also has plenty of other meaningful reflections. The stars in the night sky are reflected in the ice, and the way Irina and Anya lie on it makes it look like they are floating in space. The way Irina in particular looks like she is floating in space without a spacecraft or even spacesuit reinforces the fact that as a "person of the moon," space is somewhere she belongs.

Episode 8 gives Irina some much-needed downtime before she sets her sights on her ultimate mission of going to the moon. It also sheds some light on Anya's backstory and shows a more relatable side of her personality. It shouldn't have taken a successful launch for Irina to prove this, but the UZSR now has no choice but to accept that she has a right to such simple freedoms as being able to go out with friends.

More threads

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