The first astronaut in human history was a vampire girl.
Following the end of World War II, the world-dividing superpowers, the Zirnitra Union in the East and the United Kingdom of Arnack in the West, turned their territorial ambitions toward space. Both countries have been competing fiercely for development.
1960. Fyodor Gergiev, the chief leader of the UZSR, announces the manned space flight program Project Mechtatnote , which, if successful, would be the first feat for humankind. At that time, Lev Leps, a substitute astronaut candidate, is ordered to perform a top-secret mission. The Nosferatu Project — a program that experiments with vampires prior to manned missions—will use Irina Luminesk as a test subject, and Lev is to monitor and train her.
Even while trifled by the walls of the race and ego of the nations, Lev and Irina share a genuine sentiment as they aim for the universe.
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut (Tsuki to Laika to Nosuferatunote ) is a Japanese hard science-fantasy light novel series written by Keisuke Makino and illustrated by Karei, which was published by Shogakukan under their Gagaga Bunko label from 2016 to 2021 for seven volumes. A manga adaptation with art by Sojihogu was serialized online via Kodansha's Comic Days website from 2018 to 2023 and compiled into two volumes. An anime television series adaptation by Arvo Animation premiered in October 2021. The novels are licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment, and the anime is licensed by Funimation.
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut contains the following tropes:
- Actor Allusion:
- This is not the first time Megumi Hayashibara has voiced a vampire, except the last time, it was a Mexican one, and a VERY mean one to boot.
- Likewise, this is not the first time we hear Hina Kino (Anya) voicing another Russian Genki Girl hanging around with another non-human critter before, except replace "bear" with "vampire".
- Kōki Uchiyama once again voices a blond Russian man, or at least its in-universe equivalent. However, unlike Yurio, Lev is certainly a sweetheart.
- Dub example, Caitlin Glass voices yet another blonde Russian woman, or at least its in-universe equivalent. However, unlike Decapre as a cold-blooded assassin, Natalia is a kind woman who is willing to help Lev and Irina, having more in common with Cammy.
- Affectionate Nickname: In Episode 3, Anya Simonyan gives Irina the nickname of "Irinyan-san", although in real-world Russian, her nickname would be along the lines of "Irinka" and "Irochka". In the dub, Anya calls her "Irinyan" but gives a different reason for this, saying that it us similar to the last letters of her name. However, she ceases to call Irina by her nickname and simply calls her as Irina-san/Miss Irina due of how she is likely to reciprocate more than she calls her by that nickname.
- Anime Theme Song: "Hii No Tsuki,"note by ALI Project, serves as its opening theme. Its ending theme is "Arifureta Itsuka"note by Chima.
- Anachronism Stew: For all its historical accuracies about the Space Race, there are a number of inaccuracies. For instance, Roza is a candidate of the Zirnitra Space Program but it was not until after 1961 that the first female candidates were selected by the USSR. In Episode 3, we are shown a flashback of Lev's teacher being arrested by State Security, and if this takes place at the end of the war in 1945 (World War II in real life), then the soldiers should not be holding AK-like rifles at this time, as the rifle was not created until 1947. The apartment buildings in the show resemble Brezhnevkas rather than Khruschyovkas, which were not built until the 1970s in the USSR.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: While the first two light novel volumes focus on Irina and Lev's story about being the first people in space, the third volume switches perspective to Arnack following astronaut Bart and his partner Kaye as they work to become the first people to land on the Moon.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In terms of character names, mostly averted. Nearly all of the characters' names and surnames (excluding Luminesk, which Luminescu/Ruminescu would have been a perfectly fine Romanian surname, fitting for a vampire) are genuine and have been used by people in the real-world Soviet Union. On the other hand, the writing used by the Zirnitra Union looks like a horrific mashup of Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabets, and if looked at carefully, it is just English words written with the mashup of these alphabets.
- The Backwards Я: The Zirnitra language is written in English but with modified Cyrillic font.
- Broken Aesop: The series wants to make a statement on racism and bigotry, but falls flat by trying to have it both ways: we're told several legitimate reasons for why humans would hate and fear a race that is faster, stronger, and regularly hunts them for food, but then to make Irina more appealing as a protagonist the story gives her basically no actual vampire attributes, much less any that would warrant all the hatred thrown her way, while at the same time saying nothing about her own bigotry towards regular humans.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Genderflipped. The dynamic between Irina and Lev is this. Irina is aloof and caustic brooding girl whose has negative views towards humanity. Lev, on the other hand, is a total gentle boy who really wants to help Irina reach into space despite his government's contempt against her and her race, and holds rose-tinted views towards the world such as hoping that Zirnitra and Arnack can overcome their differences and explore space together.
- Dirty Communists: The Zirnitra Union, mainly for their Fantastic Racism of vampires, who are shown to be a benign Dark Is Not Evil species in general.
- Fan Disservice: When Irina thinks back on how she got to the facility, we are given a shot of an almost naked Irina being experimented on by scientists surrounding her, with wires attached to her. Not helping this already unsettling shot is that by fourth episode, it is actually revealed she is seventeen years old.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Soyuz Zirnitra Sotsialisticheskikh Respublic (Zirnitra Union) and the United Kingdom of Arnack are USSR and USA in everything but name, right down to having similar country acronyms (UZSR and UKA).
- Fantastic Racism: Much of the Zirnitra facility personnel are prejudiced towards vampires, and treat Irina merely as a test object and not a person - the worst of them in terms of outright hatred and condescension (rather than cold indifference, as with most of them) being the Vice Director. Zirnitra itself seems to have a staunchly genocidal approach to their vampire population, treating the eventual elimination of Irina as a matter of course simply because she exists, and their military having taken part in massacres against their population in the past, as we see in Irina's backstory. In return, Irina also engages this trope against humans and even claims that they should be eradicated and wiped out from the world. Initially, Lev is also prejudiced against vampires until Irina herself corrects them and he apologizes in return. Since then, he is also gets regularly discriminated against because of his closeness to Irina, and even gets detained for trying to protect her.
- Flower Motifs: Korovin assigns Irina with the flower Lycoris as her codename on her flight. In-universe it means "hoping to meet again soon", while it also carries the flower's real life dark and somber meaningsnote as well given Irina's stored fate after her flight. He picks the codename Aster for Lev, after he is chosen to become the leading cosmonaut, which means praying for the safety of someone who is far away.
- Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who is familiar to the Soviet's side of The Space Race will know that Lev will become the first leading cosmonaut, given how some of his actions are somehow based from Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
- Half-Human Hybrid: It is revealed that humans and vampires are biologically compatible and their descendants are known as new-blood race or simply dhampirs. In Arnack, the vampires arrived to the west to escape persecution from the Church back at 16th century due of becoming scapegoats to blame from causing the Black Death, and they intermarry with humans living there until they were enslaved. While some of them end up becoming entertainers in show business, most of them are discriminated, being put into ghettos, and any crimes that have them as victims will be swept under the rug by the authorities. They still retain the usual red eyes, fangs, and pointy ears, but they are noticeably more human in appearance compared to their purebreed counterparts, possess sense of taste, and can tolerate sunlight while can't stand extreme temperatures.
- Just a Stupid Accent: The original Japanese and especially the English dub avert this mostly, as the voice actors speak in their native accents (Japanese for the original, American for the dub), but still use some Russian words (such as Mechtat) in their lines. Somehow averted to Lev's English voice actor Stephen Fu, which he correctly pronounces Irina's name in a way that most Russians will likely call her name.
- Meaningful Name: Irina Luminesk's first name may directly reference a real-world Soviet female cosmonaut candidate, Irina Solovyova. The name of the USSR-like country, the Zirnitra Union, could be a reference to a dragon in Wendish folklore within Slavic mythology. The name of the in-universe Zirnitran space program, Project Mechtat (or Mechta in the Dub), is a reference to the real-world Soviet probe Luna 1, which is also named Mechta.
- Never Be Hurt Again: Another reason behind "It" Is Dehumanizing approach with Nosferatu Project besides Fantastic Racism, the team monitoring Maly's space flight were so distressed by her early death, they have decided to treat all further test subjects as expendable.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Some of the characters and their journey are inspired by real-life figures of the Russian space program:
- Slava Korovin, the Chief Engineer of Zirnitra, is based of the rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Korolev.
- Fyodor Gergiev is basically Nikita Khrushchev in this verse.
- Lev is based on none other than Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Mikhail, the runner-up and Lev's backup, is based on Gherman Titov.
- Orbital Shot: Quite common, like in Episode 1 where Irina witnesses somebody making fun of her in the facility lunchroom.
- Our Vampires Are Different: In this series, vampires don't drink blood regularly and still get sustenance from human food. They place emphasis on texture and smell on the food more since they can't taste them. Blood is the only thing that they can taste, albeit they substituted it with milk in an effort to ban this practice overall. They don't turn to stone or burn in daylight, though they do suffer from heatstroke; and whenever they look on a bright environment outside, it look like a negative film or image. They have strong tolerance to extreme temperatures and can see clearly well on dark environment. The weaknesses found in various books and media are not true (among other things, they only refrain from entering dwellings without invitation because of manners, their only issue with garlic is the smell, and holy water is just water to them). However, when they suffer considerable stress, they will suffer from anemia and most human medicines won't work on them unless they are given blood to regain their vigor.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: The Zirnitra Union. It claims to be a republic, but in reality a union of socialist republics similar to the USSR.
- Primal Fear: Irina is revealed to be very afraid of heights. This is something that no other cosmonaut has to deal with, because all the other cosmonauts were drawn from airplane pilot candidates, and therefore anyone who had problems with heights would have washed out before even getting to the space flight related filtering tests. She overcomes her acrophobia eventually.
- Propaganda Machine: Any incidents or people talking too much are taken care by the State Security.Lev: Motherland doesn't know the word failure, only accidents and purges.
- Really 17 Years Old: Literally. It is revealed that Irina is actually 17 years old, rather than the 21 years of age that was claimed to be. This was because the scientists wanted to recognize her as an adult as part of the Never Be Hurt Again trope. While this makes her an adult to Zirnitran law (one can drink alcohol there at 16), she is basically underage in her hometown which the age of majority there is 20.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Slava Korovin, the genius behind the spacecrafts from Zirnitra, is this. Despite Lev's status as a reserved cosmonaut, he does seem to be biased with him due of being the one who shows respect to Maly and being sympathetic about the circumstances that lead him to become a reserved cosmonaut: the man who abused one of the graduates and the one Lev attacked was the son of the engineer chief who was envious to Korovin, press false charges to him that lead him to be sent to the The Gulag. He also cares for Irina enough that he tells Gergiev that he will resign from the Design Bureau if anything happens to her.
- Lieutenant-General Viktor, the instructor of the space flight candidates, especially when Lev saved Roza from her death after she entered into a dangerous spin. He remarks that he could have berated Lev for risking his life had not he didn't do it for noble reasons, and instead he praises him for doing the right thing.
- On the low bar, Gergiev shows this as well. He is exasperated by his fellow cabinet members' solution to every problem with purges that it will take a long time before he will replace suitable people to fill in to the empty positions. And while he spares Irina's life and tells to the world about her involvement to the space development, he spins it in a way that will benefit him by showcasing Zirnitra as a progressive nation unlike Arnack.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: In the most basic terms, it's the The Space Race, but with vampires. Specifically, this series tackles the Lost Cosmonaut theories, which claims that some cosmonauts went to the outer space before Gagarin's flight, but were never reported nor acknowledged publicly.
- Secret Weapon: Zirnitra develops space rockets in parallel with cross-continental missiles. Lev understands the implications and hopes the project will be used only for science.
- Shown Their Work: The creators have taken a lot of inspiration from the Space Race, especially on the Soviet perspective. In terms of character names, they mostly get the names right, ranging from Yashin to Plevitskaya, with the exclusion of Luminesk. On the other hand, the writing used by the Zirnitra Union is an exception, as mentioned above.
- Unperson: The UZSR boasts a 100% success rate in its space program. They do this by not telling anyone outside the program about missions until after they are completed, and only telling the world about the missions that succeeded. Any mission that failed never happened. The whole reason why Irina is being sent into space is because they can't do this on the official "First Man in Space" mission because the politicians want a live broadcast made by the cosmonaut to prove it had been done, meaning they can't cover up anything that happens during re-entry. So they selected an expendable non-human to make a dry run, which can then be covered up.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The UZSR are afraid to send one of their citizens into the first space flight in case it fails, so they are sending a vampire from a colonized village instead.