Cosmonaut Lev doesn’t see Irina as expendable just because she’s a vampire, but she is still at significant risk from the USZR government.
Warning: the following article contains minor spoilers for the first four episodes of Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut, available on Funimation.
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is a new anime series adapted from Keisuke Makino’s light novels about a vampire who is sent to space. The series takes place in the fictional USZR, a loose allegory for the Soviet Union during its real-life space race against the United States. Eager to test the effects of space flight on the human body, The USZR begins preparations to send Irina Luminesk, a vampire whom they deem to be expendable, into orbit.
Dubbed Project Nosferatu, Irina’s progress is overseen by Lev Leps, a reserve cosmonaut candidate who gets so heated when discussing space travel that people say he can thaw snow. Lev rejects the USZR’s notion of Irina being less than human and treats her as a comrade and a friend. Despite this, it could be argued that there is more Lev could do to protect her.
The other human cosmonaut candidates ostracise Irina. Especially brutal is Roza Plevitskaya, who gets angry when Lev compares Irina to the human candidates, accuses her of being a spy, and insists to Lev that she is an “object.” Even more dangerous than this is the threat that Irina might be executed after her first space mission, having stopped being useful to The USZR’s space campaign. In Episode 3, “Night Flight,” The USZR’s leader Gergiev asks about “the subject’s handling post-experiment.” Another politician quickly proposes “execution” and that they should “dispose of her.”
In Episode 4, “A Promise by the Lake,” Roza calls Lev out on the hypocrisy of treating Irina as a friend while working within a system that doesn’t care if she dies. “Once her role’s over, the vampire will be disposed of. How heart-wrenching to be aiding her death.” Lev doesn’t know how to confront the accusation, only being able to reply, “don’t go saying that.” The truth is that Lev is fully aware of this possibility. In Episode 3, he insists on helping Irina overcome her fear of heights because “if she’s seen as a poor choice for the flight, she’ll be killed for sure.” In Episode 4, Irina reveals that she is not too naïve to know the truth either, bluntly saying to Lev, “experiment subjects are disposed of, huh?”
Describing vampires as “People of the Moon,” all Irina wants is to visit it before humans desecrate it with war. This implies that she harbors no anger at Lev for working on Project Nosferatu. As one of Irina’s only human friends, however, Lev should want more for her than to die as soon as she achieves her goal.
It wouldn’t be easy for Lev to advocate for Irina on a personal level. Lev’s favorite elementary school teacher was taken away by the mysterious and euphemistically named “Delivery Crew” merely for saying “planes are for soaring the sky, not weapons for killing people.” Lev also notes “our motherland doesn’t know the word ‘failure.’ Only ‘accidents’ and ‘purges.’” This dialogue implies that a terrifying fate awaits anybody who questions the USZR government. Challenging the USZR space program’s official stance that Irina is nothing more than a disposable experiment would likely have dangerous consequences for Lev.
Another reason why Lev might be hesitant to stand up for Irina in an official capacity is that it would not be the first time he was reprimanded for standing up to his superiors. The reason why Lev is a reserve cosmonaut candidate and no longer a full-fledged candidate is that he attacked a superior for blaming an employee for a mistake that wasn’t their fault. For this reason, Lev is no longer in consideration to go to space, which is a dream he has had since he was a young child. He may feel that there is still a chance for him to fulfill his dream as long as he doesn’t get himself into any more trouble trying to save Irina’s life.
Despite this, Lev treats Irina as a friend, taking a personal interest in her development as a cosmonaut and taking her to his favorite jazz club to relax before her long enclosure in a sensory deprivation room. For this reason, Lev may ultimately become so motivated by his desire to protect Irina from human cruelty that he risks his dream and his life to argue against her execution. Fans who have come to like Lev’s kind, patient personality may want to see him triumphantly come to Irina’s defense in the face of the USZR’s wrath. Protecting Irina would be hard for Lev – but not as hard as losing her to his own space program.
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Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut’s Lev Leps Treats Irina Luminesk as an Equal – But Is It Enough?