Almost two months ago, I discussed the anime series Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut. The link in the previous sentence will take you to the original post, so you can read about the anime and learn more about the plot. The anime was based on a light novel series. Last month, I picked up the first volume of the series for my Kindle. Because the light novel and the anime are so strongly based on the Soviet Space Program, I took the opportunity to refresh my memory of that period using my handy copy of the Haynes Soyuz manual, which I’d purchased in 2019 at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas. All in all, it made an enjoyable deep dive into both the history of space flight and an exploration of storytelling techniques.
Over the years, I’ve read numerous novels that have been made into movies along with several movie novelizations. That said, this marks the first time I’ve read a Japanese light novel that was adapted into an anime. Overall, the anime adapted the light novel almost scene for scene and beat for beat. The main thing I noticed is that the first novel only covers about half the series. So, presumably, the second half of the series is based on the second novel. I’ll have to wait until October to confirm that! There were a few minor details in the novel that I didn’t remember in the anime, but I’d have to go back and rewatch the anime to make sure they actually weren’t there, or if I just missed them in a casual watch.
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut was interesting from a narrative perspective. It told its story strictly from two points of view. One was reserve cosmonaut candidate Lev Leps, who trains the vampire Irina. The other viewpoint belonged to Irina herself. Lev’s point of view is by far the predominant one in novel, with Irina’s viewpoint providing a small counterpoint to Lev’s at the end of each chapter.
Both the light novel and the anime focus a lot of their time on Irina’s training for her rocket flight. This was where the Haynes guide proved interesting. I learned that the training regimen described in Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is a reasonably accurate depiction of the Soviet training regimen. Isolation training played an important part in the novel and anime as well as real life. As it turns out, the isolation tank used by the Soviets had a high oxygen content and I learned that one real-life cosmonaut died in a flash fire in the test booth in a way similar to the Apollo 1 astronauts in the United States.
There’s an inherent drama in the conflict between pushing forward to achieve a goal but analyzing all the risks to do something as safely as possible. I used that when I wrote my novel The Solar Sea about the first solar sail voyage across the solar system. I would argue that the Quinn family, who build the solar sail in my novel, push a little too hard for their goal. Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut does a good job of showing how the Soviets also pushed very hard to beat the Americans in various space milestones, arguably taking dangerous risks along the way. That said, I strongly sympathize with the idea that it’s sometimes necessary to take risks to achieve great things. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to look at Russia’s history without thinking about current events. Invading another sovereign nation is most definitely not a great ambition for any country and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has harmed international cooperation in space, which I’d argue has been far more beneficial to the planet than the 60s “space race” ever was.
One thing I enjoyed about the novel is that author Keisuke Makino has an afterward where he discusses his inspirations for writing the light novel. He mentioned that he was intrigued by the idea of taking a fantasy character like a vampire and putting them into a space setting. It’s true, that I can’t think of another book that has vampires involved in the early space programs of either the United States or the Soviet Union, but the ideas of vampires being drawn to space and the stars is one I’ve long found fascinating. In fact, my 2010 story “Anemia” about a vampire boarding a colony ship for the stars to escape the Earth’s sun is now reprinted in the first issue of The Hungur Chronicles. Even before I wrote that story, my Scarlet Order vampires dreamed of going to space in Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
You can get the light novel Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut from Seven Seas Entertainment: https://sevenseasentertainment.com/books/irina-the-vampire-cosmonaut-light-novel-vol-1/
My short story “Anemia” is in the first issue of The Hungur Chronicles: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/hungur-chronicles-walpurgisnacht-edited-by-terrie-leigh-relf-and-robert-bellam
You can learn more about my novels at: http://www.davidleesummers.com