Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut’s Lev Takes a Risk for the “White Rose”

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

In Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut Episode 9, the three UZSR cosmonauts who will go to space are finally selected. These include Mikhail Yashin, Roza Plevitskaya and Lev Leps. Until this episode, Roza's main role in the story has been to harshly question Irina's place in the space program. In Episode 8, Roza cynically accused Irina of "cursing" Lev's injured leg, prompting Irina to lean into the insinuation by threatening to curse her. This episode presents another side of Roza -- and it all starts with a mishap in a parachute training exercise.

Lev jumps from the craft right after Mikhail and Roza and almost immediately notices something is wrong: Roza is in a spin several feet below. The significance of this is foreshadowed in Episode 5, when a cosmonaut named Yustin was unceremoniously taken out of the running to be a cosmonaut after being hospitalized due to a similar spin. At the ceremony in which the three cosmonauts were announced, three backup cosmonauts were selected as well. Even though Roza has made it this far, the image of her spinning in the distance is a reminder that there are no guarantees for any of the chosen candidates.

Lev looks on in shock in Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut.

The figure of Roza is far in the distance, emphasizing the vulnerability of her position. There is a great amount of detail in her animation, the shadows and wrinkles in her suit changing as she spins in the sun. Roza's body appears to shoot past Mikhail, but he has already activated his parachute and cannot help even if he wanted to. His dumbstruck expression makes it seem like he is barely aware that she's struggling until she passes him. This creates an ironic contrast between model cosmonaut Mikhail, the top candidate and the first cosmonaut to be announced, and Lev, who has only recently been reinstated as a cosmonaut but springs into action to save Roza.

The first time Roza's face is shown in this sequence, her eyes are glazed over and distracted until she suddenly realizes her situation and starts hyperventilating as she paws at her parachute. This shot also shows the reflection in her helmet as the horizon spins around her, the sun flashing each time it comes around. The contrast between Roza's subdued expression and the turbulent landscape around her highlights how detached she is from her surroundings, and how scared she must be to suddenly realize the danger she's in.

The horizon reflects in Roza's helmet in Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut.

Lev reaches out helplessly for Roza a few times but ultimately grabs her hand. Finally, the perspective shifts to Roza's point of view as a smiling Lev reaches for her parachute cord. Arvo Animation displays their attention to detail again as Roza's reflection is barely visible in Lev's helmet, making her perspective even more immersive. This also symbolizes their closeness in this scene -- a far cry from her dismissiveness of him when he tried to congratulate her after they were selected for the mission. Lev's unreservedly happy and relieved expression as he risks his safety to help Roza reinforces his unwaveringly positive demeanor and dedication to his comrades -- perhaps enough to make Roza reconsider her assessment of him.

The scene takes place against a sunset backdrop that looks like an impressionistic painting, with strongly contrasting blue and gold light in the sky and clouds. The perspective occasionally shifts down to show the network of snowy forest awaiting the cosmonauts on the ground, its obscureness adding to the fear and sense of scale in the scene. After assisting Roza, Lev's own parachute is blown into the forest by a gust of wind. When he crashes into the trees, a cavalcade of snow triggers the transition to the mid-episode eyecatch, raising the suspense before a doctor reveals Lev to be fine in the next scene.

Lev and Roza fall through the sky in Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut.

Roza buys Lev a lemon seltzer to thank him for saving her. She tells him her history and apologizes to him for her cruelty to Irina. It transpires that Roza earned her nickname of "The White Rose of Sangrad" for defeating her training opponents in dogfights, motivated by their dismissal of her for being a woman. She also reveals that she felt like she couldn't move her body during the jump, and expresses doubt as to whether she will be allowed to go to space because of it.

Perhaps Roza didn't feel the need to apologize out of a sense of gratitude for what Lev did, but rather because his saving her reminded her that not everyone in the space program wants to antagonize her unnecessarily as her former colleagues did. It would be fascinating to see Roza bring her new perspective directly to the mischievous Irina herself, who may not be so forgiving. It's unclear whether Roza will make it to space, but now that this episode has revealed new depths to her character and her relationship with Lev, she will hopefully continue to be a significant part of the series as her character develops further.

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