Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 07 – Borscht or Bust

The day of launch has arrived, and Irina dons her proper Zirnitran uniform, but meets one-on-one with the Chief, who has survived countless small heart attacks to get to this point. Due to the risk of the UK monitoring her transmissions once in orbit, Irina is told to read the script of a cooking show to communicate her condition. If everything’s A-OK, she’ll read about borscht. If not, a cheeseburger.

In hindsight, Lev’s arrest was a naked attempt to build up tension and drama before the launch, as his detainment doesn’t even last through the launch. He is freed by Natalia, who discovered that Franz sabotaged the centrifuge in order to kill Irina, thus ending the Chief’s career. Lev is not only freed but gets to be one of the last people Irina sees before her flight to the heavens.

Since this is the first time they’ve attempted this with a person, there’s no guarantee this will be a two-way trip…except for the fact this is just the seventh episode and the titular character is exceedingly unlikely to perish here and now. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a combined feeling of awe and dread—the same thing I’ve felt before watching any real-world spaceflight.

Everything goes according to plan at first, but other than a brief shot of Irina on video that soon fizzles out, the entire flight is from the perspective of Lev and the team in the control room. Lev’s crippling sense of helplessness is palpable when they lose contact, and for a few moments, he feels like perhaps Irina really is gone…and really feels that loss.

Thankfully, once communication is restored, Irina recites the recipe for borscht, delighting Lev the flight team down on earth and adding some welcome whimsy to what had been a strictly by-the-book launch procedure, as she rattles off the cooking instructions as her capsule dances above Earth’s night side. She even manages to get her feelings through to Lev by reciting her own recipe: for the odd Zirnitran drink he loves.

While the political officers in the control room really want to blow her up, both when she goes off script and when there’s a chance the capsule could land outside Zirnitran borders. But they don’t blow it up. That said, it’s a mad dash to the remote wintry landscape where the capsule landed, and Lev leads the way on his motorcycle.

While he’s thrown from that cycle when he hits an ice sheet, he only suffers a skinned knee, and gets right back in the saddle in search of Irina and her parachute. He finds it, which…is pretty lucky! But that’s fine; just as this show knows we don’t want Irina to die, it also knows we want to see the pair cuddle under the parachute in mutual relief and affection for each other.

The world may never know who Irina was or the feat she achieved, but it doesn’t matter: she knows, and the human lad knows too. That’s more than enough for both of them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 04 – Futaba and Takeda’s Dizzy Fever Days

Despite wearing the fluffy scarf Takeda gave her for Christmas, Futaba catches a cold. She has to take off work, it’s the first time she’s had a fever since living on her own, and she’s never felt lonelier. Just as her thoughts go to some dark places, she determines she needs to eat something…but the fridge is empty.

Just as she opens her apartment door for an ill-advised trip to buy food, Takeda is on the other side, a bag of groceries in hand. He finds his way around her kitchen and whips up a hot bowl of the udon he knows she likes. It’s exactly what she needs when she needs it, and it isn’t until he’s already left that she realizes he’s seen her apartment in a less-than-ideal state.

The next day, Futaba is all better, and it soon becomes public knowledge in the office that Takeda went to her place to take care of her. But he almost wasn’t in time because of his antiquated company cell phone. He wants a smartphone to keep in better touch, so Futaba offers to go shopping with him. In one regard, it’s to pay him back, but it’s also a fine excuse to hang out with her senpai on their day off.

Futaba also tells Takeda she’d take care of him if he ever got sick, but never expected that to happen until Takeda calls in sick one day. Takeda is similarly out of food and about to head to the konbini when he finds Futaba at the door with groceries. Their timing is so perfect, her finger is on the doorbell but hadn’t pressed it yet!

Futaba whips up a bowl of hot rice porridge with extra scallions and ginger, and Takeda is legitimately impressed by her cooking, saying she’ll make a fine wife someday. After eating Takeda falls asleep, and Futaba finds herself alone with a guy in his room for the first time.

She looks at all the manly things around her (and the tie she gave him that he now wears regularly), then gets as close as she dares to his face, even touching his chin stubble, the prickliness of which causes her to shout and wake him up. At that point she gives him a chop to the back and makes her escape, wondering what the heck she was thinking.

The next morning, Takeda is back and right as rain, and thanks her—in full earshot of Sakurai and Kazama—for coming by his place to take care of him. Later, he asks her if she’ll cook for him again sometime, even boldly requesting Hamburg steak, which is a dish I’m sure she could nail easily.

As an unrepentant sucker for episodes where one half of a couple gets sick and the other rolls up their sleeves and takes care of them, an episode like this where both sides got to do this was basically catnip. Little by little, these two lovely people are growing closer to and comfortable with each other as more than just co-workers. I wouldn’t call them an official couple yet or anything, but they’re well on their way!

Mieruko-chan – 07 – Tunnel Visions (of Horror)

Things are only getting spookier for Miko, and it’s largely Hana’s fault! When Hana’s photo gets a lot of likes on Instagram (666, to be exact) she believes it’s her calling to be a photographer, and buys a Polaroid to take more. Yulia, waiting for an opening to exact her revenge on Miko for humiliating her/choking her out, eggs Hana on by suggesting a bus trip to the mountains for some prime photo spots.

Yulia’s motivations aside, this is the first time in a long time, maybe ever, she’s gone on a trip with friends. That said, she sticks to her mission, getting Hana to enter a tunnel known to be haunted so Miko will have no choice but to admit she also sees ghosts, and deal with them. Of course, at first it’s normal stuff that gets Hana spooked: the darkness and a sudden drop of water falling on the back of her neck.

When Miko trips in the dark, then dusts off her hands, Yulia believes her rival is setting up some kind of supernatural barrier. Because of the discrepancy between the types of ghosts Yulia and Miko can see, Miko’s gestures seem to coincide with the ghosts Yulia can see shriveling up and vanishing, as if Miko exorcised them. But Yulia can’t bigger and much more horrifying monster that is devouring the ones she can see.

Yulia makes things worse by trying to get Miko to admit she can see the ghosts too, totally unaware the biggest and baddest instantly reacts to the sensation that the humans can see them. Miko has been operating under the assumption that this is, as Egon once said, “very bad”. The monster prepares to swoop down on the three girls, but is stopped and defeated by the shrine spirits, who once again protect Miko.

Hana takes Miko and Yulia’s defeated, exhausted expressions on the ride home as shared disappointment in not getting to the end of the tunnel to the photo spot. So she gathers the two close for a selfie. That ends up making Yulia’s day, as it’s established her belief in ghosts cause other classmates to ostracize her, but she’s finally found new friends.

As for Miko, she’s just trying not to overthink why some spirits protect her while others want to kill her, Hana, and now Yulia, or what one of the ones protecting her meant by “three times”. But as the preview says, things are going to get spookier before they become less spooky, so Miko will likely need all the spectral allies she can get!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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