Nonon’s Otaku Theater: Fall Anime 2021, Week 1

Nonon’s Otaku Theater: Fall Anime 2021, Week 1

It feels like I’ve been waiting ages for my Fall shows to begin; I know a lot of the ones for this season have started already but mine were not. Looking back though, 2021 has not been the best year for anime, and the pandemic had very little say in that. We’ve had a lot of weak-to-mediocre stuff come out, meaning we’ve had to look hard to find all the outstanding shows. More on that at the end of the year though, when I write up my year review post.

We’ve hit one problem already though, and it’s only the start of the season. I had planned to cover World’s End Harem for the Fall, only to discover that it’s being delayed to January. The news apparently broke just one day before the first episode was to air as well. So I’ve instead had to pick out one other show to cover over this Fall season, and I have chosen Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut Episode 1

Studio: Arvo Animation
Began: Monday. October. 04
(Available on Funimation)

Set in an alternate Cold War between the Union of Zirnitra Republics and the United Kingdom of Arnack, a race is going on to get the first person in space. Trainee cosmonaut Lev meanwhile has been given a special mission by the top brass: to test out any issues concerning the first human in space, he’ll be in charge of taking care of a vampire test subject.

I saw the PVs of this and I thought the story idea sounded really interesting. The real space race that happened between the Soviet Union and the USA ended up with no real winner – the Soviets won in getting the first artificial satellite, animal and human in space, while the USA won in getting a man on the moon. The space race happening in this show, meanwhile, focuses pretty much wholly on the Union’s side, who are prepared to do whatever it takes to win and get a human in space, using live test subjects if necessary.

Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut

The opening episode is pretty much an introductory one, with the main characters being established. Lev is training to be a cosmonaut, but is assigned the new mission to be the handler of a new test subject. N44, or Irina Ruminescu, is a vampire, a cursed being in the Union. The vampires in this show don’t have all the movie traits of blood sucking, and night fearing though. However, the complex intends to treat her as inhuman, and something that they can easily cover up if her mission is a failure and she dies in space.

The dynamic that Lev and Irina develop in this first episode is unsurprisingly very cold. Irina is extremely distrustful of humans, and looks down on all of their customs. Meanwhile, Lev is disheartened that he won’t be returning to his cosmonaut training anytime soon, but even as a loyal soldier, he is still struggling to stick to his orders of not treating Irina/N44 as a person. As we will no doubt see in Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut, that won’t happen at all.

Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut
Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut

This week’s episode also talks about the success they had in getting a live animal in space, Maly, who is a direct mirror of the real first dog in space, Laika. It even brings up the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, which looks exactly like the one that’s talked about in this show. I’m really liking how this space race is being told, and how it directly mirrors the real one between the Soviet Union and the USA. The show will all be told from the Union’s point-of-view, as the United Kingdom’s (or in our case, the West) mission to get a man on the moon won’t begin until much later. I think that this is an interesting story idea, since so many space stories talk about how the West triumph, from grand Hollywood ones like Armageddon to more realistic ones like First Man and Apollo 13, which is actually one of my all-time favorite movies. We are considerably less exposed to Soviet space history in comparison, and while this Union of Zirnitra Republics is just a mirror of the Soviet Union, it’s certainly something to think about.

Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut

The thing is, though, is that while the story sounds interesting on paper, its execution hasn’t really made the show outstanding so far. I’m sure the character design will get better over time, and cast will have time to establish themselves; like discovering who are the real protagonists and the real antagonists of the story. And while I like this mirrored space race story, I hope the show won’t become over reliant on it. The show is meant to revolve around the relationship that Lev and Irina have, and not the exposition. It does make a refreshing change to cover a show that doesn’t fit into the moeblob mold though, and I hope Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut gets much better.

The Aquatope on White Sand Episodes 13 & 14

The shows I picked started late, while The Aquatope on White Sand kept on going; this is why I’ll be talking about 2 episodes here. And quite a bit has changed since the end of the first cour. There we saw Gama Gama close, Fuuka return to the mainland, staff moving on to the new Tingaara aquarium in the city (which is assumed to be Okinawa’s capital Naha, but is never explicitly mentioned), Karin quitting her job at the tourist office, and Kukuru finding out she had a twin sister who died in childbirth. The first episode of the second cour starts with a proper introduction to Tingaara, which will be the new setting of the show.

The Aquatope on White Sand

We’re now a few years ahead, with Kukuru now in her own apartment, Udon-chan in a new restaurant, and Kai a college graduate. Quickly realizing that you can’t always get what you want (even in anime shows), Kukuru’s first role at Tingaara is in the marketing department. It’s something she definitely didn’t want, but it’s here where she realizes how vastly different Gama Gama and Tingaara are. Tingaara is massive, popular, professional-looking, and full of entirely different marine life. And the staff who have worked long before her remind her of that constantly, chastising her about her ‘playworking’ while she was at Gama Gama.

But Fuuka is back. Having finished high school herself, she returns to Okinawa like she said she would. And has made arrangements to move next door to Kukuru as well.

The Aquatope on White Sand

Looking back at the first cour, we definitely saw a much more immature Kukuru, and now as these new episodes come and go, she’ll mature more now that she plays a serious role at the aquarium, despite her not quite realizing it yet. You know that old corporate saying of how all employees are a ‘family’ or a ‘unit’, well they’re playing with that here for sure. The older Tingaara employees are already highlighting former Gama Gama staff into a faction, with Umi-yan getting scolded for unprofessional behavior that is exactly what he was doing at Gama Gama, and Kukuru even being given the nickname ‘Plankton’ by her superior.

Fuuka on the other hand is assigned to the penguin department, alongside a very familiar face: Chiyu, the quote-unquote ‘spy’ from the first cour. Back then in her episode, I ended up siding with her in how she had worked hard for her career, as opposed to Kukuru, who had just been handed it on a plate. Here she becomes Fuuka’s supervisor, so far giving Fuuka smaller roles to get her adjusted into the job.

The Aquatope on White Sand
The Aquatope on White Sand

P.A Works have a long history of making ‘working’ shows; Shirobako, Hanasaku Iroha, Sakura Quest. The Aquatope on White Sand might as well be the next ‘chapter’ in all of that, and so I’m pretty sure that now the show has a new setting in a far more professional aquarium, the main cast (not just Kukuru and Fuuka) will develop into completely different people than they were at Gama Gama. Will we even get the fantasy that we all thought was going to come? To be honest, the more episodes have come and gone, the more I doubt that will ever happen. Well, I’m just glad the show is back.

And so now it’s time to move on to my out-of-season pick; a show I’m very much looking forward to covering here.

Super Cub Episode 1

Super Cub was a spring show I missed out on, and having seen this debut episode, I am really really kicking myself for doing so. Just this very first episode has got me hooked in to something that I’m very certain I’ll enjoy immensely.

Koguma lives alone. She wakes up, puts together lunch, attends school, comes home, goes to bed, and rinse repeat. She doesn’t have anything planned for the future, and she’s just fine with that; episode 1 is even called ‘The Girl With Nothing’. We are not really given the nitty gritty details of how she came to live alone, or why she lives the extremely simple life she does…because none of that is central to the story. Here in this debut episode, we see her curiosity leads her to a motorcycle shop where she comes across a used Honda Super Cub that costs 10,000 yen (around $90-100). The shop owner tells Koguma he is selling it cheap because the Cub has caused some fatal accidents in the past. Regardless, she proceeds to get a license and purchases the Cub.

Super Cub has come across so far as a very ‘less is more’ show. By that I mean that all the tiny little things that feature are what make the show a good one. From what I understand, the whole cast sits at a grand total of 3. Score is only put in when necessary, with the use of silence becoming more apparent.

Super Cub

The art is something that really makes the show stand out; before she gets the Cub, the world around her comes across as very drab and monochrome, but from the very moment she sits on it, colors arrive from out of nowhere – almost as if the Cub was calling for her. But the main standout feature, I think, is its sound design. Ambient noise features heavily and matches the show’s level of pacing. In addition to this is the show’s use of classical music in the soundtrack alongside the main score. Just as I made a list for all the board games that I was able to identify in Houkago Saikoro Club (another moeblob show I really like), I might have to put together a short list of all the pieces that feature in this show. I’m pretty certain that many other pieces will feature in each episode, but here was what was in episode 1:

  • Deux Arabesques, by Claude Debussy
  • Clair de Lune, by Claude Debussy
Super Cub

We can look at this from the outside and think that her new Cub is just a thing, but to Koguma, it is something entirely different. It has opened a whole new colorful world for her now. I know I’m going to end up talking a lot about each episode of this each week, since I really loved this debut and I’m looking forward to Koguma doing lots more with her new Cub.

Coming soon will be my coverage of Komi Can’t Communicate!. It should be interesting how Netflix are able to tackle a seasonal anime show on an episode-by-episode scale again, with the only past one they’ve done being Violet Evergarden. A shame that I won’t be able to catch World’s End Harem this season though, although something up there tells me that may have turned out to be a good thing. I can take harem shows, but World’s End Harem might be something to tip me over the edge considering how risqué it looks.

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