Infinite Ryvius is a top-notch psychological drama from Sunrise that aired in 1999. Bandai first put it out on DVD in North America in 2003, and it’s really worth a look.
Infinite Ryvius, on its surface, looks like the kind of generic mecha/sci-fi series that Bandai often releases. It seems like it has nothing new to offer and is really only for the hardcore Sunrise fans. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s very little action in the show, and the mecha is only used a handful of times throughout the entire 26 episodes. So I’m not really sure if that crowd would enjoy this. No, this series instead seems aimed at fans of character driven dramas, and that’s perfectly fine. There is also some great insight on political systems, and what human beings truly are at their root. This series cuts deep into human psyche.
Bandai released Infinite Ryvius in an m-lock brick case that just doesn’t look very nice. While far from ugly, the cover art is boring and just seems lazy. It just has the title of the show and some green computer screen stuff behind it. This does not even hint at what the show is about, and just makes the box look plain. The back artwork fairs better, with some nice screenshots and a well-written synopsis. But even that is too simple for its own good. The menus are quite different; they look very nice and are easy to navigate through. They are fully animated, with brilliant computer graphics of the Ryvius ship itself. This shows some real effort was put into the release, at least originally.
In 2225, man has colonized most of the solar system, and space travel has become very common. There was a sudden rush in space exploration and colonization due to the Geduld phenomena that rushed through the solar system and wiped out a large portion of Earth’s population. This also left a “sea of Geduld” in space that is very dangerous to dive into, but can provide energy to space stations nearby. At the start of the show Kouji Aiba, a teenager with aspirations of becoming a pilot, heads off to the Liebe Delta, which is an astronaut training station (that acts much like a regular school on earth). He is joined by his childhood friend, Aoi, and much to his dismay his stubborn brother, Yuuki. Yuuki and Kouji do not get along at all, and their fights often turn violent. The Liebe Delta is also filled with around 500 other students, all of whom end up having a part in the show. Now not every single character gets developed, and many don’t even get named. But they all play a vital role in this overall story, which is much more a character drama that happens to be set in outer space than a space opera or mecha series. And I was truly surprised at how many characters they managed to flesh out, and how many of these teenagers are completely different people at the end than they were at the start of the series. The character development in this series is really impressive.
Eventually it becomes clear that all is not well on the Liebe Delta; saboteurs are on board and attempt to lower the ship into the Geduld far too deep, killing all on board. They manage to kill most of the adult staff and get control of the ship. However, an elite group of students training for high-level jobs figures this out and tries to warn the other students. The rest of the adults on board end up sacrificing themselves to save the children, leaving almost 500 kids alone, separated from society and all adults. In essence what we have is “Lord of the Flies” in space. And the series takes much more than that from Golding’s famous novel. The kids end up escaping to a top-secret space ship known as the Ryvius, and get branded as terrorists by some unknown outside force. Unable to return home, and having all their transmissions blocked, they aimless wander the solar system, cut off from society.
Infinite Ryvius attempts to show us what teenagers are, and what they are not. At times these kids can really surprise you at what they accomplish on their own, and yet their rash decisions and judgments may very well be their downfall. The series is not afraid to show us the darker side of humanity here. Infinite Ryvius is also allegorical in nature. It begins with the Zweis in charge, an elite group of students handpicked (or thrown in due to their parents influence) from the best of the best. The Zweis know much more about how to fly a ship than anyone else, and so it’s only natural they take charge at first. But eventually they are taken hostage by group of students and lose their power. And then this group is overthrown by a rebellion. Each new group in control of the ship is clearly there to represent a different political system, and this is intelligently woven into the narrative. It’s incredibly brilliant how the series portrays each political system, from tyrannical oligarchies, to strict dictatorships, to democracies. And what the show has to say about each of these forms of government may surprise you. Infinite Ryvius is not afraid to be brutally honest with all the political systems, as it doesn’t sugar coat any of them. It shows their weaknesses, faults and strengths quite clearly. For example, the group who represents democracy is slow to act and inefficient. They have a very weak control of the populace, and this hurts them in more ways than one. It would have been far too easy to paint democracy in good light, but this show pulls no punches. Infinite Ryvius is quite a deep, complex, and intelligent series, with more to say in its 26 episodes than others manage to say in hundreds.
But much more than a bunch of allegories, it is also an immensely compelling character drama. The characters portrayed in this series are anything but archetypes. They are living, breathing, and lifelike human beings. They all have their own ways of thinking, and all have different views on certain things, along with having their own goals in life and their own flaws. Yes, no one in this show is a perfect hero. This is quite a feat when you think about how many characters there are. And the character interactions are very interesting and entertaining to follow, as they grow and change. This show has some of the most realistic romance scenes involving teenagers I’ve seen in an anime. The staff here understands exactly what childhood romance is like, and do a wonderful job of portraying it.
The series is entirely tense, always on level 11 on the stress-o-meter. Even when the teens decide to throw a party to help everyone on board relax, things do not stay calm for long. Many times the Ryvius is attacked by this unknown enemy, and the kids all must figure out ways to defend themselves, using both the ship’s weapons and a deployable mecha that’s incredibly powerful yet difficult to use. The series is entirely serious, and it leaves all comedy relief for the extras, a place it’s more suited for in this case. Infinite Ryvius is incredibly well written, and from early on clues the viewer in on who to pay attention to and who is going to be important later on. This is an incredibly complex, mature, and sophisticated series, and yet it’s quite easy to follow and actually very addicting. I found myself watching episode after episode of the show, unable to put it down. And it’s never obtuse or hard to grasp, either. It’s quite blunt with its themes and statements about society and people.
The animation here leaves more to be desired. While some of the spaceship battles are animated very well, the rest of the scenes are very iffy. At times the animation of the Ryvius itself going through space looks very choppy, and there are way too many shortcuts used while showing the drama inside of the ship. Way too often does the series rely on panning and stills when it’s focusing on the characters. This is not a huge problem, but it does hurt the series a bit. On the other hand, the artwork is quite nice. Character designs are attractive and distinct. The girls look cute, yet realistic, and the boys look anything but generic. I also loved how the clothing of each character is distinctive. Each character had a certain clothing style, but nothing was too outlandish. And the mechanical designs are realistic, yet awe inspiring at the same time. Bandai’s disks look nice; there’s no bleeding or any other major problem to be found. But I do think the colors look a little bit off.
I found no problems with the audio in this release. The music used in Infinite Ryvius is a mixture of hip-hop and pop, and it really blew me away. This is beautiful soundtrack that completely and utterly caught me off guard. I was not expecting such great music all around for this show. I’m not really a fan of hip-hop, but I know I am a fan of this! The opening theme is remarkably powerful; it’s very grand and bold, yet hints at a future that is nothing but bleak and depressing. It is, in essence, the perfect opening theme for this series, and still to this day after listening to it 26+ times it sends chills down my spine. It’s also just very nice to listen to on its own. The background music is really top notch here, capturing the emotions of each scene magnificently. The ending theme, while not really something you’d want to listen to on its own, is the perfect fit here.
The dub for Infinite Ryvius was produced at the Ocean Group in Vancouver, Canada. They turn out an impressive dub, with very few problems. Brad Swaile plays Kouji Aiba, and he is a good fit for the lead. At times he does seem like he’s straining himself a little to sound like a young teenager, but for the most part he’s very good. Yuuki is played by Kirby Morrow, who does a great job at making him sound very menacing and like a troublemaker, but not a total headache either. Alexandra Carter plays Aoi, and she does a wonderful job here, making her sound sweet, but really authentic. Kozue, a friend of Aoi’s, is played by Jocelyne Loewen, who captured the essence of Kozue perfectly. Chiara Zanni plays Fina, a love interest for Kouji, and she scared me at how into her role she could get. She was truly great in this dub, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing this character. But the true star here is Kelly Sheridan, who plays Juli Bahana. Juli is one of the central figures of the Zweis, and Kelly Sheridan makes her sound strong, yet very vulnerable. The tons and tons of smaller roles are also handled with care, although one or two small roles may bug you a little. All in all though this is a high quality dub from the Ocean Group, in which the dialogue is natural, the casting is near perfect, and the acting is usually very good.
The extras here are pretty standard. Bandai just included some of the extras that were on the Japanese release. There are lots of commercials for the Japanese soundtracks, audio dramas, DVDs and so on, which are quite boring actually. Perhaps others will find these more useful than I did though. A few of the disks had art galleries on them that are worth a look. But the best extra by far was the “Ryvius Illusion” episodes. On each disk there are 3 short comedy segments, done entirely in chibi form with all the main characters. And they were all very funny. I know I will be re-watching these. It was nice to know that at the end of a disk (and all the drama), there was some fun humor waiting for me. I liked how the series restricted its comedy to these extras instead of trying to shoehorn it into the main show.
All in all Infinite Ryvius is an incredibly tense, compelling, and interesting character drama that happens to take place in space. It takes a lot from William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” (including the wonderful ending), but adds so much insight that it can easily be called unique. The show looks at different political systems and what teenagers are (and in turn humans are), and what it has to say is sometimes profound. This series has made its way to my top ten list, and gets my highest recommendation. It’s a shame the animation leaves more to be desired, but the story is so good, the characters so interesting, and the music so catchy, it’s easy to ignore.
Show : A+ (Deep, compelling, interesting and addictive.)
Packaging: C+ (The cover is boring and brick cases are kind of dull to begin with.)
English Dub: A ( A top notch dub, with very few problems if any.)
Extras: B- (Kind of boring, except for the fun, cute little bonus episodes.)
Overall (not an average): A (An incredibly powerful, unique show, that you can’t put down once you start. It’s very smart, and has a lot going for it in terms of art, music, and it’s overall themes.)
This is a review of an older product. Video and audio may not be up to current standards. There is no video or audio grade because there is the question of if it should be judged from when this set was released or now… also, the reviewer isn’t good at that. This boxset came out in 2006. DVDs from this series first started coming out in 2003.
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in VLC. (Caps are sized 720×540 so as to display properly on computer monitors. VLC corrects for the difference in aspect ratio by scaling up vertically rather than scaling down horizontally.)
This set was purchased at an online specialty retailer.