Review: Infinite Ryvius (無限のリヴァイアす)

Now let’s see what I actually remember, given that I watched this series at least half a year ago. It’s old, but it seems to be quite highly regarded…in the end, I waited until I stopped cringing at a particular seiyuu’s voice. (Old friends will know who and why.)

In a future where mankind has expanded from Earth across to other planets in the solar system, Aiba Kouji enrols in the space station Liebe Delta to obtain his level-2 license. Also training on the station are his younger brother, Yuuki, and his childhood friend, Aoi, a situation which irritates Kouji to no end. Other than the fact that they’re effectively training to be astronauts, a normal school life ensues. However, during the school break (Dive Break), a routine maintenance procedure is sabotaged, leading to a situation that will challenge the abilities and characters of the surviving characters. For a bit more detail, Wikipedia has an excellent outline.

Infinite Ryvius is probably best described as a coming-of-age story. Wikipedia lists its major themes as (i) Responsibility, (ii) Loss of Innocence and (iii) Politics. However, it is an extremely complex series, and I don’t remember everything, so I’m just going to focus the talking points that either caught my attention, or that I still don’t really understand.

Politics

One feature that might be unexpected, especially considering that the crew of the Ryvius is composed of students, is a heavy focus on politics. The situation on the Ryvius over the 6 months(?) can probably be compared to that of a colony being set up after being blown off course. After the initial crisis is over, those who handled the crisis take charge. But others may become dissatisfied with their decisions, and attempt to change the system. Without democracy, a series of coups take place instead, finally producing a tyrant.

In some ways, the political developments on the Ryvius are a simplification of real politics, protected as it were by the fact that it’s children who are driving it. But at the same time, the decisions they make are terrifying because they are children. Staging a coup, arranging rations and privileges based on importance and/or skill, getting revenge… Ikumi’s descent into hell, in particular, depicts why a dictator might increasingly tighten the screws, never realising that what he is doing might be driving the situation further into failure. On the other hand, there is also a positive side to an organising body, such as the occasion where the leaders organise a party to help relieve tensions amongst the rest of the crew. From near-anarchical situations to the threat of a despot, Ryvius enumerates some of the benefits and many of the traps that a self-governing society faces, especially when perfect control is sought. It doesn’t offer a solution – that would just be arrogant – except perhaps in suggesting that what works best is generally a moderate path that requires far more compromise than most people are willing to give.

The Assault on Izumi Kozue

I didn’t quite know what to think about Ryvius until this incident. Looking back over the plot, I missed some things that were more subtly hinted at (such as the way Faina breaks from her past), but the little squabbles caused by Kozue’s high-and-mighty attitude, along with the rest of the conflicts (gangs and factions, and sibling rivalry, the childhood friend trying to please everyone) could have been scenes out of any other anime with a high school type setting.

The privileges that Kozue exalts in come from her close relationship to one of the ships top pilots, Oze Ikumi, whom she expresses a great interest in. In a normal high school, she would probably just have been ignored and ostracised. On the Ryvius, the retaliation was far more spiteful and damaging – the irritated girls asked fellow students to rape her.

This is a major turning point, as Oze Ikumi, frustrated at his inability to protect her, starts down the part of a tyrant. Izumi also happens to be haunted by his past: he fell in love with his sister, who killed herself because incest was not permitted by the society they were a part of. For her part, Kozue isolates herself in Izumi’s room, encouraging and supporting his increasingly despotic decisions almost wordlessly. Loss of Innocence is symbolised here by Kozue letting her hair down – it had previously been put up in high dual ponytails, much as an elementary school child might wear her hair, and the change also gives her more of a resemblance to Ikumi’s late sister.

Whether Ikumi and Kozue fully recover from their breakdowns is left up the imagination of the viewer. The tyranny is ended when external authorities finally regain control of the ship, although not before Ikumi has aimed his gun at his friend. One presumes that both would have then been given extensive counselling. Both do return to the Ryvius in the end, though it is apparent that they have not been in contact in the intervening time. I liked this non-conclusion, which I found realistic, but also suggesting the hope of a new beginning and a second chance. This was one of the more shocking storylines of Ryvius, and I thought they did it pretty well.

The Vaia ships

I’m not entirely sure I understand what they symbolise. Wikipedia states that “the Vaia ships are said to be crucial to mankind’s survival”. I’m not sure if anyone else in the English speaking world is really clear on all of it, but the final credits state what the Vaia ships are finally used to accomplish.

What is interesting about the ships, however, is the existence of a Sphix for each ship, an entity that not only protects the ship, but which also seems to represent its personality and will. The Ryvius’s Sphix is Neya, a strange white-haired young woman clad in a strange pink outfit. Her manifested human appearance is actually based on a young woman killed in an earlier incident. Neya awakens when the students move from the Liebe Delta onto the Ryvius itself. Although she is initially unable to understand emotions, she can somehow sense the thoughts of the students, and responds to them (we often see her responding to pain). It is with Neya’s aid that most of the students survive their ordeal.

Final Remarks

From the above, it’s probably clear that I don’t know quite what to think of Infinite Ryvius. It tackles some heavy issues in a believable way, considering the plot developments and the interacting personalities. However, there are many things, especially about the background context and especially about the Vaia ships and Neya, that I don’t understand. It’s a series that I feel deserves a rewatch and an examining of other media released in conjunction with the series, though I don’t know when I’ll have the time to devote to that. There isn’t much information on it in English, which makes me wonder how many people in the Western Hemisphere have really given it much thought.

Lastly, believe it or not, Infinite Ryvius is produced by Sunrise, now famous for a large number of so-called trainwrecks. And like several other Sunrise series, it won the TV Feature Award of Animation Kobe.

Looking through the wiki entry on Animation Kobe, I was surprised to see some of the winners…most specifically Code Geass winning two years in a row, and Angelic Layer back in 2001. These awards, unlike the Animage Grand Prix, are for the most part not determined by fans. Instead, an examination committee composed mainly of the chief editors from anime magazines (e.g. Newtype, Animage, Animedia etc) choses the winners. I actually regard many of their choices quite highly, although it’s strange that neither of the GITS: Stand Alone Complex series appear (instead, the Solid State Society OVA is awarded). It is also interesting to note that almost half of the TV series chosen have been produced by Sunrise… The official website has notes about the criteria used to select winners for each year – might be interesting to look into this.

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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