Were William Golding to have written Lord of the Flies in a futuristic setting, he would have done so precisely in the mold of Infinite Ryvius. Unfortunately, Golding most likely would have produced a much more polished and solid work, as, while Ryvius has its strengths, it's riddled with a number of flaws that demote the series from greatness to mediocrity. Still, the similarities between the two works are both numerous and striking, ranging from something as superficial as plot elements to something as deep as analysis of philosophy. While starting off rather jovial and light hearted, the series raises rather serious questions in its latter half, and overall does a decent job at conveying the moral gravity of the themes it sets out to question.
Ryvius takes place in the relatively near future where man has colonized the solar system following a phenomenon that has created a disturbance in space called the "Geduld." Due to the intense gravitational field inside the Geduld, its exploration and study require the use of very specific materials built into a few space stations scattered amidst the planets. The story begins when one of these stations is sabotaged during a routine dive, and, with its protection breached, begins to sink into the Geduld. The crew on board end up sacrificing themselves to save the lives of five hundred trainees on board, all of whom are children, by putting them into a ship within the station's core and launching them out and to safety.
With such little notice, however, this throws the survivors into complete disarray. Having no social hierarchy and limited supplies of food and water, the ship slowly begins to descend into anarchy as the moral structure of the ship collapses. Ryvius emphasizes the struggle between logic and instinct as the society onboard the stranded vessel descends into chaos, and many of the characters find their idealistic view of mankind challenged. The series manages to portray each individual's struggle for power quite realistically, ranging from the use of sex to violence to betrayal in order to acquire status, and makes a point not to gloss any of it over.
To my dismay, however, Ryvius took quite a while to get moving, as it required an unusually large number of viewings to get through; for the first half of the series I found myself watching only around ten minutes at a time. Once it got moving, however, I finished it in a matter of hours, so it leaves me with rather mixed feelings when it comes to the series' pacing. While the drama was orchestrated quite well later on, I found it unevenly and awkwardly placed toward the beginning, as the series tends to exaggerate a number of character relationships in an attempt just to fill up space in earlier episodes. The result is a somewhat tacky and shoddy feel, and as such, I found it difficult to experience the intended emotional impact the series sought to convey.
No matter how much I've tried to rationalize it, Ryvius' animation is bloody awful. The decided lack of color, recycled scenery, and roughshod character designs all contributed to a general distaste for the series, as it provided for a comical feel in many scenes that should have been anything but. While many of the main characters gleaned decent designs, others suffered severe, exaggerated proportionality issues, and it ended being rather difficult to sympathize with them. Also, there was a ridiculous amount of downright comical character designs, such as loin cloth men with capes, and this made it hard to take any of the visuals seriously.
Almost as bad as the animation. Almost. Given that the margin of quality between the two categories is slim at best, however, that's really not saying much. The musical score not only lacks in terms of repertoire, but it also lacks appropriateness. Most tracks played throughout the course of the series are often are ill placed, which, when combined with lame graphics, disrupts the emotional impact of the drama on a consistent basis. To draw an apt comparison, imagine a heavy metal piece playing while the boy and girl in a romance anime first kiss. Yeah, it's that bad.
The voice acting also could have used some improvement as well. Kouji's seiyuu, for instance, sounded unprofessional on a number of occasions where his voice would crack inappropriately.
As can be expected of such a show, Ryvius focuses almost exclusively on its characters, of which there are quite many. Only two (Aoi and Juli) really caught my eye, though, as many of the relationships in the series are not approached properly. Aoi behaves the most human among the cast, as the disparagement between rational and instinctive behavior is reflected through her on almost every level. Though initially shouldering all her problems with a smile, her emotions begin to chip away at her resolve, and her mixture of fear, paranoia, and sorrow cause her character evolve substantially over the course of the series. Juli follows a very similar progression, only her character is approached from the position of a social elite, whereas Aoi is more of a commoner.
Still, key character relationships, such as the one between the Aoba brothers, could have used a lot of work. Not only did theirs not seem natural, but by the end it served absolutely no purpose other than to create drama. Being that it was a central focus of much of Yuki and Kouji's development, it made their characters come across as shallow, especially when juxtaposed with the much more solemn events to befall them. This left both their characters with a one-dimensionality, a shallowness, that I couldn't shake no matter how hard I tried. Toss in random people running around in loincloths/capes and dinosaur suits, and it becomes quite hard to take the characters seriously on far too many occasions.
While a valiant (or no so valiant) attempt to capture Golding's classic in anime form, Ryvius ultimately falls short. Its inability to truly capture the depth of the philosophies it examines due to its many flaws bothered me to no end, as many of its faults could have been corrected with relative ease. Had Ryvius a much stronger emphasis on the emotional and intellectual weight behind its themes it could have been a classic itself, but in the end its inability to go beyond mediocrity left it a disappointing watch.
What happens when authority and consequence are removed? When the inmates truly run the asylum. On the spaceship Ryvius there are those who would fight for order, and many more who would fight to destroy it. Love, hate, anger, greed, avarice, and perhaps hope are the fuel for the Ryvius, and only one can save those who call it home...
Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!