Comics artist and former Gainax employee Lea Hernandez joins us to talk about her turbulent time back in the late 80s with the company that gave birth to Evangelion.
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Sep 27th 2003
DVD 1: Lost in Space
In 2137AD, a solar flare kills millions of people, creating the Sea of Geduld, an impassable miasma of crushing heat. A slew of new space cadets aboard the Liebe Delta, a space station for training, learn to navigate the Geduld. An act of sabotage by an unknown saboteur sends the Liebe Delta spiraling into the Geduld, and it's every man for himself. A small cadre of cadets makes it aboard the emergency vessel Ryvius, and it quickly becomes a battle for power and survival.
Okay, so the premise for Infinite Ryvius isn't exactly the most thrilling concept ever imagined; basically, here we have Lord of the Flies in space. Fortunately, this production was blessed with a talented staff, and what could have become a dreadfully dull exercise in routine science fiction is instead a mostly entertaining exploration of adolescent angst. It's a little on the slow side at first, but this is the kind of series that rewards the patient.
What's unique about Infinite Ryvius is that it manages to set up a lot of the drama before the kids are in confinement together. Most shows would use the Ryvius as a contrivance, a way to force drama into a show that previously had none. The first episode (which is a little on the slow side; if you liked the technobabble in Crest of the Stars, you'll love this. People who are bored by endless unintelligible chatter at computer screens might have a harder time) sets up most of the problematic relationships, and establishes a lot of the tension that will break later in the series. The show is elegantly written, which is more than most anime sci-fi series can say.
The show starts to heat up when the kids are all crammed inside the Ryvius and forced to work together. Most of them don't really want to work together and one half seems to hate the other half, which makes for some really tense situations and a few scary outbursts. Thankfully, the show never devolves into wall-to-wall mech pounding action or solid dry drama; it manages to find a balance between the two and sticks to it. One thing the show does seem to be lacking is humor. This is a fairly laugh-free affair and it takes itself dreadfully seriously, so if you're looking for something light-hearted, you're barking up the wrong tree.
The animation is surprisingly well-done, especially in close-up scenes. The characters are animated with flair and fluidity. Some of the longer shots (especially onboard the Liebe Delta) are unfortunately flat and static. The digital animation is a tad bit stilted at times, but when a character is spotlighted, they really shine through. The backgrounds are pretty well done (albeit a tad sterile). Design-wise, Infinite Ryvius is notable since it sports designs from one of the hottest up-and-comers, the man who also did the designs fro s-CRY-ed and Gundam Seed. His designs seem well-suited to animation; it's no wonder he's so popular these days. His faces are particularly expressive and when the shows he contributes to have decent-sized budgets, the spark behind his work really shows through.
Musically, Infinie Ryvius is a bore. The opening theme is your average female-Japanese-singer-with-Casio instrumental. Don't expect it to blow your hair back. The incidental music in the show is sparse and minimalist; there isn't much of it, and when it is around, you won't notice it. They use a lot of limp hip-hop break beats. It's hard to tell what they were going for with this series, but it's a bland mishmash that really doesn't work.
The dub is a mixed bag. The actors seem to be straining a lot. The characters are excessively emotive, and this is a serious problem for a show that's supposed to be fairly quiet and understated when there aren't hot emotions on display. The lead character overacts nearly 90 percent of the time. They've changed a lot of the dialogue to sound more natural, and it probably would sound natural if the actor delivering said dialogue wasn't so over-the-top. The female cast is pretty good, which is nice for a change. They manage to stay away from the all-English-anime-girls-sound-alike pitfall.
The plot is firmly established in these first 5 episodes, and if you like what you see, the series doesn't completely derail down the road. The DVD has a number of extras on it and the video presentation is crystal-clear; the music is pretty limp-sounding, but that's the composer's fault. Bascially, if you're looking for a science-fiction series that sidesteps the cookie-cutter tendencies of most other genre series, Infinie Ryvius is a can't-miss. People who find themselves bored by the genre, though, might be better off going elsewhere.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : C-
+ Interesting story, decent animation
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