In order to save themselves, they will have to save each other.
What do you get if you combine Evangelion, Lord of the Flies, and the Apollo space program?
Facts of the Case
It is the 22nd century and mankind has spread across the solar system. But when a solar flare, the likes of which that has never been seen before, engulfs the system and a dense plasma coats the planets and surrounding space with a substance known as the Sea of Geduld, millions die and space travel is severely crippled by this new sea separating the planets.
In order for people to travel through this new hazard, special training schools are created. The Liebe Delta is one of these facilities. While practicing maneuvers through the Sea of Geduld, the facility is mysteriously attacked and starts plunging down into the sea. Before the station falls to crush depths, the students and teachers band together to save the facility and their lives, but unfortunately for the teachers, only their pupils survive. Thrust into leadership roles, the students take refuge in a smaller escape craft called the Ryvius hidden in the interior of the training center, but it isn't long before this new craft brings about a whole host of surprises all its own.
Having what amounts to a high school in space, while being almost no different than any terrestrial high school, at least provides an environment where it is harder for the kids to play hookie, but it's still a high school. There are the smart kids, the cool kids, the antisocial kids, and everyone else. Sure, they all are training specifically for specialized roles earlier on than most people, but the attitudes and motivations are still the same from any other high school movie or TV show. And as an anime, all they need to do is throw in a big fighting robot and they've covered all the bases for a typical anime series. (About that robot, yeah, they've got it too, later on.)
The actual functions of the training facility are questionable as well, since while it is implied that the teachers are running the show, the students appear to be doing most of the grunt work themselves. There appears to be two societies coexisting, but both of which are invisible to the other. Students wander through the facility with few if any adults in sight, and only when danger beckons do we the audience get any chance to see those in charge actually do something.
The characters themselves act human enough, even if their motivations aren't necessarily clear. Since this DVD contains the first few episodes of a larger series, one can only hope that the characters will be later defined and expanded upon, after most of the set up has been established. Until then, most of the characters are pretty much one-dimensional and what you see is what you get. There is the tough looking punk with blue hair named Airs Blue who leads a gang called the Blues. There is the short, arrogant, big-headed cadet with the Napoleon complex vying for control. Then there is Kouji Aiba, one of the main characters, who is actually Shinji from Evangelion with a pair of cajones. Well, maybe not a full pair, but at least half a pair. He doesn't whine nearly as much as Shinji, but he has the same hair style, wears the same white shirt, and the same pair of pants to be considered his long lost clone. All other personality traits are the same.
Style wise, Infinite Ryvius leaves little for the audience to relate to from reality. The visual architecture of the station has the typical "anime space station" feel to it, clean lines and the sort, but actual little that could be recognized from the current space programs. The Liebe Delta is the Mir and International Space Station's younger, hipper, more cosmopolitan half-brother from a celebrity marriage. It looks more like a floating mall than a working facility.
The Geduld substance is also another mysterious fluid that leaves physics on the cutting room floor. Is it like water? Gas? Liquid mercury? Ships and debris can pass through it (to a point) without getting crushed, but there is no displacement going on. Then later, the Geduld become more viscous and ships can ride on waves at the "top" of it. So what's the deal? Is it buoyant? Magical? Alive? Or is it that infamous "anime stuff" that floats when it needs to, hardens when told to, and pretty much just has to look cool the rest of the time?
The video print is clean and crisp, presented in full frame. The colors are soft in some areas, but that appears to be a stylistic feature rather than any degradation of the print itself. Five episodes are on this first disc of the series, with a total running time of about two hours.
The audio is available in both English and Japanese in Dolby Digital 5.1. One thing that surprised me about the audio is how much I didn't hate the English dub. Normally none of the voices match the characters, and all the inflections are horrendously butchered for American audiences, but not so for this one. I actually liked the English dub on this disc. The tone and inflection don't disappoint as much as it has in the past, and there is little overacting involved. It still pales in comparison to the original Japanese, but this is the first English version in a long time that didn't make me wince when the characters opened their mouths.
The background and theme music is a techno bluesy jazz mix that's quite lively and enjoyable to listen to as well.
Camera shots aren't as interesting as they could have been, and the editing is rather ho-hum as well. This was originally a TV series so some of these issues could be due to limitations of the original format, but they still could have been reworked better.
The extra content starts off with a short promo clip for the series, then two commercials for the series on DVD and video. Then if you happened to particularly enjoy the opening and closing credit sequences, here they are again but this time without the credits distracting you from the visuals. More entertaining is the VJ Mix Video, a music video comprised of clips from the series set against live action shots with the theme music guiding it all. This one is worth listing to, if only for the good music. The best extra feature though is called Ryvius Illusions, which are a series of short cartoons that were available on the Internet to promote the series. Comical and lighthearted, they are fun to watch, but you'll have to remember to turn on subtitles before you start because they don't automatically pop up. Also included are trailers for Please Teacher, Geneshaft and Argentosoma.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Pacing is not the best in this series. Slow spots crop up here and there, and for the length of the DVD, more action should have been covered. It may pick up later on in the series, but it's off to a slow start so far.
A typical anime in a lot of respects, from story to graphical style to presentation, but not terrible overall. If you want something different, this isn't the one to watch, but its familiarity is comforting. Rent it when the entire series is available, for as it is now, there is little to get you hooked and coming back for more.
Not guilty. Bandai is thanked for assembling a good DVD interface to showcase their product, even if the product in question still requires a little polish. Case dismissed.
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