Infinite Ryvius – Hitting the Groove
There’s a lot I like about Infinite Ryvius: The story never lets up and always has some tension boiling beneath the surface; the characters are memorable, interesting and always give you something to think about, even if they are not particularly likable all the time; the series itself looks pretty good despite being more than 10 years old; and so on.
But what I enjoy most is the show’s pure style and flow. The storytelling is so smooth, and it unfolds like clockwork; I can’t recall a single moment in Infinite Ryvius where I thought I was watching some tedious bullshit that added nothing to the show. Really, the choice of hip hop as the dominant background music (along with the eerie electronic songs) is genius not only because it gives the series a unique flavor (I don’t know if Ryvius is the first TV anime to utilize hip hop to such a large extent, but it did come out before more well-known hip hop-styled anime like Samurai Champloo, Afro Samurai and Gurren Lagann), but also because the music itself reflects how everything unfolds in the series.
There’s this steady beat to everything in Ryvius; maybe it’s just me, but I never really felt the heightened emotion that I’d get from a series with higher, more melodramatic peaks (well, except when the show goes into overdrive at the end). However, that’s because the show doesn’t really escalate things in a totally overblown, obvious way, at least until, again, near the end when everyone’s nerves and psyches are strung out to impossibly thin levels. I don’t mean to say Infinite Ryvius isn’t dramatic or exciting, because that is not the case at all. Rather, it’s great at pulling the viewer into the ebb and flow of the chaotic society that forms after all the kids on the Ryvius are left to drift out into space for months. Coups are frighteningly regular, and perhaps more frightening is how the resulting leaders (the strong ones, anyway) so coldly and efficiently exert their will over everyone else . . . and how that is often the only way to get things done on the ship.
Style-wise, even though the series makes few strides toward a real hip hop flavor outside of the music, it matches so incredibly well with the feel of the Ryvius. It’s a hard-edged, dangerous environment, the situation shifts and evolves as those on board grow ever more restless, and the steely confines of the Ryvius just have a hip hop feel to them, you know? At least, that’s how I perceive it when the music and environment are placed side-by-side. It might not have struck me in this way had the music been replaced by some generic anime tunes; however, the hip hop just feels right. Same goes for those electronic tunes, though those are, I think, a more expected musical choice for a show like this.
I found that the music hit most not during those intense moments, but during the more introspective, downbeat times. The beat would start up, the violin would kick in and then, damn, perfect hip hop melancholy. I always disliked how much hip hop gets shit upon. People focus so much on the bullshit of some garbage-pushing douchebags and ignore how melodic and fascinating hip hop at its best can be. (How many times have you heard, “Well, hip hop/rap isn’t REALLY music.” Take the bug out of your ass.) A show like Infinite Ryvius proves hip hop is as interesting, evocative and flexible as any style of music.
One other aspect I particularly like how the series is how perfectly balanced the characters are in terms of the harsh environment ripping them down to the most intense parts of their personalities, accentuating their good qualities but also putting a spotlight on the ugly parts as well. It’s difficult to keep characters sympathetic and likable while also making them human, but Ryvius does it for the most part. (The major exception is Faina, who just gets uglier as the series goes on. I was suspicious of her from the beginning; didn’t like how she subtly tore down the relationship between Aoi and Kouji, and then inserted herself as a stand-in.)
Like, Yuuki is a little fuckhead when the series begins, but he also has a strong will and plenty of heroic moments. Juli ends up not being as capable as she appears, and she’s rather wishy-washy, but she tries to do right by everyone and is capable of being a uniting figure, even though she is not a leader. Airs rules the ship with an iron fist, but it never really runs as cleanly and efficiently as it does with him in charge. And Kouji is a skilled person without the confidence to employ his abilities, and he often treats Aoi like crap (which made me want to chuck rocks at his head, haha), but when the situation onboard reaches its most intense pitch, Kouji steps up and goes to work.
There’s a lot of ugliness on board the Ryvius, but there’s never a lack of interest. Good series. Everyone should see it. Just don’t listen to the English dub. It’s beyond awful. I’m not really an English dub hater (I’ve recently grown to like Monster‘s English dub more than the original Japanese, for instance), but jeez, this dub sucks.