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.

15 Responses to “Infinite Ryvius – Hitting the Groove”

  1. was not totally overblown? I mean, we are talking about a SUNRISE that’s also the anime Lord of the Flies, you sure about that? XD

    nevertheless, one of my favorite anime. One of the best part was that unlike other down-under main characters like Shinji Ikari, Kouji actually changed himself dramatically (and somewhat realistically); I start the series tossing rocks at him and finished it rooting for him /o/

    and poor poor Faina.

    • Well, the end is absolutely overblown, haha. It’s like being on Splash Mountain in Disneyland, where you’re going along with the flow and then BOOM! You’re flying down the slope. That’s like the final five or so episodes, starting with when you-know-who goes off the deep end and grabs control of the ship.

      My respect for Kouji went way up by the end, too — all it takes, really, is for him to stop acting like such a damn asshat lol.

  2. You sure know how to talk others into watching something ^_^
    I’m going to give it a shot soon, it has some sort of “Now and Then, Here and There” ring to it that I’m liking (I really don’t expect the two to treat many similar themes, but still).

    • Hm, yeah, they’re not really about the same thing, but that comparison actually works to a solid extent. The social breakdown is something that both series share. If you thought that was interesting in Now and Then, Here and There, then you’ll probably think it is interesting in Infinite Ryvius as well.

  3. Hip hop does get an unfair rap (see what I did tharr) mostly because of all those who just try too hard to chant to a background beat that expresses only the surface-level emotions without digging deeper, but that’s a gripe for another day.

    In terms of tension, I think my tendency is to home in on electronica/techno and use the harsh percussive vibes to really make it creepy/eerie. Dissonance and playing music at unpredictable moments works well in that too. I’ve never seen hip hop able to do that, at least, not when Japanese lyrics are used (which is what I presume they use in InfinRy) so I’ll have to find out for myself and will definitely keep that ear open when I watch it.

    It’s about time anyhow. I’ve had the DVDs sitting on my shelf for ages and there’s really no excuse =P

    • I think electronica/techno is definitely the standard for creepiness/eerie scenes. It has that metallic tinge that naturally makes it sound a bit off when played in the “right” situations. The hip hop is used well in Ryvius, though the more dramatic examples are used to emphasize the feelings after a tough, trying situation rather than to ratchet up tension.

  4. Leah-san Says:

    It’s sound really awesome. I think I’m gonna watch this. After I completed Black Lagoon.

  5. Considering how my high school freshman lit teacher’s treatment of Lord of the Flies turned me off of literature for a good while, it was probably a Good Thing I didn’t make that connection with Infinite Ryvius until way after I had watched the anime (and put to rest my trauma with that particular scholastic experience).

    But in fact, Infinite Ryvius’ cast puts it ahead of LotF (in my mind anyway). Greater range in age and experience, different cliques, and obviously the presence of females, give this more detailed picture of the Ryvius as a microcosm of society. Of course elements like hip-hop gave it more appeal to a younger audience (like me) too! :)

    • Haha, I liked Lord of the Flies, but that’s probably because it was summer reading instead of something we read during the school year. Always more fun to read a book when you don’t have to dissect it for a grade. :p

      Yeah, lack of women is the one big failing of Lord of the Flies. Good that Ryvius has a fairly diverse cast of women too. It’s been a while since I’ve read Lord of the Flies, so I couldn’t do a comparison of how both feel as a “real” sort of society, but Ryvius felt pretty real to me.

  6. Infinite Ryvius was a really, really great series, one of my favorites. I completely agree with you about the ability of the show to really go deep into each and every one of it’s characters. There’s nothing like a stressful situation that becomes even more stressful that becomes even more stressful and more stressful to really bring out the ‘truth’ in people.

    As much as it is Lord of the Flies, in a way it’s also Ender’s Game without the influence of adults.

    In a way, Infinite Ryvius really does the sci-fi genre justice. We have to remember that really good sci-fi is not just about how fantastic the aliens are, how big the explosions are and how complex the terminology can be, but really great sci-fi is a way used to critique our own society, with the ability to set it in a completely different setting devoid of current social, racial and cultural meanings. This is something that this series does extraordinarily well.

    One interesting fact is, I remember reading some interviews in Newtype magazine years ago with Goro Taniguchi where he basically said that the entire story was being written on the fly as the project was being produced. In a way, I think this allowed for a much more creative and unpredictable plot than could have been achieved any other way.

    As for your music portion, I had never really noticed it before and never really thought much about the importance of the music before. I think now that I reflect upon it, it was an apt choice. Much of traditional sci-fi uses classical music, and I really believe that having classical being the background of a story about ‘kids running amok’ would not have done the show justice. Using hip-hop and it’s flowing beats and more ‘youth-oriented’ music gives the show a bit more of an edge that it would have otherwise had with the traditional classical/J-pop treatment.

    • Never read Ender’s Game, so I can’t really comment on that comparison, I’m afraid!

      One thing I really appreciate about Ryvius’ social critiques is that the show isn’t really obvious about it. There isn’t some futuristic thing that is supposed to be some broad social satire of modern times; really, Ryvius’ basic story could take place in ANY era where this basic situation could play out. And, like you write, the Ryvius world is in its own place, so it is basically a blank slate so that everything builds a bit at a time without much bias filling in the blanks where it is unneeded.

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