The second best anime I watched all year was Infinite Ryvius. An early 00’s production by Sunrise been described by many as ‘Lord of the Flies in Space’, it deals with the story of a group of teenagers stranded on a spaceship and their attempts to get home, while trying to keep control of the growing hysteria and collapse of moral values that happen on their ship. To say Ryvius is hard to sit through is an understatement. Ryvius physically hurts to watch as you see all these characters break down, incapable of handling the immense responsibility thrust upon them (there’s a reason I compared it directly with Evangelion). It’s a gruelling, torturous experience, one that leaves you emotionally drained by the end. But it’s not all doom and gloom. No, because there’s the final episode. I will get heavily into spoilers from here on in, so turn back now and remember that, through all the pain you’ll go through watching this anime, there is redemption at the end.
***Spoilers for the last episode of Infinite Ryvius begin now***
The second last episode of Ryvius saw the characters truly break down once and for all. Airs Blue is still missing on the ship, sending the crew into hysterics. Those seen as not helping the situation had been locked into a hanger and left to die. The totalitarian regime had left those still working in panic and fear. Where it finally all breaks down is when Kouji tries to confront Ikumi’s regime and Ikumi shoots him, sending the entire rest of his entourage into panic. There’s that fantastic moment when an adult finally walks onto the ship for the first time since the start of the series, and the characters suddenly all look at themselves and realise what they had become. Like the end of Lord of the Flies, it was when that burden of responsibility left them that they could finally relax and all that had occurred during that time seemed like it came from another life. It’s a gruelling and not particularly rewarding ending, but it still fit the series well.
But that wasn’t the true end of Ryvius. Instead we got an epilogue, where the characters all went back to the real world, becoming minor celebrities in their own right. They walked around in a bit of a daze, unsure how to come to terms with what had happened upon the ship. It was almost as though the events of those few weeks had never happened. This wasn’t an ending that sat well with me at all. Horrible things had happened on that ship, and to go back to the real world and pretend such things had never happened struck me as being one of the biggest cop outs ever. You can’t just ignore 25 episodes of development. The characters have to accept and come to terms with what happened throughout the entire course of the series, otherwise everything just goes to waste.
The change occurs when the bigwigs in charge visit the various members of the crew and invite them to pilot that very ship again (it was vital to saving humanity or something, it’s not really important for this post). The important thing here is that the characters were given a choice whether they wanted to go back onto the ship again or not. Those who didn’t want to face what occurred there stayed at home, but all the main characters we had watched during the series took the opportunity. It doesn’t make sense on the face of things why they would go back to that hellhole with the same people they had experienced it with last time all over again. They went back again for redemption. They went back to the ship to face what had happened on there and, through working with these same people again, learn from their mistakes and become better people as a result.
That is a message I can get behind. The characters weren’t universally punished for their actions, but neither were they forgotten. Instead the final episodes gave them the opportunity for redemption, and what’s remarkable is how many of the characters came back, searching for that redemption. Better yet, it takes the pain of the previous 25 episodes and makes them worth sitting through, giving you an upbeat, hopeful ending that still gels perfectly with the series as a whole. It’s one of the best endings of anime I’ve ever seen, giving us a perfect resolution to every single character’s personal conflict in one simple solution. That ending, more than anything else, made Ryvius one of the best anime I’ve ever seen.