Being the massively popular series that it was, Neon Genesis Evangelion inspired a lot of copycats. Not that every series copied it to the same extent that RahXephon does. Some copied the aesthetic or the female character archetypes or the newer look at giant robot series.
Infinite Ryvius is one of these post-Eva series. Directed by Goro Taniguchi, who later went on to direct Planetes and Code Geass, the show takes the same angst-heavy approach that Evangelion does. It takes a group of kids with plenty of emotional baggage, tosses them into a sci-fi setting, gives them heavy responsibilities, one of which may be piloting giant robots, and then proceeds to torture their minds for 26 episodes. Each series has aspects it does better than the other and, as the title of this post might have already clued you into, I’m going to compare the two.
The post is largely spoiler-free, apart from the discussion about endings, which I have covered with a spoiler tag. However this spoiler tag doesn’t work if you are viewing this post in a feed reader. You have been warned.
Animation quality isn’t something I’m too pushed about. Artistry, on the other hand, is something I care about hugely because how you frame a shot tells a story in it’s own right. That’s where Evangelion excels. It has a way of framing the Angels that conjures a mixture of awe and fear. Set against sunsets, towering over our view, those Angels are genuinely frightening beings. Ryvius just doesn’t have that. It is, for the most part, very straight forward in how it presents the characters. There’s certainly not a whole lot of imagery, which Evangelion basks in towards the final episodes, sometimes even to its detriment. What that does for Evangelion is it instantly gets you into that characters head, while with Ryvius it’s a more gradual horror as you realise how messed up this kids brain is. I would like to say this suits Ryvius, because the show is very gradual in how it presents it’s story, but Evangelion does pretty much the same thing to it’s characters and achieves this better with it’s use of imagery.
Verdict: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Ryvius’s plot is often described as ‘Lord of the Flies IN SPACE!’, which is fairly accurate. For the record, Lord of the Flies is a damn good book that has been ruined for the general population by English teachers forcing them to write essays about every instance of the colour ‘pink’. There is a lot more going outside of the ship the kids are trapped on in Infinite Ryvius, but they don’t really come to the fore until perhaps the very final episode. But it’s a clearly constructed plot with definite goals, which is more than I can say for Evangelion. I flat out don’t understand the plot of Evangelion. Not at all. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds when you realise the creators were making it up as they went along anyway. The plot, as it were, was still fascinating to watch unfold as you tried to work out what was going on, but you were left never knowing what was going on in the first place anyway because of that damn ending. Yeah, more on the endings later.
Verdict: Infinite Ryvius
Plot construction is more about the pacing, subtlety and finesse at which the story was constructed. Again it is Evangelion’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along-itis that bites it hard here. Well, maybe not that hard. There was certainly a disconnect between which characters they felt like focusing on at any different point, but by and large the plot continued along the same path. One aspect that always impressed me with Evangelion is how each Angel becomes gradually more and more terrifying. There is no let up for these characters. Even when there’s a mid-show moment where it looks like these characters are finally developing, the toughness of their adversaries comes back to haunt them. Which is pretty much the exact same thing Ryvius does, except Ryvius keeps a more even control on it’s characters than Evangelion was ever able to do. That said, I can’t give this award to Ryvius because of the disconnect between life on the space ship and the greater picture. It does come together in the end, but that’s still 25 episodes worth of disconnect.
Yeah yeah, I know Ryvius has a cool funky R&B/hip-hop soundtrack that you desperately want to praise for simply being cool, but I really can’t. A hip hop soundtrack suited the likes of Samurai Champloo down to a tee because the nature of the show was a cool and slightly laid back one. In Ryvius, the soundtrack becomes less and less relevant as the series went on. It’s a bit jarring when the characters are going through their emotional breakdowns towards the chaos that is the end of the series, to the soundtrack of “uh yeah uh Ryvius uh yeah“. Besides, the Evangelion music is fantastic. Like the animation, the music heightens that sense of awe surrounding the Angels.
Verdict: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Sense of Humour
Yes, both these series has a sense of humour. It’s not hugely present but you don’t need chibified faces and overreactions to count as humour. What they both have in abundance is a dark sense of humour. A chilling, evil, wry yet brilliant little twist every now and then that generates a fleeting smirk on your face before you wash it away, feeling very bad about yourself. Also, neither series takes themselves 100% seriously. Whether it’s the girl searching for her dinosaur costume on the Ryvius or a conveniently placed box of toothpicks, both series are willing to laugh at themselves. Generally, sci-fi is good at this and I wish some of the high fantasy series would take note.
I love to hate the characters in both Evangelion and Ryvius. Therefore it comes down to a battle of how well both series develop these characters. Main character battle of Shinji vs Kouji, there simply is no competition. Kouji is a damn fine character, but the level at which Evangelion goes into Shinji’s mind and explores is far beyond anything Ryvius could dream of achieving. Similarly nothing Ryvius can conjure beats the depth they go into Asuka’s character. However beyond that, Evangelion starts to break down a bit. I really couldn’t tell you what drove half of the characters in Evangelion, and I doubt the creators really knew either. Meanwhile Ryvius has full control over every single characters development. You knew what drove every single one of them and understood what it was that made them snap, as every character in Ryvius eventually did. In short, Evangelion for the main characters, Ryvius for side characters.
Ryvius ending Show ▼
Evangelion ending Show ▼
Verdict: Infinite Ryvius
2 for Ryvius, 2 for Evangelion and 2 draws, so no clear winner. Evangelion was certainly the more ambitious of the two, while Ryvius was a lot more controlled and constructed it’s story better. The endings for both series ultimately swings my opinion on both series though. Infinite Ryvius is better than Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mwahaha, go my biased views, go!
In all seriousness, both of these anime are fantastic and, at time of writing, hold pride of place in my top 30. Highly recommend both of them.