Background by Bandai:
"By the 22nd century, mankind has spread to every corner of the solar system. But in the year 2137 AD, a tremendous solar flare kills millions and spreads a dense plasma called the Sea of Geduld across the solar system. Space travel becomes difficult because no spaceship can withstand the immense pressure within the Geduld.
It is now 2225 AD and teenage cadets learn to navigate around this deadly obstacle at the Liebe Delta Astronaut Training Center on the edge of the Geduld Sea. An act of sabotage during a routine dive procedure sends the space station plummeting into the Geduld. Juli Bahana, a member of the elite Zwei cadets, must take charge and lead the others to safety aboard the Ryvius, an interstellar space ship hidden inside the station. At the same time, navigator-in-training, Kouji Aiba, is coping with sibling rivalry while trying to find the courage to use his skills to deal with this deadly situation. Since all the adult crew and instructors were killed during the evacuation, the young astronauts can only rely on their training and each other to survive the journey home."
Movie: The name of the dvd is Infinite Ryvius 1: Lost In Space. If the above description sounds a bit like a mix between a number of science fiction movies and television shows, that's because many aspects were directly drawn from the body of work that went before it. Whether we acknowledge this or not, most shows these days derive major themes from earlier works and part of the way we judge them comes from how they use the material. Do they say something different? Do they just do the same stuff over and over? The answers to these questions will vary according to how much background a viewer has with the original source material as much as how much the director and writer add their own twists.
For example, the volume title here was "Lost In Space" which was fitting since that show also started off with an act of sabotage from a foreign national (in that case, it was the famed weasel, Dr. Smith), which launches the famed Jupiter II out of control and into the vast void of space. The rest of the series had the Robinson family trying to make it back to Earth, while staying one step ahead of a number of alien species that wanted to exploit them.
Another science fiction reference, albeit a limited one, was to a movie called Space Camp. In that movie, an accident triggered the launching of a space shuttle and a group of kids, while very smart, were trapped without a lot of help from adults. Having to fend for themselves, they also attempt to handle the complex machines needed to bring themselves safely back to Earth while facing a number of challenges, some of which were inter-personal conflicts, and others that were more mundane in nature.
Lastly, at least in terms of this review since I could name a dozen more homage's off the top of my head, was to the social dynamics of Lord Of The Flies. In that movie, a group of stranded kids revert to a system of social disorder when the adults are no longer present to reel in their youthful tendencies. The cadets of the show might not have sunk so low (yet) as those in the movie but they definitely began to display similar tendencies with the breakdown of the chain of command, the way most of the cadets formed niches of common interest (some of them gangs), and the new social order being imposed on them by the Zwei cadets (who were portrayed as being the most competently skilled).
So, with such a rich history, how was the actual show? Well, I think it's too soon to tell. Most of the first few episodes established the lead characters, such as Kouji and Juli, and the situation. It was done with a whole lot of class and detail which made me put the series on my "must watch" list and my rating for the dvd is Highly Recommended.
1) The Forthcoming Time
2) Unnecessary Things
3) Beyond The Vast Sea
4) Ring Of Ryvius
5) A Little Harmony
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. There was some grain and a few moments of moiré but otherwise looked pretty good. I think most of the visual matters that weren't "perfect" were intentional this time considering the overall care the show received.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either Japanese or English Dolby Digital with optional English subtitles. There was a good mix here with some very noticeable separation between the channels. Some care was exercised with the audio too it seemed.
Extras: There were the usual trailers, double sided dvd cover, clean opening and closing and paper insert but also a video for the series, a short featurette of the characters, called Ryvius Illusion #1 (done in comical form), some commercials, and a promotional clip.
Final Thoughts: Watching the events unfold over the five episodes, I was hoping very much that the second volume was going to come out soon, real soon, in order to see what happens with the story. It could easily go either way since all this set of episodes did was establish the premise, nothing more. I'll keep an eye out on it and report back in the future but as of now, it looks very promising.