We live in a time where fascism is alive and well, and not just in the Western world. People respond very strongly to populists who just say what their constituents want to hear and get rewarded for it in elections. We’re seeing the rebirth of much more defined social classes, with the middle class slowly disappearing from the conversation. Society is more divided now than it has been in some time. So it’s interesting to note that a little under 20 years ago, Infinite Ryvius managed to predict this.
For those unaware, Infinite Ryvius was one of the last big space operas in the vein of Macross before the genre boom petered out in the early 2000s. The hook? It was Children of the Corn, except replace getting stranded on an island with getting stuck on a galactic top-secret military battle cruiser. It was critically acclaimed at the time of release, but most of the focus was on how it depicted various different political systems. However, Infinite Ryvius went a little further than most even realized. It was reflecting the state of Japanese politics of the 90s and predicted the course of its future.
The Japanese Depression of the Early 90s
This is a far more complicated and nuanced subject than we can do justice to over the course of a paragraph, but we’ll summarize. Japan went through a massive economic boom throughout the 80s due the rapid growth of Tokyo metropolitan construction. The Yen was one of the strongest currencies in the world, banks were giving out massive business loans like they were tossing confetti at a parade, and Japanese electronics were taking the world by storm. Everything was looking pretty sunny for the country until the Yen began to collapse. It then hit a massive low in 1991. Up until then, though? Things were pretty good for those at the top.
In Infinite Ryvius, this period is reflected by the rule of Airs Blue. Basically, Blue ruled through pure brutal libertarianism. People were divided solely based on their worth of points. Those in his inner circle were granted unlimited points and had free reign over the rest of the crew aboard the Ryvius. People could choose to work as much or as little as they liked, but with the understanding that those who got more points would have better access to supplies. It was an illusion to allow the students to believe that they could work hard and have a better life. It fell apart, however, because Blue’s cohorts abused their power and clearly did not take into consideration the people who were working for them.
Attempts to Rebuild
Ultimately, the way Japan tried to rebuild its failing economy was to ease up interest rates on loans so business would continue to invest. Sadly, this did not work in the end as the damage was already done. Too many businesses felt loans were too risky to and did not have trust in the shaky financial security of the banks. This lead to falling employment rates, which was making it much more difficult for your average college graduate to find meaningful work.
Now take a look at Blue’s successor, Juli Bahana. Ultimately, her attempts to correct the problems with unrest within the Ryvius was to just expand upon the point system rather than actually deal with the root of the problem. Anyone could receive infinite points, but they have to put in the work to achieve it. Otherwise, they’ll still be taken care of, but they won’t have as nice of a life as others. This led to overwork of those who are willing to do it while creating a malaise among the rest of the crew who wouldn’t pull their own weight but judged those who did. Eventually, Kozue tears into girls who she feels aren’t doing their part while hiding behind her relationship with Ikumi Oze. This causes a horrible, unspeakable retaliation against her, which then led to…
Giving in to Authority
It’s been said that Fascism rises in a society due to heroism becoming expected rather than acting above and beyond the call of duty. The assault of Kozue is exactly what sets off Ikumi. He threatens the population of the Ryvius with the Vital Guarder unless he’s given complete control of the Ryvius. Not only that, but Stein Heigar, the advisor for all the past leaders of the Ryvius, backs Ikumi 100% due to his own obsession with creating a utopia. Suddenly, the Ryvius is under martial law, all because everyone relied far too much on Ikumi’s talent with the Vital Guarder.
We won’t go into current politics, but it is interesting to note that the economic depression eventually led to the election of Shinzo Abe, who ran on the platform of correcting the economic struggles of Japan. In the meanwhile, he’s been controversial in Japan due to his admiration of Hitler and his attempts to rearm the Japanese military.
Infinite Ryvius was created nearly 20 years ago, so you can’t say there are any direct parallels with it and the present. However, it’s fascinating to see where the Ryvius ended up versus the direction modern politics is going today. Thankfully we are not quite at the same level of open violence, but it’s a scary thought.
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