Last Exile

This seems to become a permanent feature here. On the weekends I review obscure crap that no one but me cares about. I will probably continue doing this with breaks for when I run out of material. Anyway, brace for yet another anime series review.

Last Exile

As anime series go, this one is exceptional.

Last Exile Cover

There are some very good anime series out there, and also some very bad ones. Last Exile is one of the former. I put it in the same bracket as Fullmetal Alchemist and perhaps even Evangelion.

The genre of Last Exile is a little bit hard to define. When you first start to watch it it seems like some sort of a steam-punk setting. You have a Victorian era styling, clothing and uniforms, pneumatic muskets, WWI like planes soaring in the sky and gigantic floating air-ships. Then you see the ultra-futuristic, star shaped Guild fighters with electronic HUD displays and you think it is some sort of Science Fiction with a twist. Then you find out about the mythical exile, and the mystical invocations that are supposed to “unlock it”. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the show breaks conventions, and cannot be simply classified with a single label.

The action takes place on a strange world inhabited by two nations Anatoray and Disith. One is a warm and an arid world, while the other is a frozen wasteland. Both nations struggle with lack of resources, and arable land and thus they are in a state of perpetual war. The funny thing is that they do not share a border. Instead, one is situated above the other. If you take a play from Anatoray and fly it straight up long enough, you will reach something called a grand stream – a very tumultuous storm like formation that is almost impossible to negotiate. If you pass through it you will find yourself flying down toward the frigid lands of Disith.

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In this strange world there are no seas – instead, people sail the sky on gigantic ships powered by poorly understood Claudia units maintained by a mysterious Guild. If you thing about the Spacing Guild from Frank Herbert’s Dune, you will have an idea of what we are dealing with here. They are both very similar including the secrecy, private agenda and monopoly on communication and travel. All Claudia units belong to the Guild and they can remotely deactivate and recall any of them at a whim. The only airships that are beyond Guild’s influence are small WWI biplane like varships. Because of a small size and versatility they are mostly used for carrying messengers between ships, racing or personal transportation.

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The protagonists, Claus and Ravi are a team young pilots working for a small currier company, just like their fathers did. They have big dreams of one day becoming the first varship crew to cross the Grand Stream. One day the stumble upon a crash site, and rescue a small girl Aru, who turns out to be more important than they thought. She is sought after by the guild, whose agents will stop at nothing to get her. They decide to transport her to the intended destination – infamous airship Silvana and become implicated in a complex plot involving the Guild, the governments of Anatoray and Disith, the fate of the world, and survival of the mankind.

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As with many anime series, Last Exile has a very strong “coming of age” theme. Claus just like Ed from Fullmetal or Shinji from Evangelion starts up as an innocent, bright eyed kid with great ambitions. This aura of innocence is slowly and painfully removed by the choices he has to make, the harsh reality of war, and the truth about the nature of Guild, and the world that turns his belief system upside down.

Most of the characters in the series have their own agenda, own dreams and ambitions. They are all motivated by different things. Claus will do anything to protect Ravi and Aru. Alex, the capitan of Silvana is haunted by his past and driven by revenge. Sophia, his second in command is tragically in love with a man who just can’t forget and move on.

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Deo, a rebellious exuberant guild youth seeks freedom and escape from the Guild indoctrination, brainwashing, bloody rite-of-passage rituals and his destiny. Lucilla, lowly Guild slave/servant must make a choice between loyality to the Guild or to Deo – his only friend, and the only person in the world who treats him as a human being.

Tatiana, young varship pilot looses herself in an endless pursuit of her career, and then finds herself again. Morran, a simple, lonely and unlucky Rifleman, veteran of countless battles goes through an existential crisis only to find something worth fighting for. Ravi must learn to deal with harsh realities of the war, and also re-evaluate her feeling for Claus.

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All their stories are interleaved with each other, and their destiny is intertwined. The characters are memorable, three dimensional and complicated. The plot is tightly woven, and unveils at an even, although not very rapid pace. There are quite a few cliffhanger moments, exciting combat scenes and unexpected plot twists.

The artwork is absolutely superb. The character designs are great, drawn with great attention to detail and consistent style. The CGI effects still look great despite being a tad dated. The ship designs are also exceptional. Each faction involved in the war has their own unique ship design. Big naval battles are never confusing because the silhouettes are so distinctive that a quick glance is enough to figure out what is going on on either side.

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The ending is a bit confusing, so make sure you watch it 2-3 times. Not much is explained, but the visuals give us some important clues about the nature of the world, the origin of the exile, and what happens next. Fortunately you can figure out what is going on. Unlike the ending of Evangelion for example, this series does deliver some closure. You don’t just sit there stumped, but it does make you think and wonder. And unlike some other series it does not drag forever. Like all good stories it has a begging, a middle and an end. The pace of the storytelling and the timing is impeccable.

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So to summarize: great story, great characters, awesome setting, and great animation and CGI. What’s not to love here? If you look for a new Anime series, or just some good TV to watch, definitely pick this title up. I give it 5 stars and big thumbs up. And I don’t give out my stars so easily. You will probably have to go back quite a bit in the archives to find the last review that got 5 stars. Go watch it. It is a good show!

My rating: 5.0 stars
*****

It’s not accident that I compare this show to Evangelion and Fullmetal. This “innocent boy must face harsh reality” seems to be a recurring theme in a lot of anime shows. Actually, if you think about it Ender’s Game closely follows this same model. Did Orson Scott Card know that he was writing an anime script? I wonder… LOL

[tags]last exile, exile, anime, tv, show[/tags]

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6 Responses to Last Exile

  1. Dax UNITED STATES Opera Windows says:

    I had seen a blurb for this a while back and put it on my “to see” list. I haven’t given it much thought recently but your review makes this next for me to watch.

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I first heard of it from Steve Yegge’s blog. Then one of my friends mentioned it to me as well. So I figured I must check it out. :) I’m glad I did.

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  3. Anime Spy UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I really liked this too :D ty for posting such a great anime related article on the net ty.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thanks. Btw, nice website you have there. Love the video section. ;)

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  5. Anime Spy UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thanks Luke I try my best ^_^

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  6. Jon NORWAY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Last Exile is one of the animes from the ’03 season that I find myself watching over, but not too often. It’s a gem of a series to be savoured every time.

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