Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ – First Impressions
November 9, 2011 3 Comments
I was holding off on writing this post until a few episodes in because I felt that I was coming to this series from a biased viewpoint. I really enjoyed the original Last Exile, and from the previews that I had seen couldn’t quite work out what this sequel had to offer to the overall story of the Exile Universe. But after four episodes I have come to the conclusion that actually it doesn’t offer all that much.
First of all the plot – well what I assume is the plot – is so full of holes its just horrible. Essentially its about bad guys attacking good guys for some random, as yet untold reason, and then using a princess to call down an ‘Exile’ to destroy the good guys kingdom. Apart from the save the princess part I am not entirely sure what this series is all about, it is disjointed and without any real direction that I can see. Now I shall make a comparison with the plot of the original series:
Last Exile is set on the fictional world of Prester. Prester’s two nations of Anatoray and Disith are separated by a turbulent region of the sky known as the Grand Stream and are engaged in eternal conflict according to the code of chivalric warfare. A superior faction known as the Guild enforces these rules. It also provides the two nations with technology but, unknown to them, has dishonourable intentions, to preserve the status quo and enforce its dominance of both sides. Although the story is set in the future, the technology employed differs from that in a typical space opera. Instead, the show has a retro-futuristic setting, resembling nineteenth century Europe at the height of the industrial revolution. The vehicles and clothes are very much of the steam-punk fashion, both looking very old fashioned, while being futuristic.
The story revolves around fifteen-year-old pilot Claus Valca and navigator Lavie Head, who fly their vanship as sky couriers in the nation of Anatoray. Although they usually take up missions of relatively low difficulty, they are one day asked to complete the mission of a dying courier. The mission, rated seven stars out of ten, is to deliver a young girl named Alvis Hamilton to the mysterious battleship Silvana. Despite their fears, Claus and Lavie deliver Alvis to the battleship but decide to remain aboard to keep her safe.
The original story was one of political ambiguity and the wish of two young pilots to find the fathers, all the while keeping Alvis safe and attempting to essentially save the world from the plans of Delphine Eraclea, the Maestro of the guild. We have two opposing factions, neither of them are essentially evil, however their war was started and continued over a misunderstanding that has only been enhanced through the inclusion of the mutual, immensely devious Guild faction. It is all shades of grey and leads to an immensely interesting series. My issue with the current series is that we are automatically thrown into a conflict between good and evil, and yet we do not know why the conflict has started, and more importantly, why we should even care.
In Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ however we are thrown into a war, with the Ades Federation attacking everyone without any warning, and from my point of view I have no idea what’s going on, why and whether or not I should care. One of the nice things about the original Last Exile was the ambiguity surrounding the war, neither Anatoray or Disith were bad, but neither were they good, it was simple a senseless war. In this case the Ades Federation are clearly being shown as evil; they have large spiky ships, they are all wearing 19th century style military uniforms that look like a cross between Russian and German; and more importantly their commander has white hair and an eye patch. The Ades Federation have been created as the bad guys, and that is rubbed in a bit too much I think, what’s odd however is that the good guys are a bit dubious, in fact they are sky pirates. What makes this even stranger is, as yet we have barely seen any signs that they will be starting anything, all we have had is Fam and Gisel flying around doing vaguely generic flying things. It lacks the subtlety – while not universal – was at least evident in the story of the original Last Exile, and so far is trying to make up for that by adding lots of explosions and dynamic flying scenes. And oddly, while I have suggested that other shows such as Guilty Crown and Fate/Zero take themselves too seriously, I feel that Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ does not take itself seriously enough. There is almost too much humor, badly timed and often out of place, the humor itself is fine, but I think it needs moderating somewhat.
The story in Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ lurches from some spectacular fight sequences in the first two episodes, to a random episode about the princess getting her sisters goblet back. And finally in the latest episode to something entirely different, with Fam agreeing to get 15 Ades Federation ships for the captain of the Sylvanus (shades of the Silvana). Its all over the place, I no longer know what this show is really about. So far the story itself has been both disappointing and unimpressive. It started off well with the big battle sequences, albeit a bit disjointed; there is clearly some big story arc there, and a potential conspiracy involving Milias family, the Exiles, Luscinia and the Grand Lake. But after being shown the potential overarching story, it is promptly forgotten, and in its place we are getting the ‘adventures of Fam, Gisey and Milia’ as they fly around doing not very much. In fact so far I have been reminded of MMO and RPG games where you get some big quest and then side quests. The main quest here is to free Liliana and restore there country, in order to do this they first need to collect 15 ships, and then probably some watermelons later or something, just doesn’t work for me.
This then brings me onto the other major concern with this show, the characters. Quite frankly the main characters up till now have been dull; Fam is the classic tomboy, and while some of her antics are entertaining to watch, she is a very shallow character without much depth; Gisey is not much better and we haven’t seen all that much in the way of her development; and finally Milia is the entirely standard Tsundere princess. So far I have not seen much in the way of character development for any of the main characters, they are boring really. In fact I am more interested in the Ades Federations commander and top general Luscinia and his relationship with the elder of the two princesses Liliana. Luscinia is already a far more interesting character, with a mysterious past and a clear connection to Liliana and the Exiles, demonstrated through his ability to control Liliana and summon down one of the Exiles that are in orbit around the Earth. I also want to know what that black bracelet that he keeps playing with is, what does it symbolise and why on earth are we shown it at every opportunity?
We do have Dio and Tatiana from the previous series, but even their appearances have not stopped me from being utterly bored of the main characters so far. In fact at the moment I feel that they should be supporting characters, since they currently have that feeling. The characters just don’t have any development, even being shown a flashback of how Fam was found didn’t seem to have much effect since straight after that we just went back to mad flying around and shooting harpoons. Every time there has been some attempt at development in both story and characters, more flying nonsense simply brushes it aside, and while that does look spectacular, you cannot replace proper progression with special effects. This is a shame since I am quite fond of female leads, especially those that are quite happy to get stuck into the action, its just that right now both Fam and Gisey are incredibly bland characters.
Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ so far has also had far more fanservice than the original, and while there is no reason to complain about fanservice, so far it does seem to be using it to attract attention. The first episode for example starts off with seeing Fam stripping down to her underwear – which oddly for a tomboy includes garter belts – and jumping out of the aircraft (she thankfully has a roped attached to her leg) while still half asleep. Our first view of princess Liliana is her wearing a thin negligee and standing in the ‘Grand Lake’, we see her again when she is captured with very little on. And finally in episode four our first view of the main character is them sitting in their under wear dressing. Fanservice is not bad in general, but this show appears to simply be using it in an attempt to get people to watch it, its random and actually feels out of place.
This series is not all bad of course, it is beautifully animated; along with Guilty Crown and Fate/Zero it is easily the one of the best-animated series this season. The backgrounds are beautiful and the fight and flying sequences are both dynamic and wonderful to look at. The first two episodes started off with a bang, and in particular the sequence with Fam, Gisey and Milia fly through the bowels of Luscinia’s ship have been both thrilling and gripping. Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ is significantly more colourful than the original, although I am a bit ambivalent about this, feeling that the darker hues of the original suited it perfectly well. Gonzo are a studio that have produced some excellent pieces of work, but also many terrible shows with bad story and bad animation, thankfully it appears that Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~, they have at least been able to produce a wonderfully animated show.
The score is also wonderful to listen to, its not often that you get a good orchestral score in anime lately, and several pieces of music in Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ reminded my of the heroic music found in films such as The Mummy, Pirates of the Carribean and Indiana Jones. Add the score to the fight scenes are you get something that truly pulls you in. But then again I love orchestral scores, I have nothing against J-Pop or J-Rock, but I sometimes think its overused, and orchestral music is underused. Plus there is a wonderful Irish jig (I did hear Japanese lyrics at the end, but for the sake of argument it sounded like an Irish Jig to me) during the scene where Fam meets Tatiana. Overall a wonderful soundtrack.
I also absolutely adore the Steam Punk aesthetic, the clothes, the ships, everything is great looking, looking both classic nineteenth century, but also futuristic, it’s a great look. Now, I personally prefer the look of the Vanships in the original Last Exile, but so far I also very much like the look and design on the airships in Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~, especially the Sylvanus, and the uniforms of the Sylvanus crew look great, especially the coat that Tatiana is wearing, that’s a nice look. Overall I am thoroughly impressed with the look of the show, wonderful animation with amazing detail on the backgrounds, vehicles and clothes. But here we get to the nub of the problem I have with the show. If I am noticing the fine details on the vanships and the clothes (such as an embroidered pattern), then the story is not doing enough to draw me in and captivate me.
Overall this show has left me both disappointed and unimpressed so far. I am disappointed because there is something brilliant there that so far is being wasted; I am also unimpressed at what is so far a pedestrian story that meanders all over the place without a clear goal, and from my point of view without a clear understanding of what it wants to be. The artwork and the Steam Punk aesthetic are great and make the show very beautiful to watch, with both CG and hand drawn animation for the most part melding seamlessly. But, very much like Guilty Crown it is lacking proper main characters and a good plot, and that disappoints me, because GONZO are capable of making wonderful shows when they put their minds to it, but so far Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ is not delivering. I am not giving up on Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ as yet, I shall continue to watch in the hope that it picks up, and also perhaps hoping that they bring back Claus and Lavie. From first impressions then, I would say that if you want a wonderfully animated show with a fascinating story, interesting characters and brilliant Steam Punk aesthetic, go and watch the original, it is by no means perfect, but it’s a great series. I really hope that this show picks up because it has a tremendous amount of potential.