It's the dawn of the Golden Age of Aviation on planet Prester, and retro-futuristic sky vehicles known as vanships dominate the horizon. Claus Valca, a flyboy born with the right stuff, and his fiery navigator Lavie are fearless racers obsessed with becoming the first sky couriers to cross the Grand Stream in a vanship. But when the high-flying duo encounters a mysterious girl named Alvis, they are thrust into the middle of an endless battle between Anatoray and Disith—two countries systematically destroying each other according to the code of chivalric warfare. Lives will be lost and legacies determined as Claus and Lavie attempt to bring peace to their world by solving the riddle of its chaotic core.
Every anime studio has their ups and downs, their highs and lows, their hits and misses. There's not a single one that hasn't produced a decent title without producing something ... less than average (Manglobe came close, until they made a certain show about a Blacksmith). Surprisingly, many anime fans consider Gonzo to be one of the worst offenders, as while they have made some excellent shows, they have a catalogue of average to sub par (or worse), titles to their name as well.
Thankfully Last Exile is a one that, for the most part, they got right, but then again, the series was made to celebrate Gonzo's 10th anniversary so it's understandable that they made the extra effort.
The show follows the adventures of Claus Valca and Lavie Head, two childhood friends who are determined to follow in their father's footsteps, and become the best vanship couriers around. Like their respective parents, Hamilcar Valca and George Head, Claus is the pilot and Lavie is the navigator, and their entry into the Norkia Cup race signifies the beginning of their journey, one which will change both their lives.
One of the things that people complain about with Last Exile is that the first half of the series offers very little explanation about the events that occur while adding more and more layers to the plot. However, the more patient viewer will be rewarded as the answers are forthcoming in the second half of the show, and while there is a nice amount of complexity to the story, this is nowhere near enough to confuse people. In truth, I found the show was pitched in a manner that would appeal to many viewers as there is always enough going on to keep one interested.
What is most interesting about the show though, is that it is one of the few steam punk themed anime available. There are a number of aspects and designs that are clearly influenced by the Industrial Revolution and Germany during the time between the two World Wars, and more references are forthcoming when one looks closer at the series. There is also a clear influence from two classic Ghibli movies, Nausicaa and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, although neither of those titles is as heavily steam punk as Last Exile.
With regards to the look of the show, it's interesting to note that the visual production of the series relied heavily on CG. In particular, Gonzo used non-photorealistic rendering as a method to combine traditional hand drawn animation and CG, and the benefits of this technique are clearly visible throughout the anime. The quality of animation is extremely good throughout, and together with the designs of the characters, ships, equipment, and scenery, affords Last Exile a look and feel that is superior to most anime around.
That said, one of the issues with the series is that the rare colour clashes can sometimes be a little hard on the eyes.
The overall quality of the series extends to the music and effects too. The various tracks used throughout the series are often well chosen, whilst the numerous noises and sounds are well choreographed, and pitched at a level that rarely overwhelms the viewer. The OP, "Cloud Age Symphony" by Okino Shuntaro, is a strange piece of music that may not sit well with some viewers due to its more experimental approach. This is also true of the ED, "Over the Sky" by Kuroishi Hitomi, a track which is far more melodic than the OP, but retains the same off-kilter feel.
As for the acting, both Asano Mayumi and Saito Chiwa are in fine form as Claus and Lavie respectively, whilst Morikawa Toshiyuki is suitably taciturn as the enigmatic Alex Rowe. Each of the seiyuu portray their characters well, although there are one or two moments when the delivery seems a little forced, something that only really occurs during heavy action sequences.
One of the things that really sets Last Exile apart is the quality of its characters. Many people talk about things like "realism" and "believability" when it comes to characters, but in truth this is simply an attempt to explain how well the characters work in the context of the story, and also how well the characters follow certain patterns of behaviour that many know to be the average for people (and by this I mean how would the average, real world person react in a similar situation).
Its nice to see then, that Last Exile uses the characters very well. Both Claus and Lavie behave in a manner that is reasonable and understandable, and both are allowed to develop rather well over the course of the show. This is also true of a number of other characters, including Alex Rowe, who is akin to a modern day Harlock in some respects.
That's not to say that every character is great though, as there are on or two who don't seem to serve any real purpose, and are nothing more than window dressing. While it's true that there are always characters like this in any half decent story, the last place you should see them is on a battleship.
As a fan of steam punk, I found myself warming to Last Exile almost immediately. The plot, pacing and designs are very well handled and presented, and the story is easy to follow while retaining a degree of suspense and complexity - something which isn't easy to achieve. The series would easily appeal to fans of Nausicaa and Laputa, however fans of shows like Sakura Taisen, Steamboy, Giant Robo, or any anime about flying may find this rewarding viewing.
This is one of those rare titles that has something for everyone, but fans of steam punk should definitely give it a try.
Granted there are some minor niggles here and there, but overall Last Exile is well told story that looks and sounds great. A great deal of thought has gone into this series, and it shows in a number of ways. It's easily one of the more imaginative titles to appear in anime, especially as it's one that isn't based on a manga/novel/game/etc. It may not appeal to everyone, but those willing to give it a try may not be disappointed.
I just wish they'd make more imaginative shows like this instead of all the school based pap we're being served these days.read more
In the world that huge ships roam the skies, “Last Exile” is a sci-fi, steam punk, action/adventure anime, which is set in a somewhat futuristic Imperial age. It follows the adventures of Claus and Lavie, two Vanship messengers who happened to take on a dangerous mission to transport a girl to a notorious mercenary ship (Silvana). There was then a series of events that led to them being part of the ships crew.
The beginning of the story is nothing special, as there is no real excitement or shocking moments. All this series is to begin with, a series of events with not much meaning to them. It is only till halfway into the series that the story starts to get interesting, with some developments in the storyline. The major downfall is that the major questions are not really answered until the last couple episode, when some kind of meaning behind the show title “Last Exile” is revealed. However at this point the story undergoes a major change which can lead to you asking, “Where is this story heading?”
The quality of the animation is excellent as it is one of the best mixes of drawn animation and CG, giving it a realistic feel. So much detail is put into the cloud and smoke effects only that watching them soar through the skies is amazing. The slightly hazy look this anime has can sometimes distort the images, especially in dark scenes but it really isn’t that big a deal.
The music is alright, with is mostly a bunch of melodies that are the sort of stuff typical heard in anime. The music doesn’t really add anything to the show experience or help set the atmosphere; no real suspense, drama, excitement, nothing.
Overall this is quite an enjoyable anime series to watch however it is so incredibly slow paced, to the point where in half the episodes, nothing important happens. For a kid’s show this was pretty hard to understand, because the major plot related questions were only answered in the last couple episodes. Some people may find the ending rather disappointing with no real build-up to it and too many deaths. However at least there was some kind of resolution, to be pleased with. This show had so much potential to be superb, as there was a lot of effort put into it, however a better story could have helped.
This is a pretty good anime to watch, but it lacks something crucial to make it any special. ^_^read more
I was looking forward to seeing Last Exile from all the rumors and good ratings that had cross my eye related to it, but the fact is: I expected much better. On to the review.
Starting with Story. A science fiction story that at first glance was joining up elements of advance technology (e.g. flying battle ships) and medieval element (e.g. musketeers; honor code from European battles). It reeled me in at first, as the first 2 episodes were intense and interesting. The third episode continued with good pace also ( this time bringing a race and it was not only this element but the junction of others from the first 2 which made me feel that this anime got many inspiration from Star Wars). But it\'s was in the 4th ep. that I first start seeing plot holes (eg. in character relationship, and background), and it wouldn\'t be the last time. Even so the overall story was interesting although it sometimes developed faster or even in a slower pace than it should have.
This will depend a bit on people tastes, but I did not enjoy the ending, and especially how some of the plot lines around some characters resolved.
So in resume, the story has its ups and downs, it\'s pace it\'s quite irregular sometimes moving fast and other times going slow, it\'s good in overall but fails in many details.
Like the story, the characters started up promising, but many of them turned out to be disappointing. Especially main characters who got little development whatsoever in terms of personality. In fact the characters that got more evolution were within secondary cast, and at some point in the anime I actually started to care more about the latest then the ones I was supposed to care about. Good examples are Sophia, Mullin and Dio. Being the last one the character that most appealed to me, mostly due to is initial personality and also because he got a good evolution during the anime.
I can\'t stop thinking a bit of romance would have done wonders to improve character interaction but no moves were made in that direction.
So the strong points turn out to be the interesting secondary cast and the overall character design wich was very good.
Animation is Last Exile strongest point. It combines regular animation with 3D CGI sequences. And this is done quite well making not only battles but also many other scenes very pleasant to watch. The animation level is kept high during the whole anime and no glitches are worth mentioning. The overall ship design is very good and the same goes for character design stated above, background scenarios are also amazing.
As for Sound, it\'s pretty good as well. VA\'s do a great job, sound effects are very good and background music is so-so. The opening theme was very good and the ending theme was well done although it did not appeal so much to me.
The Enjoyment you take out will very much depend from person to person. For me personally it had it\'s ups and downs due to some periods of or indecision, and because I did not identify myself with the primary cast. Even so there were memorable sequences that made this show worth while.
In overall Last Exile is a good watch but not more than that. It has an interesting story, and although not having a really good primary cast, the secondary characters manage to complement this flaw. It has great animation, joining up 2D and 3D Computer Generated Imagery that give action scenes and other ordinary scenes a very good look, which is complemented by good sound effects. I do recommend this one, however don\'t have really high expectations because apart from the animation, there is nothing of really outstanding nor breathtaking in Last Exile.read more
Last Exile is a big classic adventure anime featuring a heavy steampunk aesthetic and dodgy early 00’s Gonzo CGI. It tells the story of Klaus and Lavie, two pilots of little messenger aircraft-type things called Vanships. They take over a mission to deliver a little girl called Alvis to a renegade sky ship called the Silvana. The story has a very natural progression in the classic adventure story fashion, to the point that you can practically plot its path exactly the same as the Lord of the Rings. First two episodes give you a broader understanding of the world and the scale the battles can be. Then we cut to the sleepy little town where the main characters are given a Powerful Artefact which they have to deliver to a council of colourful characters while being chased by what might as well be Black Riders. The scale keeps getting bigger and bigger as the story goes on until everyone is involved in this big battle for the entire planet. Also one of the characters they meet turns out to be the Future Queen.
The characters all have their own dreams and fears. They all go through their own fully functioning character arcs with a beginning, middle and end for each of them. For example, Lavie is an orphan girl living in poverty with a desire to fly through the Grand Stream in her father’s vanship, but when the going gets tough and she realises there’s things she doesn’t want to do to achieve this goal, she finds her own way. Through a little soul-searching she finds her own place amongst the engineering team. Mullen meanwhile is a lowly musketeer desperate to get away from his dangerous and pointless job. After he goes through his stint on the Silvana he finds what it is he wants to do and how he can help the people around him.
I’ve picked out Lavie and Mullen in particular because they are two of the best characters and offer clear examples of this narrative arc, but even very minor characters going through this arc. When Klaus and Lavie meet their rival vanship pilots from their home town some 20 episodes after being originally introduced, they have been recruited as part of the war effort and all look like it was decisions they made on their own. Their town had been destroyed and they felt this was how they could help. Or the noble’s wishy washy daughter who we don’t see for like 24 episodes after her original introduction until right near the end where we see her working as a nurse in an army hospital, professing how she had found how she can help. Each character goes through a finding their part in the world and fulfilling their potential.
What’s great is each character’s arc and story is integrated perfectly. The best example of this is during episodes around 10 and 11 where the crew on the Silvana all get together for an endurance race that’s actually a front for an underground auction to steal some relic. Through this race format we see what each character is thinking and where they are in their respective arcs. Lavie is trying to redeem herself after blacking out during the flight earlier as she interacts with the engineering crew who are teasing the newbie Mullen who is finding his feet after deciding he wants to stop being a musketeer and wants freedom, who in turn is trying to be useful to Tatiana, the uptight lady pilot, who is busy getting annoyed by everyone around her being tardy while the little girl Alvis is helping the engineering crew and coming out of her shell. It’s seamlessly worked together and fits with the adventurous tone.
The characters are generally pretty great with the unfortunate exception of the main character. Klaus is Blandy McNoPersonality for the vast majority of the show. For the first half he just wanders blindly forward into everything and you don’t get the feeling he made these decisions with any goal in mind. Thankfully in the second half of the show he improves and gets some motivation of his own. Last Exile seems to realise that Klaus isn’t the most interesting character anyway and likes to let other characters do most of the talking. The engineering crew in particular are an eternal source of entertainment because there’s a great jokey camaraderie between them. It’s exactly like you would imagine an engineering crew to act, between all the light ribbing and bullying the new kid and showing off to girls and then all snapping to attention and looking a little embarrassed when one of their superiors walks in on them.
I particularly liked the one bald gay guy on the crew with his fashionable black turtle-neck. I liked him because his gay-ness was never a joke, nor was it ever explicitly drawn attention to, nor did he ever act camp or any of the usual stereotypes you see with gay dudes in anime. It was just part of him. The other engineering crew members made fun of him for liking one of the other guys, but it was part of their usual banter and was definitely nowhere near the jostling they gave the new kid Mullen for fancying their captain Tatiana. The show did have another character in Dio who did some of the things you might associate with vaguely offensive depictions of gay dudes in anime, but they were just presented as being creepy because he was invading personal space, not because it was gay.
This being my second time watching Last Exile and knowing the giant reveal about the nature of the world they live in, I was able to follow the politics and over-arching story way better this time around. I’m a little amazed at how much thought went into this world they created. Most of the world building is completely in the background which nobody ever stands back and explains it all to you. What’s great is you don’t have to be able to follow how the world operates to enjoy the character stories. This means you neither get bored by lengthy monologues explaining how the world works before you can even start understanding the story, nor do you feel confused and frustrated by how little a grasp you have on events. It took me until right towards the end of the show before I realised the reason the Guild controlled the skies in that world is because they provide the engine cores to each nation for their giant sky-ships. This is central to the entire conflict in Last Exile, yet I was never particularly bothered that I never quite understood this. Admittedly that might say more about me than Last Exile, so if you’re really anal about details perhaps this will annoy you.
All this gushing aside from one second, because I have to mention this one episode that almost single handedly undermines the entire fucking show. Klaus has basically no personality but everyone around him seems to think he’s amazing. He gets marooned with the tough captain Tatiana and when they finally get back to the Silvana it is heavily implied that she now has the hots for Klaus. This makes Lavie mad because she has the hots for Klaus. Then Klaus meets with the vice-captain who is about to leave the ship, who then gives Klaus a passionate kiss. Klaus is about 14-15 years old. He’s got Lavie in love with him, who is about the same age. He’s got Tatiana, who is a recent college graduate so early 20’s. He’s now got the vice captain, who judging by the age of her dad is in her early 30’s. Throw in Dio, a 15 year old albino dude, and the gay engineer, who is also implied to have a thing for him, and Klaus suddenly has the biggest harem seemingly out of nowhere without doing anything. What’s worse is it makes all these otherwise independent and incredibly well-rounded female characters act incredibly stupid because they’ve all fallen for this fucking teenager. And then in the next episode they forget about all of that and it never becomes relevant again and you wonder what the hell the point in it all was. Incredibly stupid episode. Also while I’m bitching, the final villain Maestro Delphine is too overdone to the point that I just rolled my eyes whenever she started talking.
Those problems aside, Last Exile is one of the best and most complete adventure anime around. It’s paced perfectly, scaling with each episode and getting gradually more interesting and complex while never losing sight of its core cast of characters. They’re all developed really well and go through interesting arcs with beginnings, middles and ends which mirror the events going on in the world around them. It has a genuinely thrilling ending with a final reveal that is still one of the best in anime. Even its dodgy CGI vanships and sky battles hold up surprisingly well and work within the design of the rest of the show. I didn’t expect Last Exile to hold up because my memory of it faded to the point that I couldn’t remember specific moments from the show that stood out. But it totally did hold up. It turns out that what it does well is just being consistently good in every single area.read more
Does a lack of airships in anime grind your gears? Does not getting your daily dose of Victorian fashion get you steaming? Fear not! Here are 10 of the best steampunk anime available. Nothing like some nice quiet time with your favorite steampunk anime to help you let off some steam... right?