"I've made up my mind! I'm going to steal that ship!"
All source of life originates from the Grand Lake.
At this very sacred lake, the battle between the Ades Federation and the Turan Kingdom has just begun. The Ades Federation, armed with massive battleships and its sights set on conquering the world, declares war on the Turan Kingdom. With the Federation's troops encroaching on their beloved country, Turan now lies on the brink of collapse. As this is happening, the princesses of Turan look on as a small vanship named Vespa cruises above their heads.
"We shall now commandeer your flagship and take her from this battlefield. The choice is yours. Die here, or survive with us Sky Pirates!"
The Vespa continues to weave through the barrage of bombs, while the fleets of the Federation close in on Turan.
What are the motives of Luscinia, the man leading the Ades Federation into the war? And what is the secret behind "Exile"?
When a sequel to Last Exile was announced, it had a real air of desperation to it. It felt like Gonzo were desperately rummaging through their back catalogue to find an IP with recognisable quality that they could rehash for some extra dough. The original Last Exile was great, but it was also complete, and ended in a way that solved all the characters issues and wrapped everything up in a perfect package. It by no stretch needed a sequel. But they did so anyway, setting it with new characters and on a completely different planet, with only very loose connections to what happened in
the original. That all said, Gonzo put an extraordinary amount of effort into this, pumping out something that I would say could stand proud alongside the original. That is, if it wasn't for Fam.
Let's talk about the good first though. Last Exile was a standard-bearer for how to integrate CGI into hand-drawn animation well, keeping only the machinery CGI. Last Exile Fam is that except bigger, better and with more intricate detail. The scale of the CGI models for the battleships is phenomenal. They really give the sense of these giant clunky machines that were built by real people, with insignias and rivets and everything. Asides from simply looking impressive, this also helps flesh out the world by designing everything so well. The variations between the bad guys factory produced fancy ships and the pirates less conventional looking weapons to the Russian women's pointy fighter jets. There's a real sense of different cultures conveyed through the designs. It feels like a proper world. There's a great sense of epic scale to these battles too, because you can feel how immense these ships are. Compared to something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, where the space battles may as well have been some kid on his playroom floor going "pew pew pew", when a ship explodes in Last Exile Fam, it really gives the sense that a monster has been taken down. The pitched battle sequences here are probably the best in any anime I've ever seen.
The way the different cultures are portrayed ties into the other big area I feel Last Exile Fam excels at: The politics. Each nation has a reason for fighting and reasons for wanting peace, but what it does really well is how it is portrayed. It's not done through some boring narration over a shot of people fighting. When you just throw names of nations and political ideals at you, it just goes in one ear and out the other. You have no reason to care. Last Exile Fam does this well by having the politics centre around a small group of characters that are central to the conflict and it's their ideals and personalities that shape the direction. On one side we have the two Princesses of Turan and on the other we have the military one-eyed general and his teeny tiny Augusta. It all works because it explains why these people are fighting through character development, which is how politics in a story should be conveyed. OK, it's a little too keen on making the military general start massacring people, but his reasoning are logical and human. You understand why he's doing it.
The problem starts when the person they use to watch this conflict through the eyes of is a complete brainless twat. As far as I'm concerned, Princess Millia is the main character in this story, or at least she should be. She's the character with flaws and the one with the real human investment in this conflict, both for political and personal reasons. She is the one who is developing slowly through her encounters with different nations and people. However the person she chose to ride around with is Fam. Fucking. Fam. The most brainless moronic single-minded simpleton to ever grace the skies. A character who mindlessly blunders her way through anything and everything, not having the mental capacity to doubt herself or justify her actions beyond her witless adherence to the genki philosophy. This character archetype has slowly but surely become one of my most hated, up there alongside the Yuji Everylead the Bland. The problem here is that genki juvenile idiotic energy is treated like A Good Thing. Her justification to just jump into things because it feels right should not be something that constantly rewards her. It's not that I can't enjoy a stupid character. Yuki in Future Diary is an idiot, but he gets punished for his idiocy, and is therefore incredibly entertaining to watch. People just conform to Fam's way of thinking, degrading the intelligence of the conversation around her.
Possibly my favourite episode of the series so far was the flashback one to the Grand Race where Fam is only 6 years old, part of the reason being because her idealistic energy flying in the face of actual facts fitted someone who was only 6 years old. Every single other character from the flashback had since developed. But not Fam. Oh no. She remains exactly the fucking same. The next episode had a scene where Fam said she wanted to return to the times like the one where the Grand Race took place, only for the Russian chick to point out that there was an assassination there that highlighted that there was unrest beneath this seemingly happy scene and it was merely a mask for the problems in the world. But such a complex issue couldn't fit into Fam's tiny brain, so she just blunders on saying she wants to recreate that day anyway. What's worse is the other characters agree with her. They get sucked in by her stupidity, their own brains abandoning their skulls in the face of this black hole of intelligent writing.
I like this new rendition of Last Exile. I love the scale and intensity of the battles, the development of characters such as Millia and the military commander, and how well realised the world is. But Fam is a giant gormless genki wart on this otherwise great series, degrading everything she comes into contact with. Fuck you Fam, you suck.
::Update upon finishing the anime::
In the end, I had to hike the score up from a 7 to an 8 for Fam finally admitting around about the 4th last episode that she had been a naive twat the entire time. Too little too late perhaps, but it gave the character some much needed development.
Roughly eight years have passed since the final episode of Last Exile. We all remember how it concluded: after defeating the antagonist and ending a war that was raging for eternity, good guys laid their hands on a sleeper ship and went to another world to live in peace and harmony. But what they actually arrived at turned out to be the twisted, corrupted world of unnecessary sequels.
Truly, Gonzo was having a tough time and needed a strong comeback that will allow it to stay in business, so they chose to milk one of their old successful and popular titles. Was it a wise decision?
Probably, it was. Does the new show turn out to be good? Well, let’s find out.
The story is pretty simple. A young sky pirate girl named Fam Fan Fan is accidentally caught in a war unleashed by bad, bad Ades Empi— I mean, Federation. (But hell, it is ruled by an empress!) Fam along with her friend, Giselle Collette, saves life of a Turanian princess named Millia who asks the sky pirates for help in the noble quest of liberating her country.
And here we come across the most obvious and fatal flaw of Gin’yoku no Fam — the protagonist and title character, Fam herself. Firstly, she is the worst kind of a pacifist who honestly believes that all people in the world can easily throw away their differences, lay down weapons and then just fly in the vast blue sky, full of joy and happiness. Fam never questions her ideals while on war where, big surprise, people are dying because somebody isn’t able to just give up on his goals, be it revenge, greed, survival of relatives, or anything else. To be fair, this naïve faith is not a bad trait, but the fact that she always holds to it no matter what is really stupid and irritating. Well, Fam receives some character development near the end of the series but it was too damn late for me to like her. Secondly, the way plot revolves around her is unbearable. Her Noble Phantasm is Deus Ex Machina: The Slayer of Suspension of Disbelief. Fam can fly in the middle of the battle and never be harmed, she can infiltrate enemy’s flagship with ease, hell, she can probably go back in time and save John Lennon or something. I get that she is a genius pilot but there are limits to how far the writer can stretch it. Thirdly, she is voiced by Toyosaki Aki-shi. It’s just personal and very subjective but I can’t stand Toyosaki-shi as a seiyū of protagonist in this kind of show. Her voice is hammered into my mind with air-headed clumsy girls, so no way I can take her as a world saviour seriously.
That’s it with Fam, now I want to say two words about other characters. Giselle seems like a pretty generic sidekick to me, but that’s okay because she rarely steals the spotlight. On the other hand we have Millia and she is one of the better parts of the series. Millia receives a lot of character development from start to finish, she can be irritating at first but she gets better little by little and progresses a lot throughout the show becoming one of the small number of Gin’yoku no Fam characters I feel little sympathy for. Another interesting character is the main antagonist, Luscinia Hāfez, the Premier of Ades Federation. Yes, his actions seem unreasonable and more I think of them less sense they make, but most of the time watching the series I spent on figuring out how far he can and will go, how much of him believe that his way is the only possible solution for the crisis. That was some kind of pleasure.
One thing people complained a lot about Gin’yoku no Fam was fanservice. Their point was this series seems like a sequel to Strike Witches not to Last Exile. To be fair, there is not much fanservice here and what is present is not really annoying. The only thing got on my nerves was Millia trying to take over the ship with her maid uniform. Yeah, it was played for laughs but this scene stood out too much and was too damn stupid, so I just cannot let it slip by. On the other hand, cameos of Last Exile’s characters (kinda fanservice too) were utterly pointless. They were lazily written into the new series for appearance’s sake only. For example, Dio’s overall impact on the plot is exactly zero, so I get this sticky feeling that Gonzo here is just trying to draw attention of the original series fan base.
And one more thing before I call it a day. Let me bring up the philosophy, the basic idea of both series. It’s pretty simple: the war is bad. We can see it through both the original series and Gin’yoku no Fam. The problem with the latter is how that idea was integrated into the plot. In Last Exile we have the Guild. It enforces strict rules of combat resulting in a lot of casualties, casualties that can be avoided if you break the rules. But if you do it, you will be punished by the Guild because it has superior technology and can easily crush you. And even if you follow the rules, a member of the Guild can call off the engine of your ship on a whim, just because he thinks it’s fun. So you’re screwed no matter what you do. This is unfair and cruel. This is war, guys, and this is why it’s bad. And what can Gin’yoku no Fam offer? We have our protagonists flying here and there and talking about friendship. We have loli Empress crying because fighting is making her sad. Oversimplification and child’s play. The war is bad. The oranges are orange. Care to explain why Gin’yoku no Fam is about war and not about oranges, Gonzo?
So, overall, is this series a powerful comeback? Hell no. I won’t cry if Gonzo returns to animation studio asylum. Gin’yoku no Fam is certainly a nice try but its shell is sadly empty. The setting is cool, but the plot while having a good build-up is too much of a cliché and the characters are either annoying or just simply not memorable. To be fair, this series has some good scenes and nice background music but that’s not enough. I rate it 7 points. Too high, maybe, but at least it’s not as bad as war.
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam goes from an interesting tribute to a snoozer and ends in a failure.
Throughout the early episodes of the series, I remember having favorable opinions for the show; it reminds me of the brilliance of the first season, the vast world, and even one of the first reasons I started liking anime, because Last Exile was one of the earliest shows I've watched. I hated Millia, but I liked Fam, and that Toyosaki Aki did a pretty good job on her. As long they keep this up and moving on to the real story, it would turn out really good.
have a good story. After the first, say, 1/3 of the story, one of the most prominent problems began to show up: the lead character Fam. There are many, many things said about her character, I think I can sum it up as having no depth, no variance in personality, and no character development. She wasn't unique in any way, and she doesn't have any kind of background except for being really good at piloting. She has a one-dimensional personality and only one approach to every single problem in the story. And she learned nothing and changed nothing throughout the entire story. As you would expect, things becomes really boring, fast.
Then... when it comes down to the important moments, the storytelling was pure shit. When did the primary enemy change from Sera to Luscinia? All that screentime on Orang just for his 10 seconds of fame? A single message from Sera to end all conflict, instantly? A single ship shows out of nowhere and starts shooting everything, and the battle ends right there? The pacing is also terrible. Episode 19 contain one of the most important battles in the story, yet they rushed through it so as to begin the next part.
And finally, the story, which also disappoints. The ending left me confused about Luscinia's real objective in the end. Was he trying a Lelouch here? If so, it was terribly executed, because both Liliana's and his actions were really unjustified. I found it so un-agreeable that I'm still hesitant to believe that was supposed to be the conclusion to the story. The final impression of the story almost always rests on the ending, and such an unsatisfying ending is pretty much the worst you can do.
Oh wait, just one more. Of the two most important, and most anticipated weapons our main characters can wield, one never showed up, and one blew up on a whim. What a good idea, right?
I could talk more about the things that this series did wrong, but I don't want to turn this more into a list more than it already does. The most enjoyable episode turns out to be a recap of the previous season. So, is this a complete waste of time? Well, the show does have several good points. The production values are excellent, being Gonzo's supposed flagship material after all. I never think that they quite captured the "steampunk" feel as compared to the previous season, but I supposed that's subjective. Since the animation quality often matters a lot more to me than other people, I must say that this isn't a complete waste of time; I did enjoy it a fair bit. If you would have me recommend this to people, I can only say that this is a huge disappointment; especially if you've watched the first season.
Story Style: Really, really bad
In 2003, Gonzo made “Last Exile”: a neat adventure story with gorgeous visuals set in a fascinating world inhabited with some intriguing characters and, most importantly, a genuine sense of adventure and wonder. That said, it had its problems: the main characters were bland, the story pace was uneven and the ending was a rushed mess.
Fast forward to 2011, Gonzo is diving into the world of Last Exile yet again with “Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam” (TL: Fam, the Silver Wing). A sequel that's only loosely tied to the original, both in story and, sadly, in quality.
Set an unspecified number of years after the original,
“Ginyoku no Fam” is an adventure story starring Fam, a spunky young pilot who dreams of a free and peaceful sky. Said wish is brutally shattered when the powerful Ades Federation declares a war of global conquest. Fam gets involved in the conflict when she rescues a runaway princess from Ades' one of Ades' first conquests and vows to help her get back her kingdom and end the war.
Sounds familiar? That's because it is. It's the same basic story that you've seen in a hundred fantasy books, children's cartoons and role-playing games. Being derivative is not a dealbreaker in and of itself seeing as even the most formulaic story can become riveting when injected with interesting concepts or explored from a fresh new angle. While “Ginyoku no Fam” makes a few decent attempts at the former, but it's undone by haphazard storytelling that focuses on all the wrong things.
The titular character herself is actually one of the shows biggest problems: Fam is obnoxious, naïve, pushy and prone to get herself involved in affair that she knows nothing about. It wouldn't be bad if the narrative actually acknowledged these qualities as a bad thing or tried to somewhat realistically depict the downsides of having such a personality but it's all too obvious that the makers of this show wanted the audience to be charmed by Fam's unyielding optimism. Worse yet is that the creators' infatuation with her extends to the way she manages to charm and influence every character she comes across. Hell, at one point the main villain even expresses his admiration for her even though they never had any meaningful interaction up to that point.
The problems created by the constant focus on Fam actually seep into and corrupt the overall story. Part of what actually made the original series so captivating was that the main characters were part of a much bigger world. Their presence and influence on the grand scheme of things was minimal, as one would expect from a bunch of adventure seeking kids. This hint of realism made for an adventure story with a fresh twist. “Ginyoku no Fam”, however, is very clear about how we're supposed to see Fam: a messiah whose energetic demeanor is the solution to all the world's problems.
It's a real shame seeing as the story had elements that could have made for a great watch. The Ades Federation initially seems like the typical evil empire but are quickly revealed to largely consist of sympathetic individuals whose firm conviction is borne from desperation more than anything. Other bits of world building such as the tensions between Exiles and Natives, both of whom are convinced that they are the world's “rightful people” (allegory, anyone?) are similarly intriguing, as is the brief glimps we get of the seemingly theocratic and secluded nation of Glacies.
But hey, who cares about things like that when you can watch girls walk around in maid outfits or lecture about how people should just “get over” feelings of mutual resentment that have existed for decades?
The production values are all over the place. The visuals in particular range from spectacular to absolutely awful. Anyone who's a bit knowledgeable about animation will tell you that anime series are no stranger to saving their budget for lavishly animated sequences while other scenes have considerably less effort put into them. “Ginyoku no Fam” is no exception, but I can't recall another series where the quality of the visuals fluctuated so massively. And that's not even the worst part: the series renders the airships in CG and it looks terrible. Which is all the more shocking when you realize that the original series looks fantastic despite being one of the first series to rely heavily on 3D computer animation and CG. The final visual insult, however, is that many of the big battles that are fought over the course of the story look absolutely terrible. All of them are absolute clusterfucks that are devoid of any sense of urgency seeing as the main characters always find a way to turn the tides no matter how badly the odds are against them.
Ultimately, the only conclusion I can reach is that this series is a failure both as a standalone adventure story and as a sequel.
Correction: it fails especially as a sequel.
Very few of the original series' characters show up and the ones that do just get completely sidelined in favor of the “fun” adventures of Fam and girlfriends. The only character from the original series whose role comes close to anything substantial is Dio and he flat-out disappears for large chunks of time. There's also very little connection to the original series in terms of themes, atmosphere or world building. A cynic might even suspect that Gonzo simply took a tried-and-true storyline, mixed it with currently popular character archetypes and slapped the label of one of their older and best received series on it. It would certainly explain the creative bankruptcy on display in this mess of a series.
“Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam” is a huge disappointment. I can reach no other conclusion.
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