In the world of Prester, flight is the dominant mode of transportation, made possible by Claudia Fluid: a liquidized form of the crystals that are produced on the planet. An organization known solely as "the Guild" has absolute authority over the skies, with a monopoly on the engines that make use of this fluid. Moreover, as ecological disasters destabilize the warring countries of Anatoray and Disith, the Guild also arbitrates in the disputes between the two. Caught in the middle of the conflict are Sky Couriers, piloting small, two-person vanships that fly freely through the sky.
Last Exile follows the adventures of two teenagers who dream of surpassing their parents: Claus Valca, son of a famous vanship pilot, and Lavie Head, Claus' best friend and navigator. Their job as couriers entails passing through an air current called the Grand Stream that separates the hostile nations, which even standard airships struggle to survive. However, when they take on a high-rated delivery to bring an orphan girl named Alvis Hamilton to the battleship Silvana, they get dragged into a much greater conflict that pits them against the might of the Guild.
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.
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. ^_^
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.
Last Exile is an interesting, but unremarkable anime. Rather than explain or explore a lot of parts of the anime that should be important, Last Exile shows the events and characters and requires you to make assumptions and guesses as to what is behind them, and why.
The characters feel like they should be interesting, but are not explored in depth enough to make them memorable. All of the characters have some sort of back story, or emotions that seem like they are important, but are not properly explained. Sometimes a character may do something, and
you can look at what was briefly mentioned and can assume why they did such a thing, but other times its very difficult to understand their motive.
The story has similar problems as well. There will be a sudden change in events, that everyone will get behind, but it is never explained to why what they do is a good idea, or even what it is they are doing. The main reason for this problem is probably the lack of explanation and presentation of the world of Last Exile. Things are mentioned briefly throughout the series, and by picking up the little things the setting can be better understood and established. This requires more work than it should, and not everything can be picked up in only one viewing.
What can be picked up of the setting, however, is what makes Last Exile worth while. The combination of colonial era uniforms and military structure with steam-punkish airships, and the poor natural resources that makes drinking water a valuable commodity creates a unique and memorable universe for the series to take place in. The freedom of the skies enjoyed by the vanship pilots, who carry out odd jobs and act as couriers gives the pilots a sense of release from the structured rule of the military.
Last Exile is a series worth watching, but is not memorable enough to go out of the way and see.
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