Thursday, January 28, 2010

Last Exile (2003)


In a foreign world in which the two lead empires duel constantly, and all wars are overseen by the mysterious "Guild," 15 year old orphans Claus and Lavi get by day to day taking over their fathers' jobs as vanship (small airplanes) messengers. Dreaming of one day flying in Grand Stream, a huge vacuum-like cloud separating the world's two remaining countries... the very place their parents were killed years earlier while trying to deliver a peace treaty. Things get complicated quickly when the two receive a 7star (out of 10 in difficulty) package to deliver to the "unsinkable" warship, Sylvania which has made the destruction of the Guild its primary goal.

Few shows get off to as rocky of a start as the show Last Exile. Immediately thrust into the middle of this massive world, with practically no backstory, I thought for sure I had sat down for a bummer of a ride. Yet with the spawning of the third episode, and the kicking off of the show's central storyline I was immediately hooked and drawn into the world. The next 22 episodes are as much action as they are comical character developments. We see these characters grow, nourish, their personality quirks, and how they come to be the people they aspire to. Of course we also see the heartache that comes with it. Their deep regrets, personal sacrifices, and with each new turn comes more to love about the series.

At the same time, there's enough character present, that the directing crew really have an open range to attack the subject matter as they will. While the central relationship of Lavi and Claus is as the heart of the series, we get to see many different characters, each with their own unique personality. Perhaps best of all is that Last Exile never settles for anything less than a solid balance of entertainment and emotion. The battles these people go threw with the Guild cause death, pain, and yet there's something to be said for the sheer perseverance they display. Exile will move you to a variety of emotions, because it takes the time to build them up. It creates the very world it hopes to, and then thrusts you directly into the middle of it.

All of this works because Last Exile wants it to. It's got the story, it knows where it wants to go, and it's going to take you there. It's a character series caught in the form of an action-adventure with airplanes. Yet with these sort of series always comes the knowledge that not all will change for the better. The episodes 3 to 19 are quite masterful, and will inspire the viewer to want to hop right back into the world as quickly as humanly possible, if only for a few moments more. It's that sort of strength that allows it to carry to the ending... an ending it ultimately limps through.

The final handful of episodes for Last Exile are by no means bad, just non-descriptive. The show spends so much time developing its world, and the various mythos that go along with it, it's unable to finish its story, and answer all the questions it develops. This leaves you with an ending that'll most definitely whip a monster smile onto your face, but leave many aching questions in the back of your mind. None of these questions dreadfully ruin the series, but it calls into question several motives of the series main villains, while at the same time not really wrapping everything up.

Still you can't keep your eyes off of it. Episode 23, for example, is an absolutely beautiful episode. The finale for it is so incredibly moving, a battle set to the tone of a beautiful piano score, it quite literally moved me deeply. Then of course you have the series actual ending, one in which I can honestly say is a good hearted ending throughout. You see, Last Exile has no intention of being a painful, heart wrenching tale. It has its moments of emotional pain, but for the most part it seeks to build you a new world. One that you can visit every now and again, and in that respect it's quite successful.

There are some things about Last Exile I did find particularly amusing. The show plays off the notion of sexuality quite a bit, with a few characters whose personality are quite hilariously thrown about. As well we gain a strong human side to the debate of war. It's not a tale of the troubles of war, but rather the union of those willing to fight together. It brings death, and pain, but it also brings prospects of new life, something all are willing to fight for. So while it may not be perfect, Last Exile is by all accounts a truly enjoyable affair.

While it leaves a few too many questions unanswered, Last Exile is a highly entertaining, action packed, anime backed by a strong cast of characters, that thrusts you into the thick of an entirely new world.

1 better thoughts:

Anonymous said...

awesome, coincidentally i just finished this series and I think for the most part we share the same viewpoint. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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