LAST EXILE (2003)

 

Format: 26 24-minute episodes on 7 DVDs

Rating: PG-13 (GV)

Type: Action

American Production: Geneon Entertainment

English Dub Production: BANG ZOOM! Entertainment

Japanese Production: GONZO

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

A-

Writing:

A-

Character Design:

A

Mecha Design:

A

Animation:

A

Artistic Merits:

A

English Dub:

B

Musical Score:

B+

Opener:

A-

Closer:

B

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

A-

Drama Content:

B+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B+

DVD Extras:

B

 

 

OVERALL:

A

 

Synopsis

††††† In a world where massive flying warships rule the skies and smaller two-seater vanships are used as couriers, young couriers Claus and Lavie try to get by running delivery missions using their fathersí vanship while dreaming of one day following their fathers into the Grand Stream, a violent jet stream-like air current which swallowed them up many years before on a critical mission. They get caught in the middle of a war first when they are called upon to deliver messages to and from a warring party and again when they are called upon by a dying fellow courier to complete an exceptionally dangerous assignment: deliver a girl named Alvis to Alex Row, captain of the infamous warship Silvana. But the Guild, which rules the skies through its control of the Claudia units that make flight possible, has also taken an interest in the girl; it seems that Alvis has a critical connection to the legendary ship Exile, whose might, if it could be found and harnessed, could allow dominion over the water-starved world. Just getting Alvis to the Silvana may ultimately be only a small part of the job. . .

 

The Long View

††††† Last Exile is widely-considered in fan circles to be one of the best Ė if not the best Ė anime series of 2003. Itís not hard to see why; it is a stunning, gorgeous production of CG-enhanced animation which may set a technical standard for years to come, but itís also an original and inventive story loaded with fine action sequences and convincing characterizations. It would not be an exaggeration to call it the all-around best anime series of the past few years.

††††† Last Exile follows a rarely-tread path in anime by focusing almost entirely on flight and mastery of the skies. Most of the action takes place in the sky, where big warships blast away at each other with steam-powered cannons and musket fire while smaller vanships nimbly dodge obstacles and opponents. The vanship designs, whose frames are based off of early 20th century plane chassis but which replace propellers with a rear-mounted apparatus which looks like a bulb filament (whose specifics are never detailed), are wholly original, and the flying stars used by the Guild are equally creative. Warship designs somewhat resemble those of early 20th century battleships and first-generation aircraft carriers but are distinctly designed with aerial combat in mind. No less impressive are the designs of Exile itself, although its initial appearance is marred somewhat by overly-obvious use of CG effects (the seriesí one true artistic flaw). Left unexplained is the exact nature of the Claudia units which allow for flight and the glowing element which powers them, but itís a detail easily overlooked by the viewer in enjoying the design wonders of this series.

††††† The characters, for the most part, are an enjoyable bunch. The understated but fiercely-determined pilot and dreamer Claus is a hero one can root for, while his practical-minded childhood friend Lavie, who serves as technician and ďNaviĒ for their vanship, is the one that an audience can emphasize with; her sardonic wit livens things up while her battles against her fears and to sort out her feelings give the series a human element that could have easily been lost in such a grand project. Alvis, the little girl, is a pure delight. Cute but not overly so, her own fears, lack of guile, and efforts to sort out such mundane things as how to get a stuffed cow to moo feel more genuine than what one normally sees of little girls in an anime series. I can guarantee that this is one series where you will not groan at the inclusion of a ďyoungíunĒ just to heighten the cuteness factor. Dio, an up-and-coming Guild noble with a childlike playfulness who starts as a rival to Claus and later works alongside him, is also a delight with his somewhat daffy behavior; he is yet another character that would have been way overdone in most anime series but, thankfully, is handled in moderation here. Luciola, Dioís stoic servant/companion, seems unremarkable until very late in the series, but itís hard not to feel for him and the situation heís in when he finally is given time in the limelight. Also impressive is Sophia, the second-in-command of the Silvanus (and, as we later learn, a VIP as well), who carefully balances being kind and authoritative. Tatiana, a stern and hard-nosed vanship pilot and Squad Leader on the Silvanus who has a counterpart to Dioís Luciola in her own Alister, comes across as quite the bitch in the early going but a key sequence where she and Claus must depend on each other for their lives following a crash changes her, revealing that maybe she isnít so heartless and self-assured as she lets on. This creates some interesting unspoken romantic rivalry with Lavie later in the series, in part because neither woman is really aware of her true feelings at first. Maestro Delphine, the leader of the Guild, is deliciously wicked as the main villain of the series, while most supporting cast members are a fairly generic lot. The one disappointment is Alex Row, who is the stereotypical grim, authoritative figure on a mission, but with so many other enjoyable characters in the series this one flaw isnít much of a letdown.

††††† The story, which mostly focuses on or around the Silvanus from the 4th episode on, is set up to maximize thrilling aerial races and combats as the Silvanus seeks to find and secure Exile before forces of the Guild can, although Alex of course has an ulterior motive and issues surrounding a building war and volatile political situation frequently threaten to impede on the mission. Although individual plot elements arenít terribly original, they come together exceptionally well in execution.

The artistry and animation, as stated before, are true marvels; the ratings speak for themselves here. The character designs are appealing and realistically-proportioned, while costuming does a fine job of reflecting early 20th century influences in everything from flight suits to military uniforms to formal gowns. A terrific contrast is generated by giving the Guild an utterly different look which combines futuristic stylings with religious influences. Although there is some graphic content, it is not heavy or severe. A mature 10-year old could probably handle this series.

The opener of Last Exile, whose visuals are composed almost entirely of clips from the series, is a real attention-catcher which serves well to heighten enthusiasm for the series. The closer is less impressive and the musical score, while it does an excellent job of highlighting the action, is not a standout. English vocal performances are superb in some places (especially Kari Wahlgren as Lavie and Joshua Seth as Dio) while more ordinary in others for an overall solid-but-not-spectacular dub job.

Last Exile is a wonderful series which is well worth a look.

 

DVD Extras

††††† I only actually reviewed one volume of episodes on DVD, which included a rather complex paper model of Tatiana and Alisterís vanship. (Review of most episodes is based on G4Tech TV broadcasts.) Also included in the DVD case, which features impressive foil highlights, is a detailed profile of one of the main warships in the series, so I think itís safe to say thatís a common feature in the DVDs. The DVD itself included extras which are probably standard amongst the seven volumes:

    Textless Opening

    Art Gallery

    Company Previews

 

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Claus Valca

Johnny Yong Bosch

Lavie Head

Kari Wahlgren

Alvis, Tatiana

Michelle Ruff

Alex Row

Crispin Freeman

Sophia Forrester

Julie Ann Taylor

Alister Agrew

Sue Beth Arden

Dio, minor roles

Joshua Seth

Luciola

Mona Marshall

Maestro Delphine

???

Mullin Shetland

 

Cicada

???

Vincent

Steven Jay Blum?

Campbell, Hurricane Hawk, minor roles 

George C. Cole

Godwin, minor roles

John Daniels

Fat Chicken

Sonja S. Fox

Holly Mad-thane

J. Garcia

Duke David Mad-thane

 

Lady Mad-thane, title narration, minor roles

Mia Lee

Mullin Shetland, Giese, minor roles

David Lelyveld

Silvana Bridge Observation Officer

Midge Mayes

Worsley, Prime Minister Marius, Gale, minor roles

Michael McConnohie

Emperor of Anatoray, minor roles

Anthony Mozdy

Ethan, Silvana announcer, minor roles

Tony Oliver

 

 

 

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