Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Last Exile Review (English)

Since when am I watching Star Wars? I mean, I did see the movies, and I thought it was ok.... but I didn’t know there was an anime adaptation... What’s that? ...This isn’t Star Wars? Oh…

Last Exile is an original 26 episode Adventure/Fantasy anime from director Koichi Chigira and Studio Gonzo (Full Metal Panic!, Welcome to the NHK). It originally ran in 2003; and was originally being licensed by Geneon, which we won’t discuss it further then that, and then was picked up and relicensed by FUNimation. A second series called Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam, also from Chigira and Gonzo, was picked up by FUNimaiton. It ran in July 2011.

In a world that looks like the 19th century with Steampunk-esk anti-gravity devices, Claus and Lavie are pilot and co-pilot of a Vanship and act as couriers. They become involved with a mysterious mission after rescuing a little girl from a strange star-shaped killing machine. Not willing to let the girl die, they complete the mission by delivering her to the legendary mercenary ship Sylvana, only to become part of the crew as fighter pilots. (Anime News Network)

Last Exile’s animation is simply amazing... When it wants to be. Studio Gonzo has a bit of a reputation for finishing things half-assed, making the end result a mess; like NHK, even though this worked to their advantage. With Last Exile, Gonzo didn’t half-ass things but when the sloppy animation is apparent, you take notice. Shows what they can do when they put their minds to it I suppose. Otherwise then that, the art style, lighting, and even the music (albeit, mostly sounding like it comes from Scotland) are outstanding! The fights are done wonderfully, and even some of the small things stand out in a big way.

The story takes a little bit of time to get into due to the lack of a proper opening. The first six or seven episodes suffer because of this. Plus the lack of explanation isn’t the easiest to deal with at the start (considering I had to keep Hasteaguy from going into complete rage mode). However, after they hammer out the characters, get them together, and give them all a goal, the train ride of awesome gets up to full speed. What Last Exile does real well, is give you an epic conflict with characters that you actually care about. Right up to the end, you’re rooting for these guys/gals until the nail-biting conclusion. The end is really satisfying, however, it is rather rushed. It’s kind of like they wanted to make the series longer, but all of a sudden they were told they had a twenty minute episode to end the show on. And then the, “OH S**T!!” moment happens and they rush the end of the story.

On that note, let’s talk characters! About 95% of the characters are really well done. There’s only one character in the entire series that has so much lack of development and personality that it drives me nuts! The lucky character I have issues with? Alvis Hamilton. She’s the key to the mysterious Exile, and that’s where it stops. Oh wait, she looks at you with big eyes, acts like she’s’ never seen anything so sophisticated as a toy cow, and just giving off an overall impression that Hasteaguy calls, “I’m innocent and deep... Love me.” Yeah... But every other member of the cast has great development, great backstory, and really distinct personalities. Overall, Last Exile has a solid cast.

The English Dub casting for the series was certainly picked carefully. From the soft voiced Claus, portrayed by Bleach’s Johnny Yong Bosch to the very interesting character of Dio Eraclea by Digimon veteran Joshua Seth. The cast is a real good selection of veterans and newbies for Last Exile and work really well with each other. My favorite cast members for the dub are certainly Seth’s Dio, Crispin Freeman’s (Hellsing) Alex Row, Kari Wahlgren’s (Samurai Champloo) Lavie Head, Mona Marshall’s (Digimon) Lucciola, and Karen Strassman’s (Code Geass) Delphine Eraclea. Other notable voice actors include Michelle Ruff (Bleach) as both Alvis and Tatiana Wisla, Julie Ann Taylor (Love Hina) as Sophia Forrester, Dave Wittenberg (Naruto) as Mullin Shetland, Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop) as Vincent Alzey, and the late Bob Papenbrook (Magic Knight Rayearth) as David Mad-thane.

All right, you’re probably wondering why I cracked the Star Wars joke at the beginning of this review. That’s because there are A LOT of similarities that you can make between these two series that it’s scary.... First of all, you have your three leads from Stars Wars: Luke, Han Solo, and Leia. Compare them to Claus, Alex, and Sophia (The hair, man! The Damn HAIR!!!) from Last Exile and you get where this is coming from. Then there’s the war between the Guild and the members of the Sylvana in Last Exile, and a war between the Empire and the Rebels in Star Wars. And the final one is the Death Star… wow… That one was so blatant that I probably won’t even need to mention it when it comes up. Yeah, there are quite a few glaring similarities here, but Last Exile doesn’t get knocked down. Oh no, because the series is original, in it’s own way, you don’t notice the similarities to Star Wars unless you really pay attention... Or have seen the original movies recently... Like I did. Did I mention there’s, pretty much, a Death Star in this?

After taking you through this long, hard war, Last Exile truly deserves the title of “Classic Anime” that was given to it by FUNimation after its rerelease last spring. A gripping story with amazing animation and, mostly, developed characters, it’s a big must see! Even though the beginning is slow and the lack of explanation is frustrating, stick with it and you will be amazed! If you're a fan of Last Exile, then take a peak at it's squeal, Ginyoku no Fam. I took a look at a few episodes and it seemed pretty good. If you're not a fan of the Last Exile franchise in any way, then you're probably more of the hardcore action fan, in which case, try Gundam or Drangonball Z.


  1. This is a great review. I absolutely love the animation in Last Exile.

  2. Very good review. I hope you will do more in future.