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Last Exile Review

Genres: Drama Adventure Science-Fiction All
Series' Year of Release: 2003
Number of Episodes: 26
Review Date: 2-9-2009
Review Language: Dub
Review DVD Region: R4 Available in Australia
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

In the world of Last Exile Vanships fly the skies as two warring nations fight under the watchful eye of the Guild. The Guild controls flying technology and thus controls the world. The Sylvana, a battleship under the command of Alex Row, is the only vessel they donít control. Claus is a Vanship pilot and Lavie is a navigator. They dream of crossing the Grand Stream in their fatherís ship. Before they can achieve their dream they come across a downed Vanship carrying Alvis Hamilton. This young girl is being chased by the Guild so Claus and Lavi decide to rescue her. Soon they come into contact with the Sylvana and join its quest to find the Last Exile; a mysterious object which lies in the furtherest reaches of the sky.

last_exile004Last Exile can be described as a mixture of Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Escaflowne. At least, thatís the impression it gave me. Itís got the sense of adventure, the flying machines, and the mysterious object of desire in the sky from Laputa and similar settings and villains from Escaflowne. This should be a good thing as both shows are exceptional.

last_exile012Last Exile begins with two opening scenes, one depicting an intense moment with the crew of the Sylvana and the other introducing Claus and Lavie. Thereís no context to whatís happening with the Sylvana and itís one of those scenes that only makes sense after youíve seen the show. Claus and Lavie are the main characters with Claus as the pilot and Lavie as the navigator/mechanic of a Vanship. They take on missions to deliver messages or goods but itís just a means of survival as theyíre orphans. Their real passion is racing and crossing the Grand Stream, which their fathers attempted to do. This is strongly connected to the characterís motivation but is largely forgotten for most of the series as Claus and Lavie get caught up in events. Which culminate in the search for the Last Exile.

last_exile011The world view of Last Exile is hazy, thereís no in-depth explanation of the state of things. This is necessary because the showís storyline revolves around the war between Anatoray and Disith and how the Guild controls both of them through technology. For instance itís not mentioned to nearly the end of the series that Disith is located on the other side of the Grand Stream. Something that Lavie and Claus would dearly like to know about. It makes the common mistake of keeping too much information back even when these things should be obvious to the characters. The Sylvana links into this story thread by being an independent ship thatís outside the control of the Guild. Itís captain, Alex Row, and itís vice captain, Sophia, drive this part of the story with Lavie and Claus just along for the ride as crew members of the ship. The series resolves these disparate plot threads satisfactorily in the end but it was still confusing. I didnít know what the Last Exile actually did, the imagery wasnít very clear, and it went for the cheesiness familiar to anyone whoís seen My Hime.

last_exile009Itís actually a mystery to me why Claus gets involved during certain events. Like in the initial battle between Disith and Anatoray he uses his Vanship to help the Anatoray fleet. I donít know why heís risking his life and dragging Lavie along with him. Taking over the mission to carry Alvis at least makes more sense, she is rather adorable. Lavie on the other hand is sensible, grounded, the one who keeps them alive, and argues her point of view compared to Claus who just acts without thinking or explaining. The series has a host of other characters such as the aforementioned Alex and Sophia as well as the Sylvanaís mechanics and other Van pilots/navigators Tatiana and Alice. Some of the events with these characters also had me scratching my head. Notably Tatianaís turn in behaviour and Sophiaís kiss. Both of these happen in the same episode which is the lynchpin for the whole series with whatís revealed. It was too much for a single episode.

last_exile025The Last Exile, even with the six years that have past since its creation, is still a gorgeous looking series. The CG, which is often poor in anime, depicts the aerial vehicles and battles splendidly. The clouds effects are the best Iíve ever seen in any form of fictional media. The other animation is equally good which is evident in the opening sequence. The OP song is Cloud Age Symphony by Shuntaro Okino and when itís combined with the beautiful imagery present in the opening sequence itís up there with Escaflowneís opening. The ED song is Over the Sky by Hitomi and it has its own charm featuring Alvis, but itís nothing like the opening. The music is orchestrated, quite lively and light, and while being nice isnít as powerful as Escaflowneís. The second half of Workiní on the Cloud demonstrates this and is my favourite song from the soundtrack.

Last Exile is two separate stories that have been intertwined. Thereís the story of the Sylvana, the war and the Guild and then thereís the story of Claus and Lavie. The first story dominates the majority of the series and while being interesting suffers from an under explained world setting. Claus and Lavieís story is about Vanships and the Grand Stream and while the grandiose plot is in affect it takes a back seat. Claus and Lavie donít drive that part of the story and Claus doesnít explain his sudden actions which ultimately get them involved in it. So Last Exile is a series that needed a stronger focus and greater exposition of characters and setting.