Review: Last Exile
by Justin Jasso
Every now and then we receive a story which, periodically, it doesn’t necessarily fit together but with a good story and strong characters, the pieces fit together and the puzzle forms a wonderful picture. Such is the case with Studio Gonzo’s series Last Exile. A story which seems to take place in what we may call the Victorian era but happens to have huge flying ships where countries do battles in the skies opposed to on the ground and a large, governing body oversees all from a place beyond with far advanced technology. As stated, it doesn’t sound like it should work, but get a few episodes in with relatable characters and you’re in for a 26 episode ride.
The world is called Prester and there are two nations, Anatoray and Disith, which are at a conflict with one another. Young Claus Valca and Lavie Head, two teenagers who live together, live in Anatoray and fly a vanship as couriers, taking on missions of lower difficulty to earn money to live and to continually upgrade their vanship in hopes of one day crossing the Grand Stream, a turbulent portion of sky in which their fathers perished.
One day Claus and Lavie come upon a vanship under attack and are asked to deliver the “package”, a young girl named Alvis, to the battleship Silvana and to Captain Alex Row. This is a seven star mission, the highest available, and Claus and Lavie intend to see this mission through. With some luck, they reach the battleship but refuse to leave young Alvis alone as they promised to keep her safe. They later learn that the Guild, the governing body over Prester, intends to capture Alvis for reasons unknown to them. Thus begins the journey to keep Alvis safe, find out the Guild’s intentions and try to stop the war that is occurring between the two warring nations.
The artwork in Last Exile isn’t your traditional anime fare. Character design differs greatly from most other anime on the market, but we expect things to be a little different with a Studio Gonzo production. The good thing, the character design works and isn’t obtrusive in any way. As for the animation… simply amazing. For something that originally aired in 2003 to be this advanced with their computer animation tools, one may be pleasantly surprised and pleased when they watched this series. From the shading to the background textures to air combat scenes, the animation is fluid and puts you there with the characters.
Many anime fans regularly have issues with English voice casting in anime, and many times it is warranted. Last Exile, however, provides a veteran cast of quality voice actors. From the soft voiced Claus, portrayed by Bleach’s Johnny Yong Bosch, to the very interesting character of Dio Eraclea, voiced 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. Other notable voice actors include Crispin Freeman (Hellsing) as Alex Row, Kari Wahlgren (Samurai Champloo) as Lavie Head, and Michelle Ruff (Bleach) as both Alvis and Tatiana Wisla, among others. Rest assured, Studio Gonzo took their time with the casting and reached the stars with this talent pool.
While Last Exile is an amazing anime series, like any other film or series, it has flaws as well. Sometimes the story may seem to drag and the first couple episodes start off slow as characters and storylines are drawn. Once you get through the initial exposition, the story begins to pick up speed and you’ll need to buckle yourself in to your vanship because it’s one fun and bumpy ride!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars