Claus and Lavi have made an easy life for themselves using the one thing their fathers left them, an old rundown vanship. With the love of flight in mind, they take various missions as couriers to make their way in the world. Little do they realize how much their world is about to change when a chance encounter with the legendary Silvana opens the door to a life they never could have imagined. Now, with a mysterious young girl dropped in their laps, they must make their way to that legendary battleship!
Celebrating ten years of excellence, GONZO has created another masterpiece that utilizies all of their experience to once again break new ground. Last Exile, a full length TV series, comes to life with obvious inspiration in some classic science fiction. Doing what GONZO does best, Last Exile is filled with breathtaking scenery, non-stop action and intriguing characters that will keep even the most casual anime fans glued to the edge of their seats.
Geneon (formarly Pioneer) gives this particular tenth anniversary series the star treatment. The first DVD is packed with content, starting with the first four episodes of the series presented in anamorphic widescreen. The standalone DVD also comes with textless opening, the original Japanese opening, a promotional trailer, a staff interview with Mahiro Maeda (one of the animation character and production designers) and an art gallery. For that extra special treatment, fans can also pick up the special box set version which comes with a beautiful box to hold the entire series, a mouse pad and a figurine of one of the central characters. Topping it all off is a special chromatic coating to give the DVD that special feel that a fine series like Last Exile deserves.
While GONZO is known more for their integration of CGI into regular animation, they’ve also made quite a name for themselves with some unique tales. Of course, with Last Exile, you are drawn to the vivid world GONZO paints first. The world of Last Exile looks like it stepped right out of a Michael Moorcock Eternal Champion novel. Much like the Nomad of Time, the characters wander around a world filled with mighty airships dealing with the troubles of a world still bogged down with a dramatic difference between noblemen and the common people. Continuing the contrast amongst the characters is the costuming that is very European in feel. Daring to push the limits of their experience, GONZO continues to integrate CGI vessels and settings in with their regular animation. With careful observation, it’s easy to spot the two different formats, but their integration together is very smooth. Dealing with more real world constraints, GONZO manages to sneak in these beautiful effects for spectacular results.
Not to be outdone by the spectacular visuals, the soundtrack also contributes its fair share to the unique flavor of Last Exile. Sticking with the European theme, the majority of the music sounds fresh from the European continent. Relying on simple folklore’esque themes, the music builds with the action on the screen, helping to accentuate the story. While emphasis is on the old world feel, the music still manages to to reflect a more modern sound. Working well within the boundaries of the music score are the two casts; English and Japanese. The English side of things is being handled by the folks of Bang Zoom, with Eric Sherman directing. With a strong range of characters, it’s not surprising that some of the better known names of the California voice-acting scene are present for this track. Taking on the lead roles are Johnny Yong Bosch as Claus and Kari Wahlgren as Lavi. Handling the role of the enigmatic Alex Row is Crispin Freeman. Michelle Ruff handles double duty as Alvis and Tatiana Wilsa. With only four episodes on this disc, each actor is slowly getting into their character. Last Exile is a tale with many twists and turns, and this experienced cast should excel in its delivery, despite the challenges that teh series will present.
Last Exile seems to borrow from the best of classic literature. Many of its core elements can be seen in some of the best of classic and modern science fiction. Not resting solely on this foundation, Last Exile begins to weave a strong tale that leaves viewers waiting in anticipation for each episode. Viewers are presented with a strong cast of characters and plenty of mystery leading to a nice mix of suspense. Unlike many of their earlier works, GONZO has spent a lot of time developing the world of Last Exile and has created a wonderful script to move things along.
As is typical for most series, these early episodes serve as an introduction to the main characters of the story. Viewers are teased with Silvana and its enigmatic captain, and then are seemingly thrown to a completely different story featuring Claus and Lavi. Starting from these two very different viewpoints goes a long way towards explaining the world these characters inhabit and how different the world is for the aristocracy and the common people. All of this build up creates a story with plenty of depth to spare.
Last Exile is a beautiful adventure waiting to be explored. Its lavish scenery, dramatic settings and intricate aerial designs are simply the icing on the cake of the solid story that lies at its core. Those who have been looking for something different than the average sci-fi tale can find a whole new world to explore in Last Exile. While the main plot is only being hinted at, the stories presented in these early episodes are more than enough to entertain the masses. With its stunning animation and artwork and a steller cast at the helm, Last Exile is a must-have for all anime fans.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ A visual masterpiece with the story to back it up
− Slow main plot development, with an emphasis on the main characters
After a successful deliver of their passenger to the Silvana, Claus and Lavi are worried about their new young friend. Shocked at Alex Row’s acceptance of the “cargo”, the two young flyers chase after the Silvana. Once on board, they encounter the crew of the Silvana and confront Alex Row. Before things can be settled, the Silvana comes under attack. The Guild, the mysterious power that enforces the law of the land, has set their eyes on Alex Row and his crew. Before they know it, Claus and Lavi are in the midst of the battle, fighting for their lives. The tempo of the battle changes swiftly for Claus, when his flying skills draw the attention of Dio Eraclea of the Guild. Will Claus and Lavi survive their first experience of aerial combat?
The second volume of Last Exile doesn’t fail to please, maintaining the series’ lush imagery and complicated, engrossing storyContinuing to follow Lavi and Claus, the next few episodes introduce many of the remaining players in this large and intricate work. The production values across all the episodes remain high as the animation, artwork and sound all work together to create one of the best looking series to come out of Japan in a while. Last Exile continues to shine as a TV series that has the production values of a theatrical animated film.
Volume 2 contains the next four episodes of the series and the standard amount of extras for a Geneon release. The basic features include Dolby Digital 2.0 versions of the English and Japanese soundtrack, an anamorphic widescreen presentation, English subtitles and scene access. The extras include the textless version of the ending, the original Japanese ending, a collection of commercials, an art gallery and the standard array of Geneon previews. While these are all solid features, the real treat on this DVD are the episodes themselves.
Last Exile features some of the best animation from one of the hottest studios in Japan. Gonzo put a lot of time and effort into the creation of this series, and unlike some of their previous work, the animation and artwork stays top-notch even through some of the slower parts in these episodes. With a television series, it’s not unusual for a studio to dump too much money in to the first episode, and then skimp a bit in the next few. With Last Exile, Gonzo kept the bar high, making each episode more intricate than the last.
In both the English and Japanese soundtracks, each cast has adjusted well to their characters; their performances evolve as the series continues. Making his appearance in the first episode of volume 2 is Joshua Seth, who portrays Dio. While a bit less ambiguous than his Japanese counterpart (in Japan, the voice of Dio is voiced by a woman) Dio comes across as playful and slightly menacing.
Last Exile is an epic series. While the full story hasn’t surfaced, the majority of the players have been introduced by this volume. While the story seems focused on a young hero, there’s more going on in the background. As the story unfolds, more characters are being introduced that help drive the main plot. While the action and story are easy enough to follow for a casual viewer, the more astute viewer can see the plot beginning to build with these four episodes. Character growth is an important part of a story, and Claus and Lavi face some strong challenges as they are thrust into the dangerous world of the Silvana. The plot thickens at a breakneck pace in these episodes; you may want to go back to the first volume and pick up the details you might have missed the first time around.
Last Exile is simply a stunning series. Positional Play builds on the foundation established in the first volume and brings the series to new heights of excellence. Whether drawn in by the beautiful imagery, or an outstanding cast, viewers are sure to be entertained by the story that wraps it all together. While it is still not clear where the story is going, or what lies ahead for the main cast, it is evident that the ride should be quite entertaining.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ A stunning series that leaves viewers craving for more
− Slow unveiling of the background may frustrate impatient viewers