Almost two months ago I asked about Last Exile and several people suggested that the series was good. They were right. This series is something special. I just finished Disc 2 and I’m hooked.
I can’t say much about the plot because the last eight episodes have been mostly introducing us to the questions, but haven’t really begun to answer them. (Stipulation: The following praise for the series shall be null and void if they don’t answer these questions.)
The technology in this world is interesting. They don’t have radios or any other means of wireless communication, but they do have some sort of anti-grav / hover technology. The major method of communications with a mobile target is by the use of “vanships”, which are small torpedo-ish craft that require two people to pilot. At first I thought these were absurd Miyazaki-style flying machines with two-foot wingspans. But once I saw them in action it became clear that these aren’t wingless jets. They can hover around in place and don’t have props or turbines. When they lift off, there is very little air displacement, suggesting that they use some totally foreign technology for flight. I actually find mystery technologies more appealing than known technologies which are depicted in an unrealistic or nonsensical way, so I really like these vanships.
Claus and Lavie are vanship pilots. They take various message-delievery jobs as a means of financing their real passion, which is vanship racing. (Vanship racing reminds me a lot of podracing from Star Wars Episode I.) They take a few dangerous jobs which end up dragging them into a large-scale conflict, the sides of which are still unclear at the end of episode 8.
The character designs are wonderful. Claus is an incredible pilot, but he isn’t the typical cocky, “I’m the best in the world and I know it”, anime stereotype. He also isn’t filled with angst and self-doubt that causes him to choke at critical plotpoints. (At leat not so far.) He’s young and a bit idealistic but also wise and practical. I really like him.
Lavie is the perfect co-pilot for him. Her co-pilot skills aren’t really a match for his piloting skills, but she’s highly motivated and forceful. She keeps Claus on track and pushes him when he might be tempted to take the easy way out. She’s also a solid mechanic.
The art reminds me a lot of a Miyazaki film. It’s wonderful, detailed, and nearly decadent in it’s use of wonderful one-time visuals. I have yet to catch them re-using footage, even when the story made it easy to do so. The characters are drawn in soft earthtones: no gravity-defying spikey hair, no purple hair, no crazy costumes.
While Claus and Lavie don’t have any weapons on their vanship, we eventually do see vanships used in combat against some rather interesting foes. I love watching these things fly. The sounds and the motions are perfect and really convey the speed and intensity of the dogfighting. It remainds me of the thrill I felt the first time I saw X-Wings and TIE fighters going at it. Seriously, it’s that good.
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