Anime Spotlight: Last Exile

Last Exile is anime series created and produced by Gonzo. The anime was directed by Koichi Chigira. The 26 episodes of the series aired on Japanese television from April 7-September 29, 2003. Geneon Entertainment originally licensed the series in North America, but then the license was acquired by FUNimation Entertainment after Geneon ceased production of its titles.

The series is set a fictional world known as Preseter. The world’s two nations, Anatoray and Disith are engaged in an eternal conflict that follows the code of chivalric warfare. A faction known as the Guild enforces these rules and provides the two nations with technology. The setting has a retro-futuristic steampunk look to it, and it resembles 19th-century Europe at the height of the industrial revolution.

The main characters of Last Exile are a 15-year-old named Claus Valca and his navigator, Lavie Head. Together, they fly their vanship as sky couriers in Anatoray. They usually take on missions that have a relatively low difficulty, but they are asked to complete the mission of a dying courier. His mission was to deliver a girl named Alvis Hamilton to the battleship Silvana. They succeed in their mission, but Claus and Lavie decide to remain onboard the battleship in order to keep Alvis safe.

Over the course the series, Claus and Lavie befriend the crew of the Silvana. In the first battle between the Silvana and Guild forces, a Guild member named Dio Eraclea takes an interest in Claus’ flying skills. Dio allows himself to be captured in order to learn more about Claus. While in captivity, Dio reveals to the captain of the Silvana the existence of four Mysteria, which act as a key to something known as Exile.

When I first started watching Last Exile, I thought that the first couple of episodes felt rather slow-paced. I understood that these episodes needed to establish the characters and the world that they inhabit, but it still kind of felt like a slog. The story doesn’t truly get going until the third episode, so you just have to use patience in order to give Last Exile a fair shake.

After I finished watching the series, I concluded that while there was a very promising premise for Last Exile, I felt that the execution didn’t allow for the series to deliver on that promise. Basically, the first half of the series was rather solid, but during the second half, the writing and storytelling fell apart. One of the worst aspects was the character of Mullin. He helps Claus and Lavie out in the second episode, he disappears for five episodes, and then he reappears in the series… but his appearances after his return didn’t really add anything of any real importance to the story. While I had some other nitpicks with the second half of the series, the character of Mullin and his importance (or lack thereof) is the point of contention that stands out to me.

When it comes to the animation in Last Exile, it’s obvious that the series was produced during the earlier days of anime utilizing computer graphics. While the computer graphics for the ships do look nice, they also tend to stand out like a sore thumb in comparison to the cel animation in the series. Also, there were times when it felt a little jarring when a scene is going in and out of utilizing the computer graphics. Unfortunately, near the end of the series, the quality of the animation takes a nosedive, and this was especially true with the computer graphics. At the end of the series, the CG just looks rushed and sloppy.

While I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch Last Exile after I had heard so much about it, I was disappointed by how the series ultimately turned out. It’s an anime title that I’m not in a rush to watch again.

Additional posts about Last Exile:

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