Title: Last Exile
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 7 Apr 2003 – 29 Sep 2003
Synopsis: Prester is a world haunted by the long war between Anatoray and Disith. The two nations are divided by a natural phenomenon known as the “Grand Stream” and are monitored by an elite group, “The Guild.” Messengers deliver messages on flying vehicles called vanships. Claus and Lavie are childhood friends whose fathers were killed attempting to cross the Grand Stream in a mission to deliver a message that would bring peace to the two warring nations. Many years later, the two are couriers themselves and have made a promise to someday cross the Grand Stream together in honor of their fathers. Their lives completely change as they run into a crashed vanship and the pilot asks them to complete his mission of delivering a young girl to the “Silvanna,” a flying vessel with a famous reputation for its ruthlessness and a mysterious captain, Alex Row.
Visuals: Impressive, especially for 2003.
Setting: Spectacular presentation of a futuristic world with a 19th and 20th century European influence.
Episode titles: A very witty and original idea.
Characters: Most of them brilliantly come to life with unique personalities and detailed character design.
Alvis E. Hamilton: The unexplained weakness of this show.
Dio Eraclea: Haunting; one of the most memorable examples of characterization anime has to offer.
“What lies in the furthest depths of memory?” “The place where all are born and where all will return: a blue star.” This is the concluding sentence of the four part poem on which the future of mankind depends. Last Exile tells the story of how two individuals who wish for nothing more than to fly the skies are dragged into a war of hate where a small neutral group known as “The Guild” symbolizes the innumerable amount of war profiteers throughout history whom have benefited from the suffering of the less fortunate.
When it comes to aesthetics, Last Exile is practically a masterpiece. The visuals are astonishing even when viewed now, a considerable accomplishment for an anime made in 2003. The setting is extremely varied and the character design is obviously carefully thought out to the finest detail. History lovers will especially appreciate the various 19th and 20th century European characteristics as we see technology reminiscent of the Industrial revolution and Germany’s Interwar period, Disith military uniforms based on the Soviet Red Army and Anatoray uniforms resembling Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers. These fine visuals are boosted by one of the most stunning soundtracks I have ever come across; featuring a wide range of instrumental compositions, Okino Shuntaro’s “Cloud Age Symphony” as the opening theme, and the beautiful “Over the Sky” by Kuroishi Hitomi as the ending theme.
The pacing of this anime is slow when it comes to bringing all the mysteries and twists together into the “big picture” of the plot. One has to be patient and wait until around episode 21 for things to truly come together. The pacing of the episodes themselves however is a completely different story. I found that not a single episode was wasted. All of them are exciting, entertaining and leave you wanting to watch the next. If anything, this anime could have used a few more. Had this been the case, it could have corrected its greatest weakness: Alvis E. Hamilton. We learn close to nothing about her background and it is never revealed how she came to be the guardian of the Mysteria.
With the exception of Alvis, characterization is one of this show’s strengths. The characters are unique and exhibit particular qualities that bring them to life. Last Exile does a predominantly fine job displaying the strengths and faults of each character; making them truly human. Characters like Alex Row, Sophia Forrester, Lucciola and especially Dio Eraclea all have their own complicated background that formulates who they are and creates their destiny. This show’s originality is further demonstrated by the idea behind the episode titles, which chess players will especially appreciate. Each one is named after a specific move or event in a chess match that directly correlates with the episode’s theme.
Time and time again, Gonzo has proven its ability to turn a story with a lot of potential into an utter catastrophe. This is not the case with Last Exile. While it may leave a few questions unanswered; the extraordinary story, fantastic characters and incredible aesthetics make up for it. Very few anime can claim to have such a high level in so many areas. One could make a case for calling Last Exile Gonzo’s greatest creation.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: MK