Last Exile: Fam – The Silver Wing Part 2 (Episodes 12-21) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 269 minutes approx
The war between the Kingdom of Turan and the Ades Federation continues with plucky teenage Sky Pirates Fam Fan Fan and Giselle Collette doing their best to encourage an outbreak of peace instead. Picking up directly from the first volume, Fam, Giselle and Princess Millia have crash landed on the icy continent of the Glacies, a state in self-imposed isolation, wrongly considered enemies of Turan. The girls are saved by ace pilot Dyan who helps them repair their vespa as reward for previously saving the Glacien pilots, but the Glacies’ distrust of the other nations rules out their joining forces with Fam’s peace mission. However an attack by Lucinia of Ades on the Glacies forces their hand and a new, if uneasy ally is found.
A change of heart appears a common theme in this second half of the series, with individuals and entire armies/nations switching allegiances – as if the story wasn’t convoluted enough as it is! First to do a David Cameron-esque U-turn is Sara Augusta, the child Empress of Ades Federation, following a rebellion against Lucinia by Sara’s general Vasant over the sacrifice of the Morvarid troops. Following a visit from Fam, Gisele and Millia, the lolicon leader rescinds her order of annexation of Turan and wants everyone to be friends again. However Lucinia no longer gives a hoot what Sara says as he still has Lilliana, Millia’s older sister and possessor of the ability to control the might power known as Exile.
Heading into the final stretch we are privy to more changes in philosophy with Lucinia making more enemies than friends but the war still rages on. In true anime fashion though, the final few episodes contains a number of twists and deus ex machina developments to crank up the tension and intrigue prior to the climactic finale, which unfortunately is something of a damp squib. Throw in some teases about Fam’s past which arrive far to late into the proceedings to have any impact thus could easily have been omitted, an abundance of sci-fi clichés and one of the most hackneyed yet needlessly implausible motives for the main antagonist and you have an eventful but arguably unfulfilling denouement, topped off by an infuriatingly cheesy and oddly pointless pay off to one of the main conceits of the plot.
Of similar disappointment is the use of returning characters from the first Last Exile series, in particular Alvis, who was a central component of the story due to her Exile controlling abilities. As we have learned in entertainment, having the word ”last” or “final” in the title doesn’t actually mean the definitions of these words need to be adhered to, so Alvis being the controller of the titular “Last Exile” means chuff all due to the existence of this follow up. As a result she has precious little to do here but be a damsel in distress for Dio to save in order to make up for his duplicity in the earlier episodes.
Back to the plot and much of early going in this second set sees Fam and co. earnestly trying to encourage nations from all corners to be nicer to one another, and replace weapons with speedy vehicles for a second Great Race, after the first a decade earlier was such a success in uniting everyone that it lead to the assassination of Empress Farahanaz of the Ades Federation which started this whole war! The key development for our pint sized protagonist comes late into the run when, after maintaining a cheery disposition of faith in her fellow humans, she finally breakdowns and concedes that her ideas of peace are naïve and practically unattainable with maniacs like Lucinia to deal with. Is it too late for a final ditch effort?
With so many loose threads to tie up and a cast of thousands, many of whom are either interchangeable or forgettable, there is something quite catastrophic about the final few episodes as it tries to reach a satisfying conclusion. Whilst the plot may confuse one is kept captivated by the beauty of the visuals. However flawed Gonzo’s stories are their artistic plaudits are well deserved and this show deserves pride of place on their CV for this reason alone. With one notable aberration, the CGI animation is exceptional, and the designs of the crafts and the photo real airspaces they inhabit are stunning, especially in HD for those with Blu-ray capabilities. There are some obvious 2D/CGI clashes but these are kept to a minimum which is a benefit to avis exposing this problem. The 2D artwork is also of a high standard with the artwork and backgrounds matching the quality of the CGI set pieces.
One facet that warrants a specific mention concerns the Glaciens who speak Russian. And before you think “Russian accent?” no, they speak Russian – even in the English dub! For those watching the original Japanese soundtrack, the subtitles for the Galciens are in yellow as opposed to white for everyone else. And their language doesn’t miraculously change later on either which is a nice touch, bringing a welcome does of credibility to the show.
Ending with a series of impressive and action packed battles and explosive set pieces, Last Exile: Fam – The Silver Wing is an enjoyable slice of Steampunk frivolity. The downside is that is laden by a needlessly convoluted and sprawling plot that tries to be clever for its own good. This is not exclusive to this show but it is a lesson that anime writers need to learn ASAP as it is too common a fault.
There is also the small contention as to whether it is worthy of the Last Exile name. Honestly, it could have worked without it but the caveat would have been that some would have seen it as a rip off, putting it in a lose-lose situation. Overall a fun if unoriginal and unnecessarily overcomplicated show, that looks good and is driven by earnest ambitions.
English Language Dolby True HD 5.1
Japanese Language Dolby True HD 2.0
Episode 17 Commentary
Episode 21 Commentary
Spin-off Anime CM Series “Friday Night” #08-13
Anime Expo 2011 Part 2
Textless Opening Songs: Buddy / Cloud Age Symphony
Textless Closing Songs: Starboard / Starboard (Silky Wind Version) / Innocent Eyes / Sorrows Of Life
Rating – ***
Man In Black