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January 5th, 2009


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10:44 am - Last Exile? More Like Vast Sex Aisle!
Last Exile is apparently quite highly regarded by anime fans, but I had never heard of it until allsunday recommended it to me. She then proceeded to lend it to me. Eight months later, I finally got around to it. I was able to watch with my brother!

Last Exile is notable for being steampunk anime. Better yet, the story is centered around airships, so most of the series takes place in the sky. That was very neat and different for me. The cool part was that the airships were sort of a meld between spaceships and regular ships. Giant warships could float in the sky and deploy hordes of Vanships just like the Galactica deploying Vipers. But the battles are just like sea battles, with two ships coming close to each other and then blasting from short range. On top of that, you have awesome dogfights. Although the series is hand-drawn, the airships are computer-generated, so they look really cool and move very fluidly.

Why is there all this fighting? Well, there's a war going on between the countries of Anatoray and Disith. Our heroes, two couriers named Claus and Lavie, get caught up in this war when they take on a dying man's mission: deliver some precious cargo to the legendary warship Silvana. This precious cargo happens to be an adorable girl named Alvis. They run into some opposition from the Guild and their awesome starfish ships that can slap you around and call you Susan. Who are the Guild? Well, they're the arbiters in this war, and no one really likes them.

I've already told you too much! I knew next to nothing going in, which I think is the optimal way to watch this series. It reminded me of Neon Genesis Evangelion in the way the worldbuilding was the story. We spent most of the early episodes incredibly confused because no one would bother telling us A) what was going on and B) what had went on. The nature of the world and the characters' pasts slowly unfolds, as do the main objective, Alvis's importance, and what the hell Exile is. It's such that when you finish the series and read the Wikipedia summary, you find yourself nodding along because it makes sense even though most of it was never stated outright, only implied.

There are a lot of characters. Because this is an anime, Claus and Lavie are teenagers, but the rest of the cast (save Alvis) are largely adult. The relationship between Claus, pilot, and Lavie, navigator, is a major focus of the series, although it sort of gets dropped in the last half as the show becomes increasingly Claus-centric. I believe a full third of the dialogue in Last Exile is his goddamn name. "Claus." "Claus?" "Claus..." (Another third is "Roger that!") I did find it interesting to see Claus and Lavie, childhood friends, struggle as they both reexamined their places in an ever-changing world (an anime about coming-of-age, no WAY), but one of my problems with the series in general was its constantly shifting focus. It was hard to find the throughline, even though the plot remained fairly coherent. One thing that never changes is Claus and Lavie's fierce protectiveness of Alvis. Al is truly adorable and carries around an awesome stuffed goat that bleats at inappropriate times. She's on the safest ship in the world, the Silvana. The crew of the Silvana are a diverse lot: Alex, tortured captain (essentially Spike Spiegel with a warship); Sophia, XO, who becomes progressively cooler (...Tigh? although she's more like Adama); Tatiana, angry hotshot pilot (Starbuck); Alister, her secret lesbian lover shy navigator; and the various entertaining mechanics (Tyrol and Cally?). Then there are the major Guild people: Dio, who is like a terribly irritating version of Zuko in a way and, contrary to appearances, a dude; Lucciola, his secret homosexual lover bodyguard; and Maestro Delphine, who is head of the Guild and gives Azula a run for her money in the Worst Sister Ever contest. Then there are all the other minor and recurring characters like Walker and Vincent and Mullin and Mad-Thane and...yeah, it's a pretty complex series. But it does do that thing I like where characters and plot points from before come back later on!

The problem with all these characters is that I didn't really care about them deeply, even though I liked them well enough superficially. My feelings are pretty well expressed in this blog post. The show seems so intent on not telling the audience things that it's hard to be really engaged in the story and invested in the characters' fates. The characterizations were often puzzling, on top of that; it wasn't quite clear WHERE this angst was coming from.

We had to keep watching, though, because Last Exile is not so much a television series as a 26-episode miniseries. Pretty much every episode starts right where the last left off, which means most episodes just stop on a cliffhanger. This gives the narrative a good drive since so much is happening all the time, even if you don't know what the hell is going on. Each episode's title is based on a chess move, and this manifests in the structure of the series: each episode builds on the next to culminate in the finale. There are no "stand-alone" episodes: everything moves the story forward to its ultimate conclusion. A conclusion that will certainly leave you scratching your head as so many anime endings do. As I said above: when you have it explained, you can see it, but it's a little difficult to get everything without doing your own thinking.

Holy crap, I haven't even mentioned the Grand Stream! Which is this killer air current up in the sky that's likely to obliterate your ship if you try to fly through it. And it's important. Because it's grand. Complex series, like I said.

I did have my issues with Last Exile, and I was sad not to love it as much as I imagine allsunday wanted me to, but I did like it. The worldbuilding (once I fully understood it) was interesting, which I think is one of the strengths of anime in general. The airship battles were hella cool, and I want my own Vanship. The story was intriguing, if confusing. The characters were likable, if not fully developed. If you're interested, you can totally watch the show online. Sometimes you don't know you've been craving steampunk anime until you're offered it, after all.
Current Mood: hungryhungry for pancakes
Current Music: Death Cab for Cutie - A Movie Script Ending

(12 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:maka2000
Date:January 5th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
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What does steampunk anime mean?

Dio, who is like a terribly irritating version of Zuko in a way

But! Isn't Zuko a terribly irritating version of Zuko?

I don't care for anime, but it's nice you had something new to watch with your bro.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 5th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
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Isn't Zuko a terribly irritating version of Zuko?
Hee, I figured someone would say that. But Dio is way more irritating.

What does steampunk anime mean?
Are you not familiar with steampunk? Basically, it refers to vaguely Victorian worlds that are more technologically advanced than the Victorian era but mostly through use of steam power rather than anything associated with the digital age. It's a whole aesthetic. People make steampunk laptops and steampunk iPods and stuff. Everything is retro-futuristic. It's a fun mix.

It's not restricted to anime, of course. Perdido Street Station is steampunk. So is, um, the giant spider robot in Wild Wild West. I'm sure you've seen it before.

Edited at 2009-01-05 05:10 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:maka2000
Date:January 5th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
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Are you not familiar with steampunk?
Never heard of such a thing. Though, I really don't care for or about Anime, for whatever reason. It might be because of the big googly eyes the people always seem to have - like Precious Moments kids, (who freak me out and I hate.) Or something.

mostly through use of steam power
That's nutty!

It's a whole aesthetic.
That computer on the Wiki page IS adorable.

So is, um, the giant spider robot in Wild Wild West. I'm sure you've seen it before.

Never saw it. But I do vaguely remember seeing the previews and being confused by a giant spider robot being in the wild wild west at all.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 5th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
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Though, I really don't care for or about Anime, for whatever reason. It might be because of the big googly eyes the people always seem to have - like Precious Moments kids, (who freak me out and I hate.) Or something.
They're not all like that.
[User Picture]
From:ebongreen
Date:January 5th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
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Having now watched the first ep:

Reminds me a lot of Leiji Matsumoto's work - naturally. Kind of Star Blazers crossed with the Battle of Tsushima in the sky.

I'm almost genetically predisposed to loathe Alvis by appearance alone, assuming that's her in the credits. If she's got a personality that transcends wide-eyed innocence I may be prevailed upon to forgive her.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 5th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
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Hee. I think she sticks with wide-eyed innocence, really. But she's adorable! Come on now. (Actually, she does have a little more personality later on.)
[User Picture]
From:ebongreen
Date:January 5th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
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Ugh. Seen enough doe-eyed anime naïfs to last a lifetime already. No moar plz kthxbai. I'd rather watch Princess Lampshade from Bleach - ultra-spoiled she may be, but she's got a little piss & vinegar to her.

OTOH, speaking as you were of Vast Sex Aisle: Hel-looo, Lady of the Mansion! What nice shelving you have! 0.0
[User Picture]
From:kiya71677
Date:January 6th, 2009 07:16 am (UTC)
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I agree with both you and the linked blog post about Last Exile; it has a very ambitious concept but never quite materialized into a story I could love. In contrast, Gankutsuou is an anime by the same studio, but far superior in my opinion, while remaining short at 26 episodes.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 6th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
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Oh! I think someone recommended that to me a while ago because of the crazy visual style. It looked neat.
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From:kiya71677
Date:January 6th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
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It is neat, and it helps that the story moves along well, too. As evidence that we watch far too many cartoons (although having a young child helps with that, heh), my husband recommended I watch it after seeing the animation style of Chowder on Cartoon Network.

I also remembered that it's 24 episodes, not 26; sometimes that can make a difference if you don't have a lot of time, or have a lot of shows waiting to be watched.
[User Picture]
From:pellucere
Date:January 7th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
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(punzerel directed me thisaways?) I've heard vaguely of Last Exile before, but that it is steampunk and that it involves airships is news to me. I shall have to check it out! o/
[User Picture]
From:pingback_bot
Date:August 27th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)

Kaleidoscope: Masterlist of promotion posts

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User darkadmn referenced to your post from Kaleidoscope: Masterlist of promotion posts saying: [...] (includes picspam) Last Exile » : Last Exile? More Like Vast Sex Aisle! [...]

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