What They Say:
Years ago, humanity abandoned the ruined Earth. Generations later, with the planet again capable of sustaining life, mankind returned. In the skies above the reborn world, rebellious young Fam and her best friend Giselle make their living as Sky Pirates. Atop sleek Vespa Vanships, the girls dart fearlessly through the clouds, capturing and selling airborne battleships for profit. It’s a life of care-free swashbuckling – until the Ades Federation attacks. The only nation to remain on Earth during humanity’s exile, The Ades Federation wages war against those who returned only after the planet’s darkest days had passed. When Fam and Giselle rescue a princess from the clutches of the rampaging Ades armada, they join the young royal’s battle to save her Kingdom from destruction – and undertake the impossible mission of uniting humanity in peace.
The audio presentation for this release is solid throughout as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the new English language dub in 5.1, both of which used the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has a pretty good mix of action and dialogue scenes so you get the full range as it’s used here with both tracks. The series core is a stereo mix and that comes across very well here as the forward soundstage is well used with the action throughout and some good scenes with dialogue as well because of the way the characters and ships flit about. The 5.1 mix takes things up a notch and adds more to the rear channels but largely just goes with the bass being improved, which certainly helps the actions sequences. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from 2011 to 2012, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The set contains the final eleven episodes of the series, which includes the 15.5 recap episode, spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second. Animated by Gonzo, the show hews closely to the previous series with its look but a bit more polish overall which helps it to connect well to what came before while also looking current. The show has a rough world feeling to it with the mechanical aspects for a lot of it and the whole piracy side where it’s not all about bright, glittering and clean looking outfits and locales. We do get some of that with the military side at times and the various governments/kingdoms with their outfits, but by and large it has a good but real world look to a lot of it. The animation has a clean look and the mechanical animation is slick and strong, though it stands out intentionally rather than attempting to blend in to the character and background animation. Some of the darker colors look a little murky at times and it has some noise in a few solid color fields, but by and large it’s a clean looking transfer that represents the source material well.
The Blu-ray case inside is slightly thicker than normal but not so much that it’s problematic as it holds the two DVDs and two Blu-ray discs The front cover uses another good shot from the box set itself with Fam and Gisele together in their craft in the skies, but with a lighter blue tone to it that’s almost hopeful. The back cover is fairly traditional with a few choice quotes and a look at what’s on the disc and the team behind it. The usual array of shots from the show are included and we also get a decent summary of the premise. Extras are clearly listed and we also have a good technical breakdown grid, though some of it is a little hard to read in a few places because of the color design. The cover is fully reversible where the front has a great image of Augusta Sara while the back side of it is the same as the main cover. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release mirrors the packaging in a way as the navigation is kept along the bottom with a silver/gray strip that has the logo along the left with the navigation section itself on the right. The rest of the screen has the silver underwater design to it with the logo floating in the middle of it as the light shines through with a wavy feeling to it. It’s simple and fits the show well enough so that it works nicely enough. The only problem is the usual here in that the navigation text is just too small even on a larger screen most of the time which makes it difficult to read with the color design used. Submenus load quickly and easily and navigation is breeze as it’s the standard layout. The show has its audio/subtitle tracks locked so the language selection only allows you to select the audio.
This release has a couple of good extras to it that definitely makes it a bit more fun. For English language fans, we get the fun episode commentaries for two episodes, one on each set, that allows the cast and production team to talk about the show and their experiences with it while watching that episode. The release has a couple of good promotional spots as well as the clean opening and closing sequences. We also get the first round of bonus OVA shorts which has six of them that run a total of about a couple of minutes. They’re simple little pieces that add a nice bit of humor to the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Last Exile – Fam the Silver Wing – experience has certainly been an interesting one overall from when I first started with it. As I mentioned in the first half, the simulcast side of the series proved to be really difficult for me, so much so that I dropped it relatively early on before the end of the first half and opted to just wait for this release. It’s probably for the best that I did so as the frustrations I had from that weekly experience have been smoothed over significantly here, making this a far more interesting series than I had thought it was. It doesn’t negate all the issues, especially the nagging problem where it’s just a handful of kids that can change the course of a war that spans such a large expanse, and the use of the recap episodes still gets to me, especially the one in this set that basically brings us up to speed on some of what happened in the previous series. It’s just poorly constructed in this way.
This half of the series, an abbreviated eleven episodes which just feels weird, especially with one of them being a recap, covers a fair amount of ground overall. The various sides have formed well, we’ve seen Fam expand her own minor sphere of influence as she shows what she’s capable of in pursuit of her own dream with the Grand Race, but we also got some good changes along the way for Millia. Though Fam is the lead and titular character, Milla is the one that has the most growth here and in many ways feels more like the lead than anyone else in this largely ensemble cast series. Fam spends her time protecting her own dream of course, but took on Millia’s as well early on in the first half and that has kept her moving and doing throughout, from gaining her a fleet to securing her with others that can protect her even better. But she also never really left her side, even if she did gamble with her life once or twice. All of it served Millia well in that she knew she had someone distinctly in her corner no matter what the odds are.
With the turn of the war here, and the use of one of the Exiles by Luscinia through Lilliana, there’s a growing sense of change about things. The Ades Federation under Luscinia with the manipulation of Augusta Sara has them doing what they can to stem the problems of the world because of the returning Exiles over the years, the population issues and the tensions between countries as lands were taken and fought over. Luscinia is not the most evolved or interesting of villains, but he’s sure of purpose which definitely helps make him engaging as he never truly wavers from it. But because of what he does and the lengths he goes to, he can go too far because of that surety, which is what happens when he uses the Exile power and decimates one of the areas called the Glacies.
There’s a good bit of time spent here, which has Fam and her group dealing with the people there such as Dyan who speak a different language and help them a bit, but the core idea is to show a land that is completely obliterated because of what Luscinia does. That sets the survivors like Dyan completely against the Federation, turning them into warriors of death with just one sole purpose now, but it also changes the view of the war by many others. There’s a great sequence here relatively early on where some of those on the Federation side meet and realize what Luscinia has done and that he’s taken the war to unify the world to deal with its problems too far. That starts some fracturing of those that have joined him over the course of conquest, and that in turn causes the larger split as Augusta Sara ends up drawn over to Fam’s side when she sees what’s going on. It’s an interesting little twist and that it turns into a series of negotiations, that cannot end well, makes for some unusual episodes as longstanding grudges exist at a time when the young idealistic girls hope for the simplicity of saving the world.
The series really doesn’t do anything altogether surprising here as it just goes big and tries to create this sense of a war that spans an expanse of time and space across worlds that needs to be dealt with. It does go big here as we get more about the Exiles in a way and as Luscinia makes it clear he’s doing what needs to be done, but we also get the expected end result and wrap-up. What gets me about the show is that as it expands and deals with more of the cast, we do get some decent minor stories, but I never really felt like I knew any of the characters, particularly when it comes to Fam and Giselle. Their relationship with each other is nicely done, and their dreams simple as their personalities, but they don’t draw me in. It was Millia that drew me in as time went on, and it took time as she’s fairly uninteresting and simple early on, but her relationship with her people, Fam and the others, and especially with her sister, definitely made for a good story. But outside of her, little drew on me with the cast to make it memorable. The action, layouts and choreography of the fights certainly make it memorable though.
Last Exile – Fam the Silver Wing – is certainly the successor to the previous series, but it’s not the series that I think a lot of us wanted going into it. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the same missteps that Eureka 7: AO made in that it didn’t adhere enough to what fans wanted but also kept some things too close. The series excels in terms of visuals, mechanical and character, and the ship battles definitely remained one of the best aspects between the two series. But whereas in Last Exile I was drawn heavily to the characters, their conflicts and personalities as well as all the mystery, here it was more of a traditional show without the trappings need to keep me engaged with the characters. The saving grace, to my surprise, is Millia, as I wrote her off early on in the simulcast. This series is definitely worth checking out for fans of the first one, and in marathon form as I think it really does work better.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, Spinoff Anime CM Series “Friday Night” #08-13, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.