A sequel to a classic series may seem different to what Last Exile originally had, but still is enjoyable in its own style.
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.
Set in 5.1 Dolby Surround(English) and 2.0 Stereo(Japanese), wide screen format – there were no issues I noticed in terms of the audio in sync with the subtitles or any production errors as there were no freezes or issues with the animation while pausing. Audio quality was excellent in the English release, as all the effects were easily accessible and actually had to be turned down a notch from my standard settings. Japanese audio was fine; again with a series of this nature with the steampunk/aeronautics theme you wish that it was better but no problems there.
Menu is set up in almost classic Last Exile art style with a nice line art/oil drawing of Lam on a white horizontal background on the top whilst the menu selections are on the bottom, Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. Easily accessible but fairly standard outside of the art design – no problems with selection from the menu or returning to the main screen.
We get quite a few extras in this release – we start off on the first disc with a dub episode commentary on the first episode featuring Chris Bevins(director), Leah Clark(Giselle) and Carrie Savage(Millia) – they talk about the series in general, praising the animation, the political intrigue, the world itself and its characters – also mentioning the links with the original series(and how they couldn’t get some of the original actors like Joshua Seth for one of the returning character Dio, now played by Greg Ayres) – they talk about how they have to use their natural range for the kid characters and have a joke about Carrie’s apparently perverted nature in the show – a combination of intelligent and fun stuff about the series.
Most of the extras however are on the second disc – we get a second commentary this time on episode 11, featuring Jamie Marchi(Lilliana), Duncan Brannan(Lusciana) and Jad Saxton(Fam) – similar in how they work for the child voices(Jamie having fun at being a little Brit) whilst Duncan not used to villainous roles documents how it became a challenge, yet how fun it was to become an intellectual villain, whilst Jad talks about how the race has become a big thing for Fam’s character, in that it changed her life via tragedy. This commentary is more on the characters and offers some unique insight via the voice actors.
We get an extra about Anime Expo 2011 when Silver Wing was debuted with the English dub to the American audience whilst cutting to an interview involving Koichi Chigira (director) and Hiroyuki Birukawa (producer) who was at the convention. They talk about the message that viewers will see, difference how American/Japanese fans few Tatiana, their favourite characters, how Giselle/Fam work as a team, and how they felt American audiences reacted to the first episode. It’s short but fun and informative.
We also get a selection of mini episodes called the Anime CM Series Friday Night – which is a collection of shorts done almost live action comic book style with interesting animation, which is all played for the sake of comedy. Short but fun.
Finally we get a few trailers – an event opening movie showcasing the CGI and characters, a commercial collection and the textless opening and both textless ending songs.
Last Exile I actually recently re-reviewed due to a remastered set that came out last year so it’s still semi fresh in my memory. It was one of those gateway series which appealed to a lot of different fans due to its characterization, action and unique gateway in terms of bringing viewers into what steampunk was about. This sequel largely gets rid of the main cast but still has their philosophies involved, and whilst the series seems different in terms of the characterization, there is still plenty to enjoy.
Set two years after the original, where are introduced to our two main characters – Fam, a 15 year old sky pirate, and Giselle, her childhood friend and co-pilot. They are vespa pilots who capture ships from other sky pirates. However, their lives quickly change during an attempted peace treaty which turns out to be a ruse to kidnap the two princesses, Millia and Lilliana. Learning that this a ruse, Fam gets involved by trying to rescue the princesses in exchange for their ship. Whilst the younger sister Millia is not amused, she gets rescued whilst her sister tries to reason with Luscina, her childhood friend and leader of the Ades Federation who is behind the conspiracy. Sadly, it eventually comes to nothing as whilst Millia is safe with the Sky Pirates, their home of Iglasia is eventually destroyed and Lilliana is captured by the Ades Federation. What is interesting is that they show the opposition which is being led by a child, the empress Sara. In the first few episodes this doesn’t mean much outside of the surprise but by the end of the first set everything does link together, especially as it is really hard to see Sara as the villain considering her reasons for doing what she and the Ades Federation want…
This begins a combination of a coming of age story for the young princess Millia, who of course has to adjust to the rough and tumble lifestyle of the Sky Pirates. Fam herself is your typical idiot but mostly likeable protagonist, who is a wizard in the sky but outside of that has little in her skull…that is where Giselle comes in, her best friend who basically is the brains of the duo, and between the three of them, they become quite the unit. Also involved in their platoon is Dio from the first Last Exile, who seems to act as a mysterious ghostly figure to help them out, but also has connections with some other old friends…even more interesting when you find out that the Sky Pirates also have their own reasons for doing what they are doing – they were being prosecuted for being descendants from Exiles. This brings both sides into play that they both have their reasons for what they are doing and despite Fam being the protagonist, there is no clear right or wrong despite Luscina being obviously labeled as the villain.
This leads to Fam attempting to steal an infamous ghost ship known as the Silvius. Unfortunately for them, it is run by old friends Tatiana and Alister, who capture Fam and co, but will release them in exchange if they can capture 15 battleships for her. Fam agrees despite Tatiana not believing they can do it, which leads to a few episodes of Fam doing exactly just that. They begin to bond with the ship (Millia even commandeering the ship’s kitchen as the beginning of ‘rebuilding’ a new country), steal and win airships (one in a race, an ongoing side plot is that Fam is obsessed with bringing back the Grand Race which was stopped due to the war), getting help from their family the Atamora Sky Pirates, learn more of their past, and just as they get their last ship, have to deal with Ades fleets attacking them or trying to get Millia as well to their side. There are some great action sequences with a more modern style to the classic steampunk designs of the original, which can be good or bad, personally I don’t see them as anything bad, just not what I’m used to, and the sequences themselves still flow really well in general.
The two major issues happen at the end of the set – first that not only is Lilliana alive after her capture, but she has betrayed Millia and now sides with the Ades, as a new Queen of Turan – causing Millia to now become her enemy refusing to join with her. It leads to the Silvia being sunk, and Fam and the girls escaping on her Vespa. The second major issue is a flashback episode to 10 years ago, during the Grand Race that Fam currently wants to resurrect, where we see young Fam, Giselle, Millia, Lilliana, and even a baby Sara as the key issue is the Empress Farahanaz, where tension between humans and Exiles is still rampant, yet Fam is combined excited for the race as reps from her town are in, plus she wants to find out more about her late parents. Farahanaz, Sara’s mother, is a very likeable woman who hates the racism that is happening around her, even stopping a servant girl from being abused who was due to give her flowers. This girl, Vascant, actually is a key member of the Ades army now, and I had to find myself rewatching it to realize all the links now all made sense in this episode, because sadly Farahanaz gets assassinated, and Vascant protects the baby Sara and swears to protect her from this moment on. This also brings Lusciana back into play, as he had absolutely faith in her (causing the injury to his eye) and his hatred of Exiles seems to be plausible as they assassinated his Empress. For Lilliana, she has her memory of the Empress protecting her (causing her death) which may have been cause for her betrayal, whilst Fam just seeing all this death around her basically trapped in the back of her mind…
The main difference I see between Last Exile and Fam aside from the obvious (most of the main cast are gone) is that the focus is specifically as much on a much more happy go lucky character in the civil war style setting. This makes Silver Wing more accessible than Last Exile was, but on the flip side of the coin the new style of animation, the lack of true backstory until the very last episode on the set combined with Fam maybe not as engaging as a heroine probably dampens it in comparison to the original series. Not to say it’s not good, but maybe it isn’t as focused as of yet. The ending to the final episode with Fam and the girls being rescued suggests the second half will get more serious, especially with Lilliana turning ‘traitor’ and the fact we now see all the players in place – just whilst Lavie was cheeky and Claus was straight forward, it’s the reverse here with the lead being the energetic one, and Giselle the calmer one – the addition of Millia is different to Alvis’ inclusion from the original as Alvis was more mythical and mysterious, here, whilst Millia does prove useful, it does feel she’s more of a tag along, and it is more of a coming of age story for her rather than a war, despite the battles they begin and do face.
The animation is still excellent and the steampunk feel is still there – it does feel a bit more modern and not as gritty as the original, which I will admit can be a bit of a turnoff for fans of the original series. It is certainly not bad at all though, but will get some used to. It is a story I can say can be good for those who haven’t seen the original series though, as the characters that have appeared in the original series (Dio, Tatiana, Alister) are all explained, and the plot is quite coherent and doesn’t require too much knowledge of the original series (the background stories in the flashback, the civil war, the hatred towards Exiles, etc). It did take the last episode for everything to make sense though so you need to stick with it. The instances to lighten the mood whilst enjoyable (Fam/Millia in particular are fun to watch) are not really needed as much in a series like this though, so Fam might grate on your nerves a bit.
The atmosphere is still well worth it, whether you are a fan of the original or not. There is a lot to take on board, and a lot of characters (I didn’t even mention a major of the army or crew on both sides, there are hint some of the Ades generals are more than meets the eye along with Vascant) so you need to make sure you pay attention to everything – fans of Last Exile might see this as a downgrade, but the fact everything is linking together, and now a lot of stuff has hit the fan, I definitely think it is worth continuing.
Last Exile: Fam The Silver Wing is an interesting sequel which doesn’t focus much on the original series outside of a few characters and some casual mentions and really does its own thing. The style is a bit different and the characters not as memorable but it is not terrible by any stretch. The story links well, the characters involved at least have enough personality to make judgment calls on them, and the steampunk feel is still there albeit a bit more downplayed. Fam herself is a love or hate protagonist, whilst the plot thickens, there is enough there that it should be looked into more just to see what happens, plus you don’t have to be a fan of the original to really get into it, which is always a plus.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: December 2nd, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.