Last Exile Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004
What They Say
Claus and Lavie deliver Alvis to airship Silvana?s captain, Alex Row. But much to Claus? anger, Alex Row accepts Alvis inhumanely into Silvana and leaves the duo and their damaged ship behind. Claus and Lavie fly to Silvana to retrieve Alvis, but the airship is savagely attacked by Guild-controlled star-shaped vessels. Claus and Lavie are forced to take on the attackers on a borrowed Silvana vanship. Silvana is severely damaged. Dio Eracula of the Guild flagship notices Claus? unusual flying talents, and vows to have a duel with him. More than ever, Claus and Lavie realize they are wrapped up in the mysterious conspiracies of war controlled by the omnipotent Guild.
With the basic introductions and settings out of the way, the show narrows its focus down to the new mission that Claus and Lavie have.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. There’s a very active stereo mix going on throughout this show with a lot of very distinct throws to the left and right as ships whiz past or gun turrets from one side shoot across to the other. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout it and the music comes across beautifully in filling the entire soundstage, especially the opening sequence. There’s some great use of depth and sound design in these episodes that’s particularly noticeable once you’re on board the ships as characters move about.
Airing throughout the spring and summer of 2003, Last Exile is the latest shiniest show from Gonzo and the first time they’ve truly warmed my heart. While they’ve dabbled in widescreen shows for a while now and have used the extra canvas to great effect in giving series a much deeper feel, this is the first time they’ve gone and made one enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this series looks nothing short of amazing here with rich, crisp colors, lots of depth to them and very solid darks. Cross coloration is non-existent as far as I can see. The only actual video issue is one that’s simply inherent in the show and that’s with the digital animation; during some panning sequences where the camera follows the length of a shot, some mid-range ships will almost look like they stutter in the air at various points. It has nothing to do with the transfer but with the actual original work on the computers. Beyond that, this is a transfer that’ll just please a lot.
While the first volume didn’t win too many people over with its artwork, this volume is definitely more of what I like with a shot of Alex Row and Sophia Forrester set against the Silvana above the clouds and with a blue backdrop. The designs of the uniforms are so striking in their design and simplicity that they alone spark my imagination. The back cover continues with the shiny look to it with a nice background shot of the sky and a Vanship streaking across it while on top of it you have the usual materials. The summary gives a brief idea of some of the concepts while there’s a good block listing all the basic features and extras. The discs episodes are listed with episode numbers and titles and there are a few shots from the show as well. Being a clear keepcase, the reverse side has something on it, though not much but it works well; it’s a two-panel piece of fluffy white clouds in a very blue sky. The insert uses the cover art from one of the Japanese DVD releases with a great illustration of the Vanship pilot Tatiana sporting a classic camel toe. The insert opens up to a two-panel spread on the Silvana with shots from different angles and a breakdown on the technical bits. The back of the insert has the episodes chapter listings as well as some more shots from the show. Our copy came with a sealed packet of a couple of postcards featuring the retro mechanical artwork from the show.
One of the reasons I think I continually come back and praise Nightjar menus is because they simply don’t look like every other anime menu on the block. Last Exile is no different, particularly in their ability to take animation and make it look so much more realistic and earthy. Taking the Vanship concept, making selections takes you to other sections on the body of the Vanship where you can do things like setup or extras. The transitional animations are brief and they flow very smoothly from one area to the other. The main menu is nicely done with a backdrop of fast racing clouds across a deep blue sky while you have some of the mechanical aspects laid over it with animation playing in a center scope.
While there’s a dip in the amount of extras compared to the first volume, we get some good stuff here. The end sequence is presented in both its textless form and its original Japanese presentation, both of which are enhanced for anamorphic playback. There’s also a collection of commercials that runs about two and a half minutes for the show, such as the soundtracks, and they’re just gorgeous to watch play out, particularly the second one. These are the kinds of things that you hope will surprise you by showing up on TV here someday. Rounding the extras out is a twenty-five page art gallery that has a mixture of production and complete color images of various character designs, headshots and so forth.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first couple of episodes of Last Exile, they managed to sell us on the opening ideas they presented of rival kingdoms at war with massive airship armies. While the episodes weren’t deep, they got their hooks into us with the style of the show, its very German mechanical style, as well as the large epic nature feel of the battle sequences. A lot of the little things scattered throughout, such as the disparity between the ships fighting each other, the way the military seems to be laid out with the nobles and other areas got us very interested to see how it was all going to play out.
The important part with the second volume and its episodes is that it has to take a narrow focus, bringing us down to just a few characters for the most part, and bring the storyline more into focus, enough so that you really start to feel for these characters. While we liked what we saw of Claus and Lavie in the first volume, there wasn’t enough there just yet to really get you on their side and rooting for them through thick and thin. With less time spent gallivanting about and more of it spent on dealing with the leads on the Silvana, that connection is much more easily made and done quite well.
With the Vanship team having taken on as important a delivery job as they have, Claus finds himself going against the infamous Alex Row when he and two of his men arrive to take Alvis off of their hands, telling him that his mission is completed. Tossing half the payment to them, the men of the Silvana basically wash their hands of the two young couriers, take their prize and head off onto their waiting ship. All of this goes against Claus’ better nature and he tries to stop them but to no avail. He doesn’t consider his mission with Alvis fully over yet, so as the Silvana takes off, he works desperately to infuse his Vanship with the ultra-powerful fuel from the enemy ship that lay in ruins near them.
Claus’ attempts to get on board the Silvana to plead his case turn to be both dangerous amusing. On the outside, as the Silvana fires upon them after denying them entry, he flies furiously with an overpowered Vanship to avoid their cannon shots. On the inside of the Silvana, their ace pilot can’t believe how badly their skills at targeting a Vanship is, not really realizing just how much raw skill Claus is displaying. This is something that you can read in Alex’s words but not much by his tone since he continues to keep a straight and disinterested face about things. Realizing what he’s up against, he lets things wrap up and allows the Vanship to make a crash landing on the Silvana.
Much of this volume from here on out is given over to humanizing the crew of the Silvana as they and the Vanship crew interact and deal with Alvis. As we see before their arrival, Alvis is given free reign of the Silvana and is treated as an honored guest, though little is really said to her. After tearing up the flight deck a bit on their landing, the two try to find their way around the ship so that they can get to Alvis. Before they get far though, they end up in an amusing encounter with the mechanics on one of the decks, where Claus tries to stand up for himself against them. It provides one of those stereotypical sequences of the rough untrained lad taking on the stronger opponents, complete with the seeming classic Irish music of a bar fight.
Once he’s roughed up a bit, both Claus and Lavie are given some space to recuperate and to meet Alvis once she gets to them. Alvis’s role in the larger realm of things continues to be unknown, but we do get to see how both Claus and Lavie are very well treated and how the arrival of battle when the enemy side appears brings the two of them into things more deeply. With Alex’s decision to let Claus pilot one of their armed Vanships, Claus gets a taste for battle and meets up with an enemy pilot who he tries to match his skills against, sometimes forgetting that it’s not a game that’s being played.
Much of what goes on throughout this volume is fairly slow, or at least not as fast paced as battle sequences. This is much needed after the rush and excitement of the first volume, letting things start to sink in and make sense. It doesn’t mean it’s boring by any stretch however, as we get to meet a number of new characters and start to see the bigger picture being revealed. Claus and Lavie definitely needed the down time to be able to talk and get some things across without the wind whipping through their words. While there’s a lot of talking going on throughout, there isn’t a lot of exposition however, so it doesn’t feel like people are going on and on about things just to bring the viewer up to speed, which is a big plus.
While much is still unknown in the larger story, the basic elements have now been put in place with not only Alvis being brought on board the Silvana but also the way Claus and Lavie virtually find themselves joining up on their side as well. The action sequences on this volume aren’t as epic as the first volume but there’s a greater personal risk for the characters, especially as we get to know them more now. This volume follows up the first one perfectly by providing all the necessary plot points to move things forward without making it feel terribly forced. Combined with some great character designs and intriguing mechanical designs, we’re definitely into just about every aspect of this show.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,TV commercial collection,Textless ending sequence,Art gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Last Exile