Last Exile Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 06, 2004
What They Say
Claus and Lavie participate in an eight-hour endurance vanship race, and are joined by Dio Eraclea who tries to befriend Claus. Tatiana also participates in the race, but she is actually on a secret mission under Alex Row's direction.
In the meantime, Alex Row bids for the mysterious "Exile Door" at a black market auction, but he is forced to withdraw from the bidding by the Guild. The Exile Door ends up in the hands of Delphine, the supreme leader of the Guild. And it becomes increasingly apparent that Alvis Hamilton is the key to the Exile.
While this volume starts off with what you would almost guess to be some filler episodes, it actually starts moving the main plot arc along and changes up the relationship dynamics considerably along the way.
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.
Continuing in the same overall style, this cover plays out nicely with the two new rivals that are being set against each other with headshots of Tatiana and Claus with her vanship streaking below them all set to a good looking cloudy sky backdrop. 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. The back of the insert has the episodes chapter listings as well as some more shots 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first two volumes of Last Exile take our two lead characters out of their familiar if exciting setting and then thrust them into a third party in the midst of a war between two large entities, we figured there?d be a couple of episodes of mostly filler in which we?d get to know things a bit better in this new location and basically just play things out a bit without much harm or advancement.
At first, that?s what it seemed like was going to happen. There?s some minor scuffling going on from Tatiana about Alex?s approval of Claus and Lavie being able to stay on board, particularly since Lavie ended up going into redout during the last battle, which could have cost Claus his life if he wasn?t such a top notch pilot. Tatiana obviously feels very threatened by him and continues to try and undermine his presence on the ship, but the way she does it not only sets Alex against her, in his own subtle way, but also pushes even the few people close to her away from her. She?s obviously been used to being the top dog around there for so long that now that there?s another ace in there, rough as Claus really is, that she can?t help but feel how she does.
A good chunk of this comes to a head when they?re informed that the ship is heading to where the Cave Eight race is being held. This vanship race is fairly unique in that those who enter must take one of the existing vanships provided by the place, make it airworthy in three hours, and use that during the race instead of their own ships. Apparently, half the time they can?t even get a large chunk of the ships to be airworthy. But those that do have a greater sense of teamwork to them since everyone works hard together to do it. To make things worse for Tatiana, Alex allows both Claus and Lavie to participate as well. The difference being that Tatiana has a mission to perform during the race while Claus is there simply to race.
All of this is a pretext though as the race is something of a sham. While it?s legitimate enough in and of itself, it?s held so that some very powerful people can have a reason to gather under masked identities and participate in an auction. This is the reason behind going there, as there is something Alex is after. The auction is an interesting set piece for the first half of it, but it turns into something larger as the last item, the Exile Door, comes into play. This item is one of four pieces left in the world that will allow for something much larger to happen, something where young Alvis is the key to it all. Alex?s attempts to acquire it through the auction is played out against Delphine of the Guild?s attempts to get it.
One amusing aspect of the race is that it brings Claus back into contact with his apparent nemesis, the almost always smiling and playful Dio, the young brother of Delphine of the Guild. He?s entered the vanship race as well and has taken it upon himself to challenge Claus specifically, apparently due to his great respect and admiration for his skills as a pilot, skills he?s constantly going on about in awed tones. The way the two race against each other is definitely exciting, especially since Dio wants to race only against Claus, so he ends up shoving other vanships out of the way or ignoring them completely.
The change in relationships as the show progresses is interesting as well. Our infantryman that we got to know during the first large ship-to-ship battle accidentally lets it be known he?s something of a mechanic, which means he?s hijacked into the vanship repair crew against his will. The low man on the totem pole gets all the crap jobs, so he?s not happy about it but there?s such a great spirit among that group of scoundrels that it?s just really fun to watch them interact. Another aspect that changes is that Lavie realizes that she?s not cut out for the fighting part of being a vanship navigator but understands the reasons why Claus has gotten behind it. Her shift to the mechanic side is also welcomed, though she?s more focused on just maintaining their own craft and helping Claus out.
One of my favorite things to happen due to Lavie?s shift is that Alister opts out of being the navigator for Tatiana, partially due to the fact that she doesn?t like how Tatiana views life in the skies. Though she?s a quiet character, her shift over to Claus? navigator is very interesting since it brings a different potential in. Of course, you shouldn?t look at everything as a love interest, but there?s an interesting synergy between the two characters now that they?re actually paired up together.
This set of episodes really moves the plot forward and starts to expand on the larger picture of the world we?re dealing with, seeing more aspects of both the Guild and the government. More of the smaller subplots are starting to come out as well and the mystery of just what Alvis is takes on a whole new meaning. But there?s plenty of action as well to satisfy, from the engaging and all to brief vanship races to the much larger battle at Dragon Fangs, a battle that reminds me that I?d never want to be assigned to any of these ships fighting in the air.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles
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: N/A
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