Last Exile Vol. #4 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • 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.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Last Exile

Last Exile Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     May 19, 2004
Release Date: June 08, 2004

Last Exile Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Claus and Tatiana are thrown together to fly a vanship to defend the Silvana from a massive attack orchestrated by Anatoray and Tatiana begins to confide in Claus when the two make an emergency landing. Sophia, who is revealed to be of royal lineage, leaves the Silvana and inherits a leading role in the Anatoray army. Then, Claus discovers through an old photograph the secret relationship between his vanship, his and Lavie?s deceased fathers, Captain Alex Row and the Grand Stream all of which lead us closer to the meaning of the Last Exile.

The Review!
As the series gets deeper into the tale, more of the background is finally revealed and we get a set of spectacular episodes that detail the past and present, each of which brings the urgency of the present day situation to a new level.

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 layout remains the same, the cover for this volume is a great shot of Dio with his head resting just perfectly on his hand and giving that look of such smug superiority that is just purely him through and through while the backdrop has a great illustration of the ships the Guild uses set against a pale blue sky. The back cover continues with the shiny look to it with a series of images of various ships that are shown in these episodes 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 and opens to a detailed piece on how Tatiana's Vanship works. The back of the insert has the episodes chapter listings as well as some more shots from the show. Also included is a set of three postcards showing some old-style images of the characters relating to the past episodes.

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.

The extras continue to be minimal, but at least they're actually here for this volume. There's a seventeen-piece gallery that shows off pieces from the exhibition for the series that took place in Tokyo, showing the artwork and models used for reference and more. There are some really neat pieces in there and some large artwork I'd love to have myself. The art gallery is pretty much the standard set of images relating to these episodes that you thumb through.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Last Exile proves to be both infuriating and highly engaging with this volume. Well, maybe infuriating isn't the right word. After the last volume, things left off in a very climactic way with the battle in the fang mountain range and the massive battle ships soaring across the sky and clouds engaging in some pretty nasty fights. It was exhilarating and one of those great anime moments with the visuals, music and characters all going to their limits.

Of course, this volume decides that we don't really need to deal with that for the first couple of episodes, at least not directly. Things open up here with some flashback material giving us some idea of what Tatiana's really like, since her family is something like a fallen noble family but one that's still fairly respected. This bit of background helps prepare the way for really getting to know her in the present, where she's currently blanking out over what she's seeing in the large scale battle we saw previously. With Claus in the Vanship with her, things just go from bad to worse and the pair end up horrendously off course and away from the Silvana and end up crashing into the desert. While things look fairly bleak from the start of this since the amount of Claudia they have isn't enough to get them off the ground, Tatiana is just mentally wasting away over the way she's come so far but is still going to end up disappointing her family.

This material is quite good in pushing forward the relationship between Claus and Tatiana while also letting us see more of her character and makeup. Claus also comes off quite well here since he's again in a take-charge situation and has to deal with everything that comes their way while trying to figure out how to get back to the Silvana. Just when you think it's mostly going to be about them, things shift to the Disith kingdom and we see a huge march of people across the snowy wastes to where there's some form of towering shelter. What's completely eerie about it is that these silos where you think they're finding some shelter are actually massive primitive rockets. Rockets that are being launched into the Anatoly kingdom where the people are going to try and make a new start since their country has fallen completely to the cold.

It's from this that we learn that elsewhere that the heat is rising to the south and causing similar problems and more groups of people on the move from their traditional lands. Those in Anatoly find themselves being surrounded on both sides and even fairly decent sized places like Norkia, where Claus and Lavie came from, are now completely under siege and no longer what they once were. The larger scope of the problem afflicting this world comes into play as we bounce between areas and see the different groups of people that are moving to new places and how some countries are dealing with it. Anatoly has no intention of letting the Disith stay in their lands so they're intending to go to all out war with them. But the Disith military already knows that they're defeated, so the intend to go out with a real bang and plan a daring attack on the capital.

As exciting and interesting as all the large scale action is, the small scale material is what's really engaging with this series. While we got to see a bit of Tatiana's past, we get to see a whole lot of Claus and Lavie's past as we see them when their fathers were alive and flying together as vanship pilots doing the courier work. The two families lived side by side since the two were about a year old so they've always known each other and been close on some level. The way the two fathers are portrayed is well done and they come across maybe a bit too noble and good, but it's partially seen through their kids' eyes. Watching both fathers teach their kids the ins and outs of the vanships is fun to see, especially since I've done similar with my own with cars and computers already. Claus and Lavie both take to the vanships strongly and you can see the passion for flying instilled in them at such an early age during some of the flights with their fathers.

There's a lot going on in this volume and the show only gets more and more intriguing. There's a bit of an obvious continuity piece thrown in when it comes to Alex, but that's forgivable to some extent. The show is playing with a fair amount of history to it while also trying to keep up some mystery and intrigue so as to keep things less than obvious. It's work in some areas but not quite as much in others. Sometimes there's no way to do something other than to be blatant. Overall, I'm still not sure how it's all going to work out but I'm enjoying the ride.

In Summary:
While this volume doesn't satisfy the craving from the last scenes of the previous volume, it certainly provides a lot of excitement in other ways and does eventually get back to that particular event. The cast is growing nicely, both in terms of numbers and in their actual character growth, with Tatiana and Lavie taking an interesting twist with their relationship with Claus. Add in some great action sequences and some fun politicking and I'm pretty much hooked. Last Exile is at the stage where it can get really bad for a series but it's instead just getting more and more exciting.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Exhibition Gallery,Production Art

Review Equipment
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.


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