Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 625 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Flying the unfriendly skies with flyboys and fly girls.
Usually I’m the type of person who does not judge a book, movie, game or anime by its cover but The Complete Series DVD box set of Last Exile not only caught my eye with its beautiful artwork but it made me want to pick it up and take it home. What I found inside did not disappoint me in the very least and while I picked this one up solely by the cover I can safely say that some covers do occasionally hold something special inside.
Last Exile tells the retro/futuristic story of a planet caught up in a war between nobles, common folk and a race of pale elf-like people calling themselves the Guild. Far from the battles between giants ships – like the mercenary ship called the Sylvana – and Vanships (that look like a slightly futuristic version of old World War I planes minus wings), two orphans named Claus Valka and Lavie Head fly their own Vanship as couriers. Sure, they’re quite young but they learned from their fathers who had one day flown on a dangerous courier mission were killed in the mythical Grand Stream.
One day, the pair deliver a message aboard a combat ship and thus get their first taste of what the war is like as the ship is under attack by the enemy. While they manage to deliver their message and befriend a Musketeer named Mullin Shetland, the two manage to escape with their lives and try to forget what they saw but after they compete in a Vanship race the war manages to drag them back into the frontlines. You see, during the race, a Vanship crashes near them and what they find is a dying pilot who is carrying a precious cargo … a little girl named Alvis. Promising the dying pilot, Claus and Lavie decide to take on this dangerous mission to get the little girl out of the hands of Guild hands and to the crewmates of the Sylvana.
Fighting past the triangle-shaped ships of the Guild to get Alvis to the Sylvana, Claus and Lavie join Captain Alex Row’s crew aboard the Sylvana in order to protect the little girl the nicknamed Al. As the enemy attempts to take Alvis by attacking the ship, Claus climbs aboard a combat-enabled Vanship and fights back. Meanwhile, the Sylvana’s best pilot, a young woman named Tatiana is jealous of Claus’ flying skills that even catches the attention of a member of the Guild named Dio. It is Dio who chases after Claus and ends up, along with his loyal servant named Lucciola, a sort of prisoner aboard the Sylvana.
As Claus and Lavie adjust to life aboard a mercenary ship with the weird Dio and their Musketeer friend Mullin, they come to realize the Alvis is not just a little girl but something else that is connected to the Grand Stream and an artifact known as the Last Exile. What it is exactly becomes known the minute Dio spouts a few sentences form an ancient text connected to the Last Exile. Then there’s Captain Row who seems determined to take the battle to the Guild’s leader, Queen Delphina, for personal reasons connected to Claus and Lavie’s fathers.
There are battles aplenty in this series and great dogfights as Claus – sans Lavie as his navigator – decides to fly combat missions with Tatiana. The battle sequences are actually handled beautifully, mixing great animation with CG effects almost seamlessly. One of the most exciting parts in the series comes in the final five or so episodes as the good nations clash, a Sylvana crewmember reveals her true identity and the ships finally head to the Grand Stream.
The true strength of Last Exile is not only the fact that there are great action sequences but the strong characters that aren’t the usual stereotypes you’d find in a series like this. Both Claus and Lavie have their share of problems that make them stand out and yes we know that Lavie likes Claus but it isn’t obvious until another person comes between them. There are also some surprising twists that you will not see coming (e.g. the Sylvana crewmate who isn’t just an officer and Dio’s change from enemy to friend) as well as the final battle with Clause, Lavie and Alvis taking to the air to face off against the Last Exile.
Last Exile, The Complete Series, is simply breathtaking and unforgettable. It’s easy to love an anime series that has personality and enough plot twists to keep you invested in the story that seldom has a dull moment. The series also sports some lovely animation that makes the action really flow nicely and you just have to love how well drawn the characters are in this series. Trust me, the is a series you really shouldn’t miss.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Claus Valka and Lavie Head are childhood friends and orphans who fly the Vanship their fathers once flown as couriers when the war between the good nations and the strange pale members of the Guild forces the young pair to become involved in order to save a little girl of great importance.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
One of the most visually impressive anime series with CG effects that don’t look cheap, Last Exile’s beautiful animation is consistently lovely from the first episode to the very last one.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The Japanese cast is really outstanding and one of my favorite way of watching this series but I must say that Johnny Yong Bosch, Michelle Ruff and Kari Wahlgren makes the English dub truly shine with their outstanding performances. The original score is also beautifully cinematic and we love Hitomi‘s “Over The Sky” ending theme.
There are four discs but the only extra content is just so happens to be a few trailers on the fourth disc and that’s about it. At least the box art and the DVD slips cases features some amazing artwork.
Last Exile is one of those unforgettable and wonderfully epic anime series that takes flight immediately and will keep you engrossed from start to finish. With gorgeous animation, original characters as well as stellar action sequences, Last Exile is sure to be the type of series you will actually come to love. Give this one a chance and you’ll see why.