Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing Part 01


The original series was set in the far future, on the planet Prester, a world which many of Earth's inhabitants fled to in order to escape the chaos and danger of Earth at the time. The third series, Fam the Silver Wing takes place further in the future, when many of Prester's inhabitants have returned to Earth and are seen by many of those who remained as invaders with no claim to the land that their ancestors abandoned. As such, tension abounds and attempts to reconcile are regularly hampered by radicals on both sides. As the series starts, none of this is of grand concern to Fam Fan Fan (portrayed in Japanese by K-On's Aki Toyosaki and in English by Fairy Tail's Jad Saxton ), a fifteen year old sky pirate pilot or her best friend and navigator, Giselle Collette ( voiced by Beelzebub's Aoi Yuki in Japanese and Deadman Wonderland's Leah Clark in English). The pair spend their days capturing airships and soaring through the clouds with little care until through some profound chance, they find themselves in the highly profitable position of being the only hope of safety for the royal family of Turan, one kingdom of the returning Prester inhabitants. The girls adopt a rather sullen and irate Princess Millia Turan (voiced by Deadman Wonderland OVA's Ai Kayano in Japanese and Darker Than Black's Carrie Savage in English) into their midst and set about gathering allies to restore peace to all the peoples of Earth.

-The series provides a great deal of exposition into the history of the series and sets the scene well for the general unrest between the different groups struggling to coexist. This can make the narrative drag somewhat and it's all too easy to reach the feeling that the great deal of diplomacy and military discussion is only there to justify the high speed, high-altitude chases and escapades. The characters seem quite separate from their setting and not as well developed as perhaps they should be. Princess Millia in particular feels like a rather tired trope of a haughty and pompous princess who learns humility and friendship amng society's much poorer and yet invariably happier people. Fam Fan Fan remains the character to watch throughout, with her recklessness and love of flying staying true to the anime format of larger than life protagonists though she may not be enough to maintain interest or enthusiasm.

The animation is quite beautiful with regard to environments as vast views from among the clouds are little short of magnificent. There are two drawbacks to the animation however. The first occurs largely in scenes involving one or more ships side by side, where the blend of CGI and more traditional animation grate quite harshly against the retro design of ships and characters. Movement becomes quite artificial in appearance and disbelief is jarred for a moment. The second flaw in the animation is perhaps more problematic; character speech and interaction can come across as incredibly flat and cold. Conversations between characters seem like laborious affairs and could hinder viewer engagement rather than draw in attention or affection towards characters.

The voice acting is superb for the most part, particularly with regard to the Japanese voice cast who manage to give the characters depth and quality of personality. This is lacking in the English voice cast only with regard to one character, Princess Millia, though this could easily be a conscious attempt to make the character less appealing and sympathetic initially and if so, then it is superb. However, the grating quality of Millia's voice in English is so great that I would recommend watching the subtitled version with Japanese audio.

Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing tells a tale of adventures and battles high in the air, with a fully developed world and characters to make it come to life. It can feel quite uncomfortably like a missed attempt at something more but it is also fairly enjoyable for what it is.

Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing Part 01 is available on DVD and Bluray from December 2nd from Manga Entertainment.

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