Anime review number 3
We will be taking a look at the show Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing (Fam for short). Part 1 will be a spoiler-free review of the second season of the Last Exile franchise, while part 2 will discuss my opinions of the anime as a sequel to the original series. If you have not seen the first season, I highly encourage you to do so before reading this review as I will reference the first season. Additionally, if you have not seen my review of Last Exile go read that first before continuing with this article.
Picking up a few years after the conclusion of the first season, Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing follows Fam, Giselle, and Millia on their journey to usher in a new era of peace. However, they must overcome several obstacles with the help of several friends, both familiar and new. With the ultimate goal of peace and the hope to once again see the day when a new Grand Race will be hosted in celebration, Fam and friends take to the skies in this follow up to the highflying adventure Last Exile.
Produced by Gonzo, the creators of the first season of Last Exile, this anime comes 8 years later. For those of us in North America, not receiving a release from Funimation until a full decade after the conclusion of season 1. Fam aired in 2011 with a 21 episode run with two extra episodes featured on the DVD’s and Blu-rays.
Similarly to the first season, this show has a ridiculously large cast. For this reason I am only going to cover the characters that are important to a fundamental understanding of the show while leaving out discussion of any returning characters from season 1. The only exception to this being the lack of Claus and Lavie in addition to the recast of Dio in the English dub.
First The Not so Good…
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Claus and Lavie aren’t in this show. Well, that isn’t entirely true since they do make appearances in the anime but if you were hoping to be seeing them a lot in Fam then you are going to be sorely disappointed. This doesn’t mean the second season is bad, but it definitely is something you should know before starting Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing.
The other jarring difference the viewer will notice (if watching the dub) is that Dio is now voiced by Greg Ayres, known for voicing such characters as Sunohara from Clannad and Kaoru Hitachiin from Ouran Highschool Host Club. Previously in Last Exile Dio was voiced by Joshua Seth but due to his retirement from voice acting he was subsequently replaced for the second season. This causes Dio’s character to be rewritten since Greg, as great as he is, just could not replicate the performance that would be required to equal that of Joshua’s.
The titular character, Fam Fan Fan (say that 5x fast), is the main focus of the anime and is framed as the protagonist of the series. She is a Sky Pirate that lives with Giselle, her navigator, capturing various ships with the other pirates in order to strip them of materials to make a living.
Her character has a fairly strong introduction that makes her out to seem a strong and interesting person to follow around for the entirety of the show. This is hindered by two factors over the course of Last Exile’s second season. Fam is a fairly naïve character who too easily assumes that things will work out for the best. Granted, for most of the show this doesn’t seem to be a problem for her, but the anime eventually realizes how nonsensical this is. Consequences for her actions do surface along with the realization that the real world is often different from her ideal one. The other flaw in her character is the fact that she is not really the show’s protagonist, which I will talk about in more detail shortly. Unlike Claus from season one, Fam doesn’t suffer notably from being generic, but is the show’s “best pilot ever” in much the same way.
Giselle, or Gisey (pronounced like Gigi) as she’s often called, is Fam’s navigator. Her purpose is to help Fam out in whatever goals she has. This does cause some tension between them despite both wanting and having nearly the same overall objective. I’d say more about this but this is a spoiler-free review. Compared to Lavie, the navigator character in season 1, Giselle gets significantly more screen time and didn’t bother me like Lavie did in Last Exile. The one thing I will say about her design is that she always appears to be zoned out or stoned, which was somewhat distracting.
Lastly, there is Princess Millia of Turan. She is introduced in a way that suggests she is going to be a side character, however, this is not the case. Remember when I said Fam wasn’t the real protagonist of the story? Well that’s because Millia is actually the protagonist. I’ll admit, that initially her plot seems the weakest of the three main characters but that quickly changes the further you get into the series. Millia undergoes the most character development and the narrative is completely about the relationship between Millia, the main characters, and Liliana, Milia’s older sister. I was pleased with seeing Millia developed from an annoying character of seemingly little importance to being well rounded and fleshed out fully.
Side Character Thoughts
Side characters range from interesting (Vasant, Dyan, and Luscinia) to superfluous (Teddy, seriously why are you here?). As a whole the supporting cast is a good balance of both familiar faces from the first season and completely new characters. The old characters were a nice nod to the original series and did not take up screen time unnecessarily when they were around. The new characters were overall interesting but as mentioned there were a few that just didn’t need to be there but nobody felt egregious outside of Teddy.
The narrative primarily focuses around the conflict of Turan, Glacies, and the Ades Federation. Like its predecessor, Fam suffers from a massive pacing issue at the start of the anime. I was not that interested for the first couple of episodes, since they weren’t all that interesting. They set up the world and establish the main cast of new characters; it just didn’t click for me, and that’s probably a result of having watched Last Exile not long before starting this series.
Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing follows Fam and Giselle as they do pirate things while getting a glimpse into their home life. This part was ok, it wasn’t all that interesting to me, but it did establish some of the world, and its characters, so they served their purpose. During an early conflict, Fam decides to involve herself by helping the Turan flagship (in the name of the pirate code… helping others?) with both Liliana and Millia on board. From this point up to the introduction of the Silvius, the show bounces between being interesting with it’s main narrative and dull with more time spent in Kartoffel, Fam and Giselle’s home town.
Similarly to season one, Fam kicks into gear narratively once Fam, Giselle, and Millia board the Silvius; formerly know as the Silvana, due to the result of a change in command, which should be familiar to anyone who has seen Last Exile. Unlike the first season, the moments leading up to this were more interesting and easier to watch as a whole. These moments are littered with stunning aerial combat scenes, and introduces war elements with the destruction of Turan
Once on the Silvius, Millia decided to declare the ship the new Turan and claims that all you need to form a country is land, citizens, and a government. This was kind of a clumsy way to show that Millia was forming a militia in order to fight back against the Ades Federation with the goal to reclaim and rebuild Turan. Simultaneously, Fam was required to capture a number of Federation ships for the Silvius crew, “equal to the number of birthdays she has had.” The reasoning for this was clear in the show but for the purposes of this review won’t be discussed.
From here, the story gets much more complex from a narrative standpoint: exploring in-faction fighting, the history of the first Grand Race, the introduction of a country that’s isolated itself for years, and much more. If you were a fan of the world building in Last Exile, then Fam is going to be a dream come true for you. There is a lot of time and effort put into expanding the world and making it feel real. This gives it a pseudo-documentary feel without being boring. For me, this was simply amazing, and is sure to please anybody interested in learning more about the world of the Last Exile franchise.
One brief scene, though impactful, on the Silvius shows Millia looking over refugees from what used to be Turan. For some reason, this brief moment of interaction between the various refugees was surprisingly human by highlighting some of the effects of war without feeling too heavy-handed or lighthearted about the issue. For me, these little details were just icing on the cake from a narrative standpoint. I digress, now back to what little more I can talk about the story without spoiling things.
Fam and friends are eventually forced into Glacies. The Glacians have cut-off all contact with the outside world since The Grand Race. However, Dyan, a pilot for Glacies, decided to aid Fam. During this section of the anime, the viewer learns about the Glacian people. This section was full of little touches that made it quite enjoyable. The most impressive part of this section was the fact that the Glacians speak Russian for almost the entire of the show while using Millia as a translator. It really added to the immersion of the world.
After several events, Fam, Giselle, and Millia were invited to meet the leader of the Ades Federation, a young girl Sārā. She is their Augusta, making her a representative and ruler of all the people of the Ades Federation. Fam and Sārā became fast friends and discovered that they have a joint desire for peace in the world (as was Sārā’s late mother’s wish). At this point, Fam discussed her dream of reviving The Grand Race, and Sārā agrees that at the time of peace she will host another.Unfortunately, the story gets almost impossible to discuss without spoiling it from this point forward. The narrative from this moment kept me invested and interested the entire time. I enjoyed the themes of revenge, war, and diplomacy.
The ending was emotionally and generally satisfying despite a few plot points that aren’t well explained or rationalized within the context of the anime. Some of these problems were addressed in written material that is meant to supplement the show, but an anime should be able to stand on its own regardless of the printed material out there for a series. With this being said, this was only a minor issue that didn’t bother me immensely.
Animation & Sound
Gonzo managed to do an excellent job once again with the animation of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing. There were a few times though where they managed to completely miss the mark with T-posed characters and sloppy 3D work with some of the characters. Fortunately, these moments happened only a few times during the show, but they had me laughing out loud. This wasn’t bad enough to take me out of the narrative for more than a few seconds before moving on. Otherwise, the animation was great and looked better than the original without losing the feel of the franchise. Take a look:
Music & Sound
Music for this anime was largely the same as the original series. The exceptions were the opening and closing themes, which I enjoyed, but was not at all what I had expected looking back at season 1. Give them a listen.
The opening, it’s definitely exciting and once the show is rolling gets you pumped up.
Unfortunately, this one is sound only.
The background music was nice and fit the tone of the show. There was a piece with primarily piano and string instruments that was particularly pleasant, but unfortunately I was unable to find it or its title in my search.
I watched this show dubbed and, aside from the recasting of Dio, everybody sounded fine and delivered performances that fit their respective characters. Something the dub did was give the Turan people British accents. The Glacians also speak Russian or with thick Russian accents. When one occasionally speaks English, this feels like a nice touch and not at all distracting; it may require getting used to initially. Coupled with the actual character designs of the cast, this is a great attention to detail that brings the world and characters to life.
Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing managed to be a pretty solid anime, though not wholly original in its narration and execution (something that will be discussed in detail in part 2). It managed to keep me interested despite the rough start during the course of its 21 episode run. Many of the same themes found in the first season are explored here and even expanded on while adding a few of its own. These new themes, revenge in particular, were both well executed and explored throughout the series. Outside of the few flaws that I mentioned previously in the story and animation, I found the quality of the anime as a whole to be almost on par with Last Exile but just barely misses the mark.
Score & Extra Info
After considering everything carefully, I decided to give Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing an 8/10 with the recommendation to give it a try if you liked the original. If you were a huge fan of the world in the first season, this could easily become a buy since it added a ton of fleshed out views into the world itself.
If you end up enjoying it you can purchase both parts of the series (DVD and Blu-ray combo pack only) on Funimation’s website or over at rightstufanime.com. You can watch the show free subbed in its entirety, or the first 4 episodes dubbed free without subscription to their website. The series is on the pricier side being 48.74 for just part one at Rightstuf. I was able to buy both halves for about 60 dollars during a sale and at that price point I was satisfied with the show enough to be happy to own it.
Nothing else for you guys today. Part two will be up sometime in-between today (9/22/15) and next week so be sure to follow me here, via email subscription, or over on Facebook. Until then, Gloria Augusta and all that.