This is part 2 of my look at Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing and anime review 3.5
If you haven’t read part 1, (why are you even here?) be sure to go and check that out before continuing on. In this article, I will discuss my thoughts on Fam as a sequel to the first season, Last Exile. Be warned, I am not concerned AT ALL with spoilers for either series. If you haven’t watched either of them and wish to avoid spoiling yourself leave now.
Both Last Exile and Fam were produced by Gonzo. They have a reputation of making hit-or-miss series. With the original series ending in 2003, the second season did not air until 2011 a full 8 years later. One of the largest factors in the production of Fam, was the fact that Gonzo, as a studio, was doing poorly financially. They needed to make something that would sell and were not adverse to any of their options. Considering how well Last Exile was received when it originally aired, and subsequently released on DVD, it comes to no surprise that they thought this sequel was a good idea.
Fans were interested in seeing a continuation set in Last Exile’s unique world. The fact that the series came 8 years later, or 10 for those of us in the US, was probably the biggest blow to Fam’s success factor. There are a few reasons for this, the largest of which being the fact that the series was not fresh in many people’s minds. 2011 was a fantastic year for anime. With shows such as Stiens;Gate, Fate/Zero, and Madoka Magica all running around the same time. It’s really not hard to see how Fam could have gotten lost in the shuffle.
As a result, many of the people who tuned in during its simulcast run were diehard fans of the first season. Due to the nature of Fam, it’s decision to start with a mostly clean slate was not what many fans were looking for. With that being said, how well does Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing really hold up and compare with Last Exile?
Was There Need For A Sequel?
The short answer is no. From a viewer’s perspective there was absolutely no reason to continue or expand the Last Exile franchise. The story was wrapped up nicely with the death of Maestro Delphine, rescue of Alvis, with Claus and Lavie crossing the Grand Stream.
Had the anime ended there and never continued in any fashion, it would have been fine. As with the end of any great show, nobody would have been disappointed for it to have continued, myself included. With such a large gap of time between the two, the follow up needed to be just as good if not better than the first season. This set extremely high standards which, in this industry, can be very hard to live up to.
From Gonzo’s perspective, this was absolutely necessary. For the reasons stated above, Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing came into being. To their credit, Last Exile was probably their best property to attempt this with. Despite the story originally being wrapped up, there was still room to expand and explore ideas in its world. Meaning, that although, there was not direct need for a sequel, the idea to continue with a story set in Last Exile’s world was not a poorly thought out inception.
Last Exile VS Fam
Both seasons will be looked at in regards to the categories of: characters, story, animation, and sound. From my reviews, I clearly gave Last Exile a slightly higher overall recommendation. That being said, those recommendations were given to each anime as a standalone work. Discussion for each category will primarily cover what Fam fails and succeeds at as a sequel to Last Exile.
In Last Exile the characters were, for the most part, interesting and enjoyable. The anime had a large cast but it was never too hard to manage. Throughout this season the viewer was able to see meaningful character progression that felt aligned with the story. For its sequel, characters from Last Exile make appearances while introducing a new cast. This new cast wasn’t a bad idea on its own, but did a few things wrong in its execution.
When introducing the new cast, Fam started off well. The characters seemed interesting and likable enough, but it just didn’t grab me in the same way that its predecessor did. This is largely due to the fact that Claus and Lavie are nowhere to be found until the end of the series. What would have made this better, or at least acceptable, was explaining why Claus or Lavie aren’t in this continuation. The viewer later discovers that Claus is wheelchair bound and looked over by Lavie but it’s never explained why, that is, in the anime.
For this, I had to go online and try to find an answer to see if I just missed it or if it really wasn’t explained. The result? Apparently, there is supplemental written material that goes over how Claus was attacked by Dio, who at the time had amnesia. This results in the injury that left him wheelchair bound. This would have been interesting to see in the anime itself. It would have made for a great tie-in piece that could have serviced both fans of the first season, and the story itself. I’ll go over this a bit more in the story section but this was a huge waste of potential.
As for the reoccurring roles, everybody, except for Dio, felt on par with how I thought they should be for a sequel. Nobody from the old cast stole the show from the new cast, but some were more noticeably lesser versions of their original selves than others. This never actually bothered me though, and made the sequel easier to watch. I liked seeing old characters interact with new ones, and the fact that nobody seemed to demand more screen time than they deserved, it worked rather well as a nod to viewers coming back to the franchise.
Sadly, Dio was much worse. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. Joshua Seth’s performance of Dio could never be replicated despite Funimation’s best efforts. This isn’t to say that Greg Areys did a bad job, he just isn’t Dio. For this reason Dio’s character was a major miss for me in Fam. I still liked him being there, but it just didn’t feel the same, and this left me rather disappointed. It wasn’t helped by the fact that his character seemed to be entirely rewritten because of this casting change. He was necessary for the story to some degree, so I wouldn’t want to see him removed, however, this was a big blow to my initial impressions for Fam.
When it came to the new characters, Fam first seems to be a strong and serviceable protagonist. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in part 1, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not the case. All things considered, she was still a decent lead character and I didn’t dislike her. Mostly, I was just unimpressed with her character since she seemed like a slightly more emoted female Claus.
Millia shines as a character and was easily one of the best of the new cast. Her introduction is a bit rocky since she feels like a supporting character at first, but as the show moves forward, I was more than happy to see that she was a fully developed character. In this respect, Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing did a better job. Millia felt like the most developed character in the entire franchise. This isn’t to say she was perfect, but I was impressed.
The villains for both series are extremely similar. You should outright hate both of them, though Delphine from season one is far worse and in no way redeemable. Luscinia had more pure motives, and in the end was actually a character you could have sympathy for. This is actually better than what season 1 did. If a villain is so evil you can’t identify with them, they don’t seem human, and thus don’t work as well as characters. This isn’t to say that Maestro Delphine wasn’t interesting, but I couldn’t relate to her even remotely. Luscinia, however, is another story. I actually felt bad for him and, in a way, wanted him to succeed.
I think what hurt Luscinia as a villain, is the immediate Nazi association you get from his character design. This made him seem really evil and did scream to the viewer that he was the main bad guy, but it also made him seem kind of generic without any added information. You don’t really know much about him until about half-way through the anime. That’s a long time, especially when he first appears to be mostly generic or a Delphine knock-off.
This problem of characters feeling like shadows of characters of Last Exile in Fam is an issue. As mentioned, this problem happens with Fam and Luscinia, but is also a problem with Giselle and some cameo appearances. Once these characters have time to develop this isn’t as much as an issue, but in the beginning it’s a particular problem. It made Fam feel more uninspired than it actually was, which hurt the show.
What the show managed to do well, was to get creative with characters from other countries. The Glacians feel like Glacians. They speak Russian for most of the anime, occasionally speaking English (in the dub) with nice, recognizable accents. This felt great when I watched it. Another nice touch was to give the Turan people British accents. It’s a small touch, that at first felt out of place. However, it really did add life and depth, to not only the anime’s characters in Fam, but to its world as well. In this regard, Fam blew away Last Exile in terms of character design and presentation. More anime should take notes when building worlds like this.
Overall, Fam does better with its characters. Despite all the flaws the show has with some of its presentation, it really managed to get a lot of little details right. By doing so, it was easier to overlook some of the minor flaws that the anime had. This added a lot to my enjoyment and left a great impression in the end. I’m not saying that Last Exile had bad characters, it didn’t, but I just have to give credit to something Fam did really well as a whole.
Up front, Last Exile had the better story. It had better flow, pacing, and it made sense. It also concluded nicely and was a satisfying experience. It still had problems, especially with its slow start, but in time it picked up to tell a great story with excellent themes.
Fam reuses a lot of these themes and story elements, and It’s fairly obvious. I don’t think that is necessarily bad, but I can see why some people wouldn’t like that. This is supposed to be a sequel, and to bring back a lot of themes and story elements from the first season felt cheap. I ended up enjoying the further exploration Fam gives them, but on the surface it is a put-off for returning viewers.
The sequel did explore new themes, and thankfully, it did so quite well. In some respects this show felt darker and closer to real life than season 1. It was littered with little moments that were honestly some of the best bits of the show. They never lasted long, and some were more impactful than others, but wow, did Fam do them right. Last Exile never really had scenes like that, and I think that world building is one thing Fam just did better.
Structurally, Fam is almost identical to Last Exile. Slow start, only to pick up once on the Silvana (or Silvius in Fam), and then some character development before the conclusion of the show. This isn’t bad, it worked the first time, but it was so uninspired. The writers could have done a better job. Not to mention that some of the reasons that were invented to keep characters doing specific tasks in specific places were just completely arbitrary.
Remember that scene where Fam has to capture a number of “Sky Fish” for the Silvius crew equal to the number of birthdays she’s had? It’s silly stuff like this that weakened an otherwise great story. I realize that to some extent, this isn’t the most egregious way to keep things where the plot needs them to be, but it could have been done better. To Fam’s credit they did actually bother to make the birthday quota relevant. They did this by having her turn 16 shortly after getting the 15th ship. This was an ok way at justifying it, making me a little more forgiving of it, but it still felt poorly done in comparison to everything else.
Aside from these more minor nitpicks, the biggest flaw was not explaining everything and how Millia’s character was presented. An anime should be able to stand on its own and the need for printed material in order to have something so basic explained is bad. It should NEVER happen. This is, of course, in reference to Claus and Lavie.
It’d be one thing if they didn’t show up at all, (though then why have any of the old cast?) but the fact that they do, and it’s not even so much as mentioned, is just crazy. As I suggested, having a small section of the anime going over this would have been cool. One thing that could have been done was to have Claus and Lavie mentor Fam and Giselle or give them some sort of advice. I know that the Silvus crew didn’t just stop communicating with them. In this way, it just felt like such a missed opportunity that could have been a great nod to the first season, while still being its own story.
Lastly, Millia is the protagonist. I stated this in part 1, but I feel it’s necessary to say again. I think the problem here is that the writers weren’t sure who the protagonist was supposed to be. Fam works as a protagonist, but if you consider the story from Millia’s perspective, it’s immediately apparent that the story centers around her. Millia gets almost as much screen time as Fam and underwent the most character development. I still liked how the story was as it is, but this is another one of those things that just felt like a missed opportunity.
I think that Fam still managed to tell an engaging story, I just wish that the writers would have considered their audience a little better. For this reason, Last Exile takes the story category, but it’s not by a huge margin.
From here things should be a lot quicker and easier to talk about. Aside from some minor 3D work problems in the sequel, Fam and Last Exile, were on par with each other. Overall, Fam looked better, but it also came out 8 years later. For this reason the category is a wash.
Last Exile had some unique music choices, particularly with its opening. This isn’t really replicated in Fam as a lot of the music there was either, from the first season, or had it’s own feel. However, for me, the music was about the same in each. I felt it fit and did its job. Both openings were unique in their own ways, with the first one being more so, but for different reasons. I am going to say that this is a tie for the two. I lean a little more towards, Fam largely because its opening was more my speed, but also because of that one great piano and string piece. This is largely subjective though, and at a critical level it really was about the same.
I’ve got to be honest, I think Fam blew it as a sequel. Gonzo still managed to make an enjoyable show set in the same world as Last Exile, but a “sequel” this is not. I think the terminology used on the back of the DVD/Blu-ray case, “…a thrilling new chapter in the Last Exile saga!” sums up my opinion.
I think that it was a good way to continue the world while still allowing old characters to mingle with new ones, but missing out on too many opportunities for it to ever get the impression of it being a sequel. In fact, I think you could watch Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing without any knowledge about its predecessor and enjoy it. The only things you would miss out on are a few nods to season 1, and some minor plot details. This problem is completely solved if you watch the second “bonus” episode, which recaps a lot of season 1 part way through Fam when it’s relevant.
Hopefully this was an interesting look at the Last Exile franchise. If you enjoyed what you read, let myself and others know by giving this a like, or commenting below. This series was a lot of work and effort, so feedback is appreciated greatly! I plan to do these types of things in the future again, but not too often. Until next time, good tailwinds to you all!