I first watched Last exile about 10 years ago. It was the third anime I ever watched, and to this day holds a special place in my heart. I could use flowery words all day, but… let’s get to the real reasons why this show rocks.
This show was made in 2003, and to this day, the art still looks crisp and clean, and genuinely beautiful. Not only that, it was one of the first anime ever to make extensive use of CG, and let’s be real here, the CG in this show looks way better than the CG you’ll find in a great majority of popular shows nowadays. Where in so many shows you see CG and just thing “Ugh, gross” because it doesn’t fit or is just plain disgusting (Berserk 2017 i’m looking at you) the CG in Last Exile is beautifully melded with the Key Animation in a way where it not only fits like a glove, but the show would most likely be worse without it. That’s quality.
Last Exile is set in a steampunk-esque world, where three major factions hold power. Anatoray is a nation that is reminiscent of 19-th century Britain, and Disith is pretty much the equivalent of Russia. The Guild is a supposedly neutral power, but they tend to act on their own interests.
The story follows Claus and Lavie, a pair of young Vanship pilots who have been together since birth, their fathers having also been vanship pilots. On a dangerous mission to use something called the Grand Stream to cross the world and deliver a peace treaty from Anatoray to Disith, both Claus and Lavie’s parents lost their lives. The news was delivered to them by a young man who had just barely escaped with his life, after having lost his lover and navigator to the grand stream as well. Claus and Lavie decide to carry on their father’s legacy, by fixing up their father’s Vanship and becoming pilots themselves. (Claus is the pilot, Lavie is his navigator.)
Living a relatively normal life together, Claus and Lavie manage to make their own way in the world until their lives are turned upside down one day. During a Vanship race, they have a near-collision with an unfamiliar Vanship, which then crashes in the forest. The pilot begs Claus and Lavie to take over his mission, a delivery job with a danger rating of 7 stars. He can no longer continue the mission himself, because his navigator had been killed and his Vanship badly damaged. The cargo turns out to be a young girl named Alvis, or Al for short. While Lavie advises against it, Claus accepts the mission.
While being pursued by a strange star-shaped ship, Claus and Lavie dedicate themselves to delivering Al to the Silvana, a legendary pirate ship nicknamed the Kill-Em-All. After meeting with the captain of the Silvana, Alex Rowe, and realizing that the damage dealt to their Vanship by the Guild Starfish was far too severe for them to fly back home, they reluctantly decide to join the crew of the Silvana. For the sake of spoilers, i’ll stop here.
Last exile is set in a very dark and dreary world, and it does a wonderful job of portraying it as such. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s good all around as well. This show is an excellent example of what you can do with a steampunk-esque setting, and you’ll struggle to find better aerial dogfights in any other anime, in my opinion. While it is an older show, that’s no reason to knock it down any pegs. After all, 2003 was also the birthplace of shows like Ghost in the Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gundam Seed, and more.
I think it’s already pretty obvious that I adore this show. I think it’s amazing, and not just for the nostalgia factor. So it’s time to dig down deep into what makes this show tick.
- Art: The art of Last Exile is, while rough around the edges compared to the crisp lines and bright colors of more modern shows, truly excellent in its own right. The duller grays and earthen tones fit perfectly with the theme of the show, and make the blue sky or green grass that appears on occasion just that more wonderful. 5/5
- Animation: The animation of Last Exile incorporates a large amount of CG. But it uses the CG in such a beautiful way, it’s like it;s not even there. The quality might be lower than today’s standards, but the usage is perfection. 5/5
- Music: The soundtrack of Last Exile is extremely large, and contains a very wide variety of different-sounding songs. Also, I really can’t even imagine how many different instruments they had to collect to make the soundtracks, because Bagpipes are the least exotic of the sounds you’ll hear. But every song has it’s place, and not only does the music almost always fit the scene like a glove, it enhances each scene as well by helping it have the appropriate feel for the storytelling. 5/5
- Characters: Last Exile has a very large cast of characters, and they are all very unique. Each character is well-defined and created, and in any given situation, you can make a pretty good guess how each character will respond. I’d like to give special recognition to Lavie, for being one of the most truly human characters that i’ve ever seen in any show, and to Dio, for being so absolutely true to himself, all the time. 5/5 for characters.
- Character Development:While all the characters in the show are very well defined, character development itself takes a quiet backseat. There are some hints of development here and there, Tatiana gets a bit less uptight and Claus gets a bit less dumb, but there is largely no character development. The character that is truly developed the most is Dio, and his character development is truly magnificent. 3/5
- Worldbuilding: The world of Last Exile is beautifully crafted. Every nut and bolt in every ship, every stitch in every piece of clothing seems deliberate, intentional. Everything has a purpose. That being said, most of what we see of the world is inside of ships, or from the sky. The viewers see very little of the world on the ground. I mean, that’s fine, as the show is really about airships and all, but it leaves me craving a little more. 4/5
- Genre: According to Wikipedia, this show is Adventure, Steampunk, Dieselpunk. Well, it sure hits all three of those nails on the head. That being said, don’t expect too much more out of the show than what is contained in those genres. There’s some great action in the aerial dogfights and ship-to-ship combat, but there’s very little in the way of Romance, or Drama. 5/5
- Tropes: There’s… really not any? It’s a very down-to-earth show, and very realistic too. No tropes. 5/5
- Plot: The plot of the show seems rather fuzzy from time to time. It’s not one of those shows where the main characters have a set agenda in mind and are working towards that end, more like the main characters are just along for the ride, getting pulled along by the machinations of others. However, that doesn’t stop it from being interesting, just makes what’s actually going on a little more vague until the show’s totally over. 4/5
- Pacing: The pacing in Last Exile can be summed up in one word: SLOW. It’s very slow and methodical, taking time and care to lay out the story and move everything forward. That’s not to say that it’s boring, it’s just paced much more slowly compared to recent (2017) standards. 4/5
- Personality: I actually think that i’m the only person I know who’s seen this show. And that’s saying a lot, because this show truly is a diamond in the rough. That being said, it doesn’t have much that makes it stand out in the crowd, no flashy animation or epic Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack. So while the show is exceptionally good, it really doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out in a crowd. You just have to watch it to understand it’s value. 3/5
- Personal Opinion: I think everyone knows where i’m going from here, yeah? I adore this show. It’s such a wonderfully immersive world that, setting aside its faults, is such a wonderful thing to watch… how could I score it any less than 5/5, it’s a MASTERPIECE.
Now for the final tally. Last Exile, one of my personal favorite shows of all time, gets a final grade of:
My personal watching recommendation for Last Exile is binge-watching. It’s the sort of show that just feels so much better when you can immerse yourself in the world for a long period of time, just let yourself go. I highly suggest that you watch this show.
And there you have it. Please let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below, and follow if you’d like to see more in the future!