Pocket Picks #9 – Beneath a Deep Blue Sky

It’s been a while since i’ve written on of these, but I’m finally revisiting a show that I feel has a criminally low watch rate. As many of you who’ve read a lot of my stuff know, my first Anime experience, not to mention my love of Anime as a whole, was inspired by the full series of Gundam Seed I was given by my uncle back when I was a kid. Several years later, he gave me a new series to watch, which is still one of my favorite shows to this day: Last Exile.

In the world of Prester, flight is the dominant mode of transportation, made possible by Claudia Fluid: a liquidized form of the crystals that are produced on the planet. An organization known solely as “the Guild” has absolute authority over the skies, with a monopoly on the engines that make use of this fluid. Moreover, as ecological disasters destabilize the warring countries of Anatoray and Disith, the Guild also arbitrates in the disputes between the two. Caught in the middle of the conflict are Sky Couriers, piloting small, two-person vanships that fly freely through the sky.

Last Exile follows the adventures of two teenagers who dream of surpassing their parents: Claus Valca, son of a famous vanship pilot, and Lavie Head, Claus’ best friend and navigator. Their job as couriers entails passing through an air current called the Grand Stream that separates the hostile nations, which even standard airships struggle to survive. However, when they take on a high-rated delivery to bring an orphan girl named Alvis Hamilton to the battleship Silvana, they get dragged into a much greater conflict that pits them against the might of the Guild.

– MAL

Last Exile is a true fantasy series, introducing the viewer to a rich, vibrant fantasy world with a wide variety of people, customs, countries, and characters that make the world alive and vibrant. Though glimpses of the dark underbelly of the world are certainly not few or far between, there are more than enough breaks in the clouds to allow the light to shine through.

Last Exile is a relatively slow-paced show, focusing heavily on character development and worldbuilding, especially in the first half. That doesn’t mean it’s boring, though, as even the slowest section of the show features some of the most spectacular aerial dogfights imaginable.

For being one of the first shows to extensively use CG throughout the making of the show, the CG generally looks much nicer than a lot of CG we see today, easily blending into the hand-drawn scenes and usually being almost unnoticeable. With a gorgeously drawn world that is far more intricate and detailed than most Fantasy worlds we’ve seen in Anime of recent years, Last Exile is a show that I consider one of the best Fantasy anime of all time. Period.

As far as main characters go, Claus and Lavie do the job very well. Both of them are flawed, they have fears and anxieties, and Lavie is able to constantly act as Claus’s voice of reason as he tends to lose his head in certain scenarios. The supporting cast is colorful and brilliant, and chock full of little character moments that help endear every member of the cast in some way or another.

Obviously, if you’re not a fan of slower-paced, character driven stories, you probably won’t like Last Exile very much. But if you are, this is an amazing show to curl up with a blanket and some snacks and just binge for hours at a time. I know that I watched the show to completion a few times years ago, and i’ve watched it again after Crunchyroll added it to their library (finally).

To anyone who’s seen Last Exile already, i’d like to congratulate you on finding and watching a true masterpiece. And if you haven’t, I highly recommend you give it a try!

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