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|Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing|
|Written by Dreagen|
|Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:00|
Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing is a sequel to the original Last Exile from 2003, which focused on the fictional steampunk world of Prester, whose inhabitants fly around on aerial vehicles called vanships.
Prester itself is in the middle of a war between its various nations, which the two protagonists, vanship couriers Claus Valca and Lavie Head, hold the key to ending with a mysterious young girl named Alvis E. Hamilton. While all the nations are fighting, they all have a common enemy in the ruling power known as The Guild which controls everyone. They join up with what can best be described as a large band of mercenaries under the command of Captain Alex Rowe, who through a series of strange events, end up all working together. Twists and turns ensue, culminating in a massive aerial battle against the ruling nation of The Guild. It is at this point that Claus, Lavi and Alvis manage to cross the grand stream, a dangerous wind tunnel high in the sky created long ago to hide the Exile, a massive colony ship that had brought all the humans to this world from their ancestral one: Earth.
The series was produced by Gonzo and is the brainchild of director Koichi Chigira, character designer Range Murata, and production designer Mahiro Maeda. The three had previously worked together on an earlier Gonzo production called Blue Submarine no. 6. Many of the lessons learned on that series were carried over and expanded upon on Last Exile, allowing for anyone who has watched both in succession to see the growth of the company and the masterminds behind its titles.
Now in terms of continuity, the next installment in the franchise is an ongoing manga called Last Exile: Travelers from the Hourglass, which follows Claus, Lavi, Alvis and the others as they return to earth on The Exile. The events in this story will bridge the gap to the ones taking place in the 2011 sequel entitled Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing.
This new series continues the visual style created by Murata and Maeda, with beautiful watercolor-like backgrounds and a high level of aesthetic detail to the word itself. Also returning to the helm as director is Chigira.
This new story follows two sky pirates named Fam Fan Fan voiced by Aki Toyosaki (K-ON! And Fractale) and Giselle Collette Vingt voiced by Aoi Yūki (Sora No Manimani and Persona 4: The Animation): two 15-year old girls out to make a name for themselves. However, they get far more than they bargained for when they unwittingly get involved in the outbreak of war between the Turan Kingdom and the Ades Federation, the latter of which has kidnapped the two Turan princesses, Liliana il Grazioso Merlo Turan, voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro (Maria Holic and Deadman Wonderland) and Milia il Velch Cutrettola Turan voiced by Ai Kayano(Dream Eater Merry and Guilty Crown). Fan and Collette manage to harpoon the ship the princesses are on in an act of piracy, and before they know it they are being asked to take the younger princess, Milia, with them to inform the king what has transpired. One thing leads to another and they find themselves running from the Federation all the while getting used to the newfound company of a princess who is a little less happy about the way things have turned out. The series also delves deeper into The Exiles themselves, something that plays a major role in the plot.
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Like the original, there is a large amount of CGI present in the animation, which I am sure some, but not all, will automatically say is too trendy. But believe me when I say that Anime is the one medium that truly knows how to harness digital technology’s full potential. Fam, the Silver Wing is no exception, pushing the boundaries of CGI in animation to new levels. Now as an old-school anime fan I remember watching it when there were no digital effects. I look back on those titles now and am still just as entertained as I was back then, if not more so. With that said though, I can say with absolute sincerity that CGI has created limitless opportunities for animation in what it can put on screen. Gonzo has made a career of utilizing this technology in their titles going back as far as Blu Submarine No. 6, and have only improved at it ever since. Last Exile was a major leap forward for the company and Anime, showing how beneficial the technology was to the medium. Also for all of you who say it only gets in the way of real animation techniques, you should know that with the sole exception of Redline, released earlier this year by Madhouse, no Anime that has come out in the past seven or so years has been animated by hand. Yes, that is right, it is all done on computers now, from the coloring, right down to the actual drawing. The days of an animator drawing an image on hundreds of pieces of paper with slight variations on each, only to then flip it fast to create a moving image, are far behind us now. This is one of the reasons why you can see more variation in character appearance and animation quality in older shows as opposed to ones from today. Back then the image only looked as good as the artist drew it, and when you had a deadline, they did not always have time to spend as much time on the visual quality of every episode. This means certain episodes would have gorgeously detailed hand drawn animation, while others looked, well, less impressive. With the introduction of computers into the medium, the animators can now streamline the process of animating and thus give everything a more uniform look. What does that mean? well, instead of having to draw a character over and over again, they can reuse the same image, but change it in any way they need to. In other words, if the character was wearing a certain outfit in the previous scene, but now has changed clothes, they can simply take the digital image of the character and swap outfits. If it is a scene where the character has to be redrawn entirely, they build of an existing digital model, saving themselves a lot of time. All in all, it makes the whole process much faster, allowing for studios to produce more titles in a year than they would have before.
Fam, the Silver Wing shows that animators can still shine just as much as they did in the days of old, with the use of CGI. In many ways I feel it has allowed them to shine more brightly, because just as was the case when the technology was introduced to live-action mediums, it makes it so that the creators can put whatever they envision in their minds on screen. Yes, animators have always had an easier time with that than live action directors because they could draw what they could not be created in camera, but it still did not have the same impact as the equivalent seen in a live action format. Fast forward to today with Anime titles like Macross Frontier and Last Exile, and we see Anime rivaling live action in visual spectacle while remaining Anime.
The original Last Exile is one of my top 3 favorite Animes of all time, having been a major creative inspiration for my own stories. What won me over was its strong relatable characters, and the bonds they form over the course of the journey. That combined with the rich imaginative world and story and it was destined to be a recipe for success. So, naturally, I was both happy and nervous to learn that Gonzo was pushing forward with a sequel close to nine years after the original. Many of those fears were squelched though when I learned that the entire creative team behind the original was returning for Fam, the Silver Wing. In the end, I knew it was going to come down to watching the actual show for me, and watch I have. While I am basing this review on not seeing the entire series obviously because it has not yet concluded, I can tell that the same spirit that made the original so special is present in this one. However while doing some research on the new series, I was disheartened to find that it is following the same 12-episode trend that all Anime seems to be doing these days. While there have been plenty of series that have been 12 episodes or even less, they were always done so because that was how long they needed to be and not because of a need to conform to some industry imposed standard. The original Last Exile was 26 episodes long, which is one of the reasons I feel it was so engrossing. The show’s creators took their time to tell the story the way it needed to be told, thus allowing us, the audience, to spend a good amount of time with the characters and build a kind of connection with them. I fear the fact that Fam is only about half the length of its predecessor, it may not reach the same level of fully fleshed-out narrative and characters that the 2003 outing did. Obviously it is still too early for me to say this will be the case for sure but in my experience series like this simply do better when they are longer. Now I know that many animation studios out of Japan sometimes do a second season of 12 episodes so we still get a 24 or more episode-long series, but I have currently not come across any plans by Gonzo to do so with this one, but I know that could easily change.
While I do love many of the advances that have taken place within the anime industry, I feel this current trend of over polishing the titles being produced to streamline production more, is hurting the finished product to some degree. I understand that 12-episode seasons are cheaper and more efficient to produce, but when your entire industry is based on your final product is it really wise to meddle with what has already proven itself to be a winning formula for over three decades?
With all the rhetoric aside, Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, while probably not going down in history as being as good or better than the original, seems to be shaping up as a worthy follow-up to it, something that I apparently am not the only one who believes, for Funimation has already licensed it and is currently simulcasting it on their official site: http://www.funimation.com/lastexile-fam-the-silver-wing
Be sure and give Funimation some thanks for doing this by actually watching the show on their site. As I said a while back in my fansubbing article, I fully understand why fansubs exist and that the industry needs to learn from us the fans and keep up with the demand for Anime. However, I also said that if they do, in fact, do just that, we need to be appreciative and support their efforts. So could you go to any fansub site out there now and find this series? Of course. However why would you when there is a perfectly good and FREE version streaming on an industry endorsed site? If we want the industry to support us, we need to support it in turn.
So check out Last Exile: Fam, the Silver wing and see what you think. If you have never seen the original, do not worry. You can easily jump into this one and not be lost. Enjoy, every one!
|Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 01:29|