Anime Review: Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing Episode 1

Anime Review:
Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing Episode 1

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don’t have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing is a weekly anime television series starting in October 2011, a sequel to the popular Last Exile anime series from 2003. Fam, the Silver Wing is a new story set in the same setting as the original series, following the adventures of Fam and Giselle, two vanship pirates and members of the Sky Pirates who rescue to princesses after war unexpectedly breaks out between warring kingdoms.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Spoiler-free set-up: Fam Fan Fan and Giselle Colette are two members of the Sky Pirates, piloting a small vanship through the skies of Earth. Meanwhile, two young princesses of the Kingdom of Turan wait at the Grand Lake to seal a peace treaty with the Ades Federation, who launches a surprise attack against Turan instead. The Sky Pirates decide to head into the middle of the fray, and in the confusion of battle Fam decides to take over the flagship of the Turan fleet, rescuing the princesses from certain capture and defeat.

My Impressions: Ahhhh, Last Exile finally returns, after being pushed back a time or two. Fam, the Silver Wing has been one of the more anticipated sequels of the season, er…year, er…decade. A decade ago the first Last Exile series wowed everyone with its imaginative story and (at the time) revolutionary imagery, and I was entranced at Last Exile as any fan. Although I must admit that upon repeat viewing it doesn’t quite wear as well with age (compared to the first viewing). Then again, very few shows rarely hold up with time.

As expected, everyone and their dog is ready to compare Fam, The Silver Wing to the original series (no surprise). So, how does it hold up? Well, with the setting and the artwork and the animation, they certainly succeeded along those lines. The mechanics of the show are a spot-on continuation of the Last Exile legacy, so Gonzo (which has been pilloried relentlessly for their poor choices over the past several years) did good.

So, instead we turn to the story: How does that hold up? The jury is still out after the first episode, but I am cautiously optimistic. I intentionally did not do too much research or digging into Fam, The Silver Wing before watching the episode, so that I would not have my experience spoiled by other peoples’ views and opinions. I already knew that the series is set in the same Last Exile fantasy universe, but essentially separate from the original story. Reading up later, I learned it is actually set two years after, and on Earth (instead of “Prester”, where the first series was located but never mentioned), and there is a fairly complex back-story about Last Exile concerning a diaspora from an ecologically failing Earth, multi-generation colonies and all that. However, knowing all that is not really necessary to enjoy the series itself, much like knowing the back-story of Last Exile was not necessary to enjoy the original series, either.

The only recurring character is the infuriating Man-Boy Dio, who is just as annoying this time around as he was nine years ago. Given that this is only two years later, it’s certainly possible we could see some of the other character (like Claus and Lavie) make an appearance later on, but so far we are stuck with the least likeable one of the original lot. As for the rest of the lot (Fam, Giselle, Lilliana, Millian, et. al.)…meh, too early to tell. At first blush they seem to be more of a reflection of the current trend in anime to create initially uninteresting characters based on popular otaku trends (e.g. the ‘moe’ one, the ‘tsundere’ one, the ‘spunky’ one, etc.). Hopefully they will break out and make some sort of an impression later on.

While I cannot say that I was blown away by the first episode, I must say that I was entertained and it was somewhat nostalgic to see the return of one of the foundations of my anime viewing past return. We have the first salvo of the story already with the declaration of war and refugee princesses on the run, allied with friendly pirates. While not the most ground-breakingly original of ideas, it’s a start and now we’ll see how the characters bounce off each other and interact. One of the advantages of Last Exile was that it had such a rich tapestry of a fantastical science fiction world behind it, and with so much left to explore. And here we are, ready to explore another facet of this imaginative world.

Oh, and P.S. — Does anyone else find the new designs of the Vespa vanships sort of silly? The original vanships were fairly big and clunky affairs, a reflection of the retro-nineteenth century level of technology. These new, mini-sized ones look like little toys, almost like boxcar derby contraptions for children instead of serious vehicles with weapons going in to battle.

One thing I realized after watching this episode: Last Exile is a perfect anime example of steampunk. Sure, it’s appallingly obvious, but I never made the connection before. For me growing up, steampunk was William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and Charles Babbage and such; an interesting alternate history sub-genre of science fiction, but that’s it. But over the past decade or so, it seems to have exploded from a tiny niche among the more geeky of sci-fi fans bubbling up into an almost-mainstream existence, with droves of them showing up at conventions joining the hordes of Klingons or furries (heh, I even saw a segment on CBS News Sunday Morning about it last year). If there are any steampunk fans out there who want to find out what all this Japanese animation is all about, here’s a good and familiar place to start with a world set in a steampunk-inspired setting.

The verdict:

For more information:

Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • “But where are the male characters? This isn’t going to become K-On in the sky, I hope? The battles give some hope, but the politics at the moment are much too simplistic, and the character designs too childish.” – Draggle’s Anime Blog
  • “But, to be perfectly honest, the first Last Exile was safe. It was good because it didn’t risk much until the end, when even I thought some of the elements got rather schlocky. This one feels like more of a chance, an effort to push the envelope and delve into new territories the likes of which we can only imagine. If it does well, I daresay this could be one of the best shows of this new decade. It’s just that strong.” – Rabbit Poets
  • “One of the first things you notice when watching is the superb animation quality. From aerial battles between fleets of battleships to watching a lone vanship (a small aircraft) fly in the open sky, it is all very impressive and helps to immerse the viewer into a world filled with conflict and strife.” – Project Saber
  • “Now, I admire that ambition (and the execution) enough to like the show, but I also have some reservations. Namely, the characters. They aren’t bad for moe characters, but they’re still moe and very derivative. Fam, for example, has a lot of similarities with Hanasaku Iroha’s Ohana. I like well-written moe characters, but in the case of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing, these girls are destroying battle ships run by (seemingly) competent adults.” – Sekijitsu
  • “There’s a lot to be excited about! The atmosphere, background music, design, and airship battles have always been the best part of Last Exile, and they definitely continue to “wow” me here.” – Meeping Anime
  • “The one thing this series has maintained from the first season is the general feeling to the setting; the feeling of mystique with regards to these gargantuan flying ships, as well as the serious atmosphere from all the heavy politics and power struggles. Of course, the inclusion of Fam does make this episode feel more carefree than the intro to the first season. Grade: 8/10.” – Emory Anime Club
  • “This show has no fault as of yet, probably because i haven’ seen the original so I’m less critical about it. Last Exile definitely moves up a rank in my list. Now it’s a much watch. Grade: 10/10.” – Conspicuous Klux
  • “They did keep the heart of Last Exile though. The one thing that Last Exile does, bet­ter than any other anime I’ve ever seen, is the sense of adven­ture. There’s a thrill in dis­cov­ery and flight that Fam cap­tured bril­liantly, most not­ably in that open­ing sequence with them being pir­ates and cap­tur­ing a ship.” – The Cart Driver
  • “I would say that for the most part the first episode looked right and felt wrong. That’s coming from a hard-core LE fan with a U-Haul full of biases and expectations, so take it as you will.” – Lost in America
  • “This is a typical example of a first episode with a lot of potential to become amazing, but also with quite a number of things that can hold it back and didn’t work out as well as you’d hope. Yup, that’s Gonzo alright. Potential: 80%.” – Star Crossed Anime Blog


Thumbs-up for Round One: Un-Go, Chibi Devi, Working Season 2, Bakuman Season 2, Mirai Nikki, Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing

Thumbs-down for Round One: Morita-san wa Mukuchi Season 2, Kimi to Boku, C3: CubexCursedxCurious, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere

Coming up next: Fate Zero, Majikoi Oh! Samurai Girls, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Shakugan no Shana III, Hunter x Hunter, Mashiro-iro Symphony, Tamayura Hitotose, Persona 4, Maken-ki, Cross Fight Bedaman, Digimon Xros Wars II

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2 Responses to Anime Review: Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing Episode 1

  1. Pingback: Anime Review: Recap of the Fall 2011 Season (after watching the 1st episodes) | This Euphoria!

  2. Pingback: Anime Review: Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing Episode 2 | This Euphoria!

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