Anime Expo 2011 Last Exile -Fam, the Silver Wing- Premiere and Q&A
by Bamboo Dong,
Fans at Anime Expo had the chance to see the world premiere of the first episode of Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, the highly anticipated follow-up to the original Last Exile TV series. Taking place on Earth, the series features new characters and a new storyline, and is set to air in Japan in October. The series has already been licensed by Funimation, who sponsored the screening, as well as a panel of special guests from the production staff.
When the original Last Exile series came out eight years ago, it was already ahead of its time with beautiful animation and detailed CG gunships. With time and technology on its side, the new series, Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, looks even better. Armed with cutting edge technology, this series has a different feel from the first; it's lighter, brighter, and the backdrops are vibrant with delicately rendered clouds and mossy cliffs. The opening scene follows the two new main characters as they zoom through the clouds in their aircraft. It's absolutely breathtaking, and the clouds look almost real, which will be a treat to see on the Blu-ray release that will surely be released.
Unlike the first series, this new story takes place on Earth, although it's an Earth that we're unfamiliar with—there are eight objects in the sky that resemble moons, but as production designer Kobayashi hints, it's a secret that's yet to be revealed in the first episode. The series follows two plucky sky pirates named Fam and Giselle who help out their community by taking down massive airships in their Vespas. In this version of earth, the giant targets are called “whales,” and by harpooning them and forcing them to breach, they can be commandeered. It's a fitting analogy once you see the airships go belly-up on the clouds, a sight that's strangely elegant.
However, conflict must be established, and in Fam, the Silver Wing, it comes in the form of war. The Ades Federation has declared war on the kingdom of Turan and is intent on killing the two princesses. Enter our pilots, who offer a deal—they'll save the princesses, in exchange for their ship. With the help of a returning character, Dio, the princesses are saved, but what happens after that will have to wait until the fall, when the series premieres.
Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing has a lot of promise. Visually, it's stunning, and the characters are instantly likeable. In following with the tradition of the first series, it still has a strong steampunk vibe, which is good news for cosplayers. Even with only one episode, the story seems strong enough to carry an entire season, so it'll be interesting to see where the writers take it. This is definitely a series to look forward to.
Question & Answer Session
The screening was accompanied by a Q&A with the production team of Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, featuring producer Hiroyuki Birukawa, director Koichi Chigira, production designer Makoto Kobayashi, and script writer and military authenticity consultant Takaaki Suzuki. The session was moderated by Hiroshi Kumada, Vice President of International Sales at Gonzo.
Birukawa: Once again my name is Birukawa. I am the producer of Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, thank you for watching the first episode with us.
Chigira: Hello everyone, once again my name is Chigira, the director of Last Exile. Quite honestly, the producer and I were sweating, because this episode almost didn't make it here on time. Once again, thank you for watching it.
Kobayashi: Did you like that? What you just saw was episode one. Usually it starts out pretty awesome, but I wish we could show you episodes two through four, too, because it gets even awesomer.
Suzuki: (He takes off the goggles he's wearing on his head and shows them to the audience) My name is still Suzuki since the last time I introduced myself. Before we began, my goggles completely fogged up with your energy, so I was cleaning them off. Thank you very much!
Can you tell us a little bit about these new characters?
Chigira: The characters you saw, Fam and Giselle, have been piloting these ships since they were little kids. I wanted to present the image that these children are flying freely. That's the image we were going for with this series.
In the previous series, all the little ships are called vanships, but now they're called Vespas. Can you give us more information about that?
Chigira: First of all, this takes place in a different world than the previous Last Exile. Now we're trying to portray what's happening on Earth, and a side of the story we haven't seen yet. In the previous series, the vanships were powered by a mysterious energy source that people didn't comprehend; the Guild just gave it to them. Unlike that, in this series, the protagonists are fully aware of how these things work. The pirates on the frontier. They really understand these things inside and out. It really gives us an opportunity to explore that side of the story. The Vespas are quite a bit smaller than the vanships. It's like how we are always striving to make these laptops smaller. These guys are doing the same thing with their ships—don't think their performance is lacking!
Can you tell us about the Ades Federation? What they're like, and how they're organized?
Suzuki: If I reveal too much, they'll shoot me as soon as I arrive back in Japan! I can only tell you about what you saw in the first episode. Turan was being invaded by two of these giant Ades battalions. Each one could wipe out the entire country, so Turan was on the brink of destruction. Obviously, there is still more to come, and a lot more to be developed with these guys, so stay tuned.
I think we saw a couple of familiar characters, right? (In reference to Dio) Are we going to see more familiar characters?
Chigira: All I can say right now is that in episode four, Tatiana and Alistia might be there. The rest is a secret.
While you were creating the series, what were you imagining? What were you trying to create when you decided to go through with this second season?
Chigira: The first Last Exile came out eight years ago, back in 2003, and we really pushed the 3D pretty hard in that series. I told the developers that that was our bottom line, and we're going to make it even better. They're really working hard for this.
Eight years is a really long time. Do you have anything to say about that?
Birukawa: As far as our aim in what we were striving to do, one of the requests I had made is that, in recent years, in a lot of TV, movies, and animation, they've sped up the series pacing and the cuts. We wanted to speed this entire series up by 1.5 times.
Aside from the speed, is there anything that you intentionally changed or wanted to do differently from the first series?
Birukawa: Without going into too much detail, one thing that has changed a lot is the technology and the environment that we're working in right now. In the first one, we made a website just to one-up our competition, but that's the norm these days. So we're really trying to keep in the game.
Suzuki: In these really high speed times, we worked really hard to get this script together on time. I want to thank Chigira for visualizing all of this. We hope you enjoy this Last Exile, because we guarantee you the quality will not go down.
When will this be broadcast in Japan?
Birukawa: In Japan, this will hit the streets in October. As for the American release, stay tuned to what Funimation has to say.
At this point in the Q&A, the floor was opened up to the audience. The remaining questions were asked for attendees.
Regarding the character designs… Murata did the designs for the first Last Exile. Did you ask him to change the character designs? There's more color and texture in this world than there was in Last Exile, where there were a lot of grays and blues. This one has more yellows and pinks, as well as textures in the hair and the headpieces.
Chigira: There have a been a few changes that we've been implementing. One of them was that we really wanted people's eyes to get bigger watching this. Our staff had to dial it back at some point and say, “woah, woah, let's stop there.”
If this is Earth, why are there eight moons?
Kobayashi: Yes, you are correct that this takes place on Earth. The reason there are eight moons in the beginning is because they're not moons. I really can't say anything more right now, so please watch episode two.
With regards to Gonzo's previous productions, from Last Exile, to Blue Submarine No. 6, to Samurai Seven, you've been pushing your CG technology as much as you can with each new production. With this, you're pushing the technology not only with the ships, but also with the humans. How much are you pushing your technology?
Chigira: When we made the original Last Exile, we weren't able to render the characters in 3D and put them in the gunships. We had to render the ships, then draw the characters inside the ships. I have to give thanks to Suzuki, and the work he did on Strike Witches. I noticed that in the middle of the series, the characters became 3D, so I said, “You can do it!” and it became 3D.
There are a lot of heroines in this show. Will there be any cool heroes for us to root for?
Suzuki: When I was writing the script for the first season, there were a lot of girls, too, and I was thinking, “what the Hell?,” but there will be a lot of cool guys later.
The panel ended with a special call-out from Birukawa. He split the audience down the middle and asked each side to chant a mantra used by the characters in the first episode. Tsubasa ni kaze o! (May the wind guide your wings!), Oikaze o inoru! (Happy tailwinds!) Birukawa videotaped it, saying that it might appear in an advertisement used in Japan before the first broadcast.
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