Last Exile - Fam, the Silver Wing- Australian Premiereby Jon Hayward,
This weekend at the Melbourne Anime Festival, Madman Entertainment and Gonzo gave Australia something really special--a preview screening of Last Exile -Fam, The Silver Wing-. We were shuffled in sans bags and recording devices (bagged and sealed like sandwiches) and Madman's anime product manager Sylvester Ip took the stage. He welcomed us to the screening and apologised for the privacy restrictions, pointing out that Madman plans to simulcast the series in October when it starts airing in Japan.
Mr Ip then introduced Kaz Haruna, a representative of Gonzo here to present the new show. Mr Haruna welcomed us and said that he personally felt the anime held up well not only in the context of Last Exile, but in comparison to Gonzo's previous work. But he warned that the product that we were about to view (in its third screening in the world) was not complete, and that we should keep in mind that animation was still being finished and frames finalised.
We were informed that Madman would record some lines from the crowd at the end of the screening for later inclusion in the series, and that we should stay to participate. After the screening they recorded the crowd calling out 'Tsubasa ni kaze wo!' (May the wind guide your wings), the phrase the sky pirates chant when going on missions, and 'Oikaze wo inoru' (Good Tailwinds), another farewell. We did them rather poorly, but it's neat to see participation in such a manner.
Now, I will admit that I am only partially familiar with Last Exile. The most memorable points were Range Murata's designs and its fantastic future retro style, involving a world at the turn of a industrial age with political threats keeping war bubbling. When the screening began, I was expecting a lot more.
And did I receive it. The episode starts with a girl stripping off to her underwear, speaking weirdly and stepping out of a plane in her sleep. This girl in question is the series' heroine, Fam Fan Fan, and she is saved by her teammates tying a rope to her leg. Her nocturnal adventures wake her partner, Giselle Collette, who in turn almost refuses to bring Fam back onto the ship.
The two girls are part of a vanship fleet of sky pirates, piloting a quick and nimble vanship called Vespa. They live a tough but comfortable life in a small hidden community. We are introduced to what sky pirates do (piracy of the sky) and how well Fam and Giselle operate as a team. They deftly capture an imperial colonel fop, but not before they insult his honor by pulling a McFly and calling him a chicken via morse code.
The next characters introduced are Milia il Velch Cutrettola Turan and her older sister Liliana, the princesses of the Kingdom of Turan. They are governing the kingdom while their father is ill, and today is the day they will strike a peace treaty with the Commonwealth of Adess through Lilana's childhood friend, Premier Luscinia Hafez. While waiting for the premier, however, they find themselves under threat from the Adess navy, the offer of a truce a trap.
The sky pirates go into action (where there are ships there is profit I assume) and fly towards the battle between Turan and Adess. Fam quickly assesses the situation and comes up with a crazy plan involving the fleet ship of the Turan navy (with the princesses on board). She leads the sky pirates in messing with the communications of the Adess navy, causing them to fire upon themselves, then leaves a friend to pull the Turan flagship through a immelmann turn, making it seem that the flagship has been destroyed with all hands on deck lost. It's shown to be all part of Fam's plan to save the princesses (as all she really wanted was to meet princesses). Princess Lilliana decides they must repair and race to the Turan capital to protect it from Adess' fleet.
Within the first episode we are introduced to three new factions, a mysterious premier and some clues sure to be referred to later in the series. Of course, there is a fair bit more then I have described, but you don't want me to reveal everything now. ;)
The animation itself is gorgeous, with wispy clouds, industrialised bases and more detail on the vanships than anyone in their right mind should design. There were only two moments that illustrated what needs to be finished, with an incomplete particle effect and the immelmann turn looking more like a vanship flying in a straight line. As we were warned, the episode is not complete yet, but I look forward to the finished product.
Megan's ReactionThe convention scene in Australia has gradually moved away from anime screenings as a core event over many years, as downloading fansubs became easier and the length of time between Japanese and English-language DVD releases shortened. At Manifest's encore screening of Last Exile, though, there's still a full theatre of fans waiting for the rare opportunity to be the first to see a new episode, even after the inconvenience of surrendering their phones and cameras at the door. Despite the delays to the start of the screening (by 15, 30 or 45 minutes depending on which version of Manifest's mercurial schedule you're following) there's little sense of impatience among the crowd. They're still enthusiastic enough to cheer wildly at Sly Ip's command. Even further delays due to technical problems lead to excited rather than mutinous rumbles. When the ending credits roll, the audience applauds, a response I haven't seen at a Manifest screening since the Evangelion movies in 2002.
Matt's ReactionI barely even recall the original Last Exile other than it being a little slow and one of the few really good shows by GONZO. With all the hype, I was expecting quite the wow factor, but knowing it was also a GONZO title I wasn't going into the screening with mountains of confidence either.
The screening was done without the OP or ED of the episode and a blatant warning that the animation and effects were not complete yet. The show itself started with a rather comical introduction to Fan, the heroine. It quickly progressed onto an aerial battle scene to bring in the other main characters of her group; a lot of action and effects to kick it off before the OP would normally commence.
I think this was a good, if typical way to start a show. Overall, the episode was paced extremely well, contrasting to the only thing I remember of the original series. If anything the pacing was the highlight of the episode. The bulk of the the episode sets the scene and introduces the main characters of each major faction for the rest of the series, culminating in the weak political faction teaming up with Fam and her fellow Sky Pirates to take on the big bad empire. I found this a little cliché, but then half the show follows Xam'd to the letter.
Looking back on Last Exile – Fam, The Silver Wing - I found it to be way too similar to other shows from the past few years. A lot of the animation and effects were artistically impressive but also far too stereotypical and obvious. But I will most definitely watch this series as it's showing a lot of promise and I definitely enjoyed the episode.
Mark's ReactionIt's a bit of an understatement to say that I was looking forward to this new rendition of the now classic Last Exile series. The original series was one of the first I've ever watched in a marathon with friends, and I wouldn't be exaggerating that the sheer breadth and quality of the story has helped me convert at least one person into falling in love with anime. Suffice to say, even before hearing anything about the story, the knowledge that we will be returning to the skies in Last Exile -Fam, The Silver Wing- already had me sold. Luckily, the first episode screening in Manifest has lived up to my expectations, despite how unfairly high I think they actually were.
Once again, the aerial acrobatics mixed with high intensity battles is what sets up this story. A lot of characters are brought out in the first episode, and you could feel they were pulling all stops to make sure the show is high impact from the get go. In a sense, this could make a few people think that there's a bit of information or action overload. For fans of the old series, it could be even more overwhelming to keep up with, as you become prone to trying to pick out the connection between that series and this new one. Consequently, I walked away at the end of the screening trying to sort through in my head what exactly happened and what it all means, particularly in context of the "Last Exile". But one other thing I left with was the sense that I wanted more. It has once again piqued my curiosity regarding the political climates the characters live in as well as their backgrounds and motivations. Fam, the protagonist at this point, may seem like the cliche rambunctious female pilot but I have to admit, she was a very loveable character.
Can't wait for the rest of it in October!
Anime News Network Australia would like to thank Madman Entertainment and Sylvester Ip for their hard work in making this event happen and assistance with assembling this article, Melbourne Anime Festival for allowing us to attend the preview and Kaz Haruna from Gonzo for his time.
Article written by Megan Rocke, Matt Sharpe, Mark Sombillo and Jon Hayward with editing thanks to Georgia Blair.
Last Exile -Fam, The Silver Wing- image © 2011 GONZO/FAM PARTNERS