Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam Ep. 1: Cute girls in the sky

I thought I was getting sky pirates, but instead, I got a girl stripping down to her garter belt. It’s no secret that Gonzo hasn’t been doing all that well in recent years. The last time I can honestly say I liked a Gonzo production was Welcome to the N.H.K., but I’m not sure if the series wasn’t just good in spite of Gonzo’s best efforts to muck everything up. Even if this isn’t true, could you blame me for thinking otherwise? Gonzo has fed us unmitigated shit for years on end. Okay, so what am I getting at? Well, every studio out there wants their merchandise to sell, but this latest Gonzo offering carries the Last Exile brand. What would it mean for the studio if they can’t even succeed with a marquee title? Oh, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam is aiming for the safest, lowest hanging fruit, but I’ll certainly put the thought out there.

To be fair, it’s not like the heroines’ breasts are hanging out and flopping about. It’s not like I’m being panty-flashed every five minutes, and honestly, Gonzo could and has done a whole lot worse. It’s just that with all the hype surrounding this show, I expected a little more risk-taking. At its best, this episode was mildly interesting, but for the most part, it doesn’t do enough to immerse the audience into the show’s unique premise. With steampunk-esque sky pirates, I want a little more than just giant, iron behemoths amidst white CGI clouds and dull expanses of plain, blue sea.

Why not spice things up with some mysterious floating continents? Why not put in some bizarre geological structures — set pieces that the action could be choreographed around? Well, we do see some really tall, giant hoodoos that, apparently, the characters live within. Still, when the action really kicks in, the world around the characters are reduced to just wide, open space. Where’s the imagination? I’m just asking for a little more spice in the anime than six moons hanging in the night sky. Even if you argue that my suggestions would move the anime too far into the realm of fantasy, c’mon… steampunk is fantasy.

Most of all, the characters just don’t really inspire. We always get on the case of male protagonists for being bland and indistinguishable, but most female protagonists aren’t exactly pushing the envelope either. Fam is just another slightly ditzy shoujo lead with wide, hope-filled eyes. Whatever distinct personality she lacks, she tries to make up for it by being energetic and optimistic to the tenth power. Oh yeah, being cute doesn’t hurt either. Her partner Giselle isn’t as cripplingly shy as some of her predecessors, e.g. Nako of Hanasaku Iroha, but damn, do we need to tell every seiyuu to give droopy-eyed girls the same voice? As an aside, HanaIro‘s Nako is Fam’s voice actress. Maybe she gave Aoi Yuki some tips, but I’ve digressed.

As for the bad guys, they have the subtlety of a police siren. They’re evil because their ships are black and blot out the sky! They’re evil because they’re uniformed emo men and they like to stand around in poorly-lit rooms, muttering ominous lines!

Well, look — I’m not saying that Last Exile‘s first episode indicates that the anime will be bad or anything. I’m just saying that once you get beyond the sky pirate premise, the anime isn’t trying all that hard. Yes, pirates are cool, and thus sky pirates must be awesome. Although the art direction seems uninspired for now, the animation was technically pretty good. I’m not trying to rip my eyes out while watching this show unlike, say, C3. Plus, it always helps when the first episode of any series contains plenty of action. This all, however, just adds up to a slightly above average anime. Gonzo has played it pretty safe in giving itself such a short ceiling, and I’m willing to bet the anime will crash into it quite soon.

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7 Replies to “Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam Ep. 1: Cute girls in the sky”

  1. Well your reaction is quite strange asking for extra (world setting/risk taking) when the series has already established its setting and world from the previous season. You simply need to accept what has been provided since adding more element to an already established world would be conflicting with the original. As a sequel it can’t go against something already premade.

    everything else I won’t comment on since it is only base on 1 episode so everyone is free to believe what one episode is meant to achieved, however I doubt character development is one of those aspect but as an opinoin or impression it is valid.

    1. I just think wide, empty blue seas and skies are boring to look at. If that’s what the first series established, then the sequel is already working off of a flawed premise.

      1. Yeah, the sky should be pink and the grass yellow, and a vast purple ocean, with swirling spiral cities and flying cars. Now that’s exciting!

        In the first series the skies were so dangerous to fly in. It was so cloudy and windy you might crash your plane into a giant airship if you weren’t careful. That’s why the air delivery service had such skilled pilots in that world.

        1. I never said anything about making the sky pink. I’m just saying that in 2011, CGI ships flying through CGI clouds just aren’t impressive. If they’re just going to stick to the original series’ formula, I think that would be rather dull for 2011.

  2. I’ve thought about watching this series for fun and nostalgia, but had a similar reaction to you. At this point I think I’ll wait and see how it turns out.

    In terms of the visuals: I think what you’re picking up on is that even though they’re using 3D CGI they’re not really “thinking in 3D” when they compose their scenes and choreograph their dogfights, at least as of this first episode. The individual shots and are rendered correctly but the overall scene hasn’t been constructed in a way that it all stitches together into a coherent sequence of events taking place in a 3D setting, and at least subconsciously that is very noticeable and leaves it with an overall fake and flat feeling

    1. I initially wanted to say that the showdown at the end between the sky pirates and Turan Kingdom versus the Ade Federation didn’t seem very organized. To me, movement seemed to be implied, i.e. look at the clouds moving around them! Thus, they are moving. The end results are rather static scenes that I just didn’t find all that satisfying. For whatever reason, this piece of analysis slipped my mind in writing up the post. Oh well, your comment pretty much covers the same ground.

  3. Last Exile was never the best written, most insightful series ever, but I agree I was missing a little something in terms of setting and characters. It’s been 8 years since the first Last Exile, show us why we should care again. I want to see the guts and grit of this world and its people, but this outing was a bit too sanitized and by-the-book for me to enjoy.

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