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.