The turning point in the episode came when Fam decided to help Millia rescue her sister from the evil Ades Federation. Once this happened, the story got a billion times more interesting. But before we get to what I liked, let’s get the negatives out of the way. Up until that point, the episode was actually pretty dull as the two sides in the conflict maneuvered their way into position for battle. There’s some really perfunctory stuff like Liliana giving out orders for a suicidal all-out attack on the enemy’s flagship. We all knew it wouldn’t work, so as a result, I’m not sure why the anime bothered.
Likewise, Liliana convinced Millia to leave her side at the start of the episode only for Millia to jump right back into the thick of things by the end. Why did she even leave in the first place? In order for her to share a moment with her father? I’m not sure that scene was all that crucial. Hell, I think the show could’ve condensed the first two episodes into a single episode without losing much. Plus, the narrative would have been tighter, the pace would’ve improved, etc. Of course, this is never a popular suggestion when I bring it up. No one ever seems to agree with me that cutting out extraneous material is worthwhile.
As the title of the post suggests, Last Exile relies an incredible amount on CGI for its animation. We’ve got CGI ships, CGI guns, CGI bullets — the whole gamut. The result is a mixed bag. When Fam barreled her way through the Impetus’s interior, I’ll admit that was some nice Star Wars-inspired action. No, no, I’m not being sarcastic; that was fun to watch. More importantly, the scene is probably too difficult for Gonzo’s animators to do by hand without a huge drop in quality. I’ll agree that CGI can be useful in these instances.
The CGI in the rest of the episode, however, was lazily applied. Like the first episode, there wasn’t really any sense of meaningful space unless Fam and co. were involved. The movement of the larger ships didn’t really seem to matter. I know that Gonzo isn’t going to chart out and animate extensive battle plans for both sides, but it’s hard to discern what was really going other than ships shooting lasers randomly and hoping there isn’t any friendly fire. Speaking of the lasers, I thought it was actually quite funny how they were used. When the Turan Kingdom and the Ades Federation finally clashed, it was a mess of greyish-brown ships versus black, angular ships. Now take that image and bathe everything in pew-pew lasers. Okay, keep adding lasers. A little more. A little more. Just when you think there’s too much shit to look at, keep going. I’m not exaggerating; there were pretty much lasers everywhere:
A large problem with these scenes is that there is literally action everywhere. As a result, the scene composition really doesn’t even try to focus the audience’s attention on any particular subject onscreen. This is a problem that plagues many Hollywood films, especially the Michael Bay productions. Filmmakers think that littering the entire screen with special effects and mayhem makes for a thrilling experience, but the result is actually quite the opposite. Without any semblance of order in the manufactured chaos, the action becomes random noise, which just isn’t very interesting to look at. So yes, Last Exile does itself a disservice by trying to flex its CGI muscles.
Okay, so what about the good parts? I actually thought the episode’s events were quite reminiscent of A New Hope. Is Gonzo being inspired by a classic movie or I’m just making yet another trite comparison to Star Wars? Seriously, a ragtag team has to escort a very important person to
Alderaan another kingdom when they get sidetracked. The princess is being held within the Death Star Impetus and we’ve got to save her!
I’m just being facetious; this is pretty much where the similarities end. I mean, yeah, the failed rescue mission was actually kind of exciting to watch if only because we finally see the show’s premise being utilized. If you’re making a show about sky pirates, I want to see some death-defying stunts in the air. Again, I have to bring up Fam’s flight through the Impetus — that was a good use of space and choreography.
As for the giant structure crash landing on Turan, seems like solid plot material to work with for future episodes. There’s just not much to say about it at this point other than “Well, that was interesting.” I just have a few minor quibbles regarding the plot.
First, Millia’s request to Fam (“They’re going to kill my sister! Please save her!”) didn’t make much sense. If they wanted to kill her, they could have just done so. Why kidnap her back to the Impetus? Second, what did Millia expect a pair of sky pirates to do anyway? Case in point, the three of them crashed into the ship’s command center only to have the entire room full of soldiers aim guns at them. They, uh, weren’t going to leave that place alive unless something extraordinary happened which the trio couldn’t have possibly accounted for. Finally, the blood in the water at the end of the episode makes for an interesting visual, but I thought the king said most of the civilians had evacuated. Oh well.
In any case, the second episode is a vast improvement on the first. If the show can keep this up, we might avoid “cute girls in the sky” after all.