Last month a confluence of events inspired a bunch of us over at a place where we like to hang out to watch Last Exile again, as a group. It’s a bit of an odd decision — it’s not like it is an anniversary or anything, it just seemed to be in the air. Coincidentally, we decided to do this just a few days before Gonzo announced its plans for a sequel (which was interesting, but most of us are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward that). One episode a week, just as though it were airing for the first time. We arbitrarily settled on Tuesday as the day.
Boy, that decision to watch just one episode a week is a difficult resolve to maintain. When the series doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger, it ends with the promise that more will be revealed next episode. When that feather falls out of the whiteness, and the chorus starts the first notes of the ending music, I would (and still do) always catch my breath, still hungry for more.
The female lead, Lavie Head, is one of Chiwa Saito’s first major roles. She’s wonderfully mercurial and transparent — the anti-Senjougahara, the anti-Homura: everything is there written on her face, spelled out in the tone of her voice (it was a type that served her well in R.O.D. the TV and Pani Poni Dash). She is wonderful.
Her companion Claus, is idealistic, responsible, but still very clearly a kid, aware that he’s maybe in over his head but determined to see it through, to maintain the pride of the names Valca and Head.
One surprise is 14-year-old Kana Hanazawa’s few moments on the screen as Mad-thane’s daughter.
It has the wonderful Range Murata designs — half of them 30s concoctions of art deco, bakelite, and gunmetal, half of them gleaming futuristic Guild settings, and a fantastic soundtrack.
Sure, the series falls apart a bit toward the end (though it’s much better than most Gonzo shows in that respect) but it was a fantastic watch, and it is proving to be a fantastic rewatch.
We’re up to episode three. The world this takes place in is still a puzzle, with its Guild-refereed chivalric air-battles, its water-shortages, and its air-pirate captain lacking only a scar, a Skull-and-Crossbones painted on the prow of his ship, and a glass of wine in his hand (the linguistic leap from Arcadia to Silvana is short indeed).
Funimation is streaming it here if you don’t have a copy of this classic of your own.