Rewatching Last Exile: Subtitled – Please, I Don’t Want Another Lose Another Old Favorite

With Gonzo’s gamble for resurrection centered on returning to one of their best series, Last Exile, with a new series called Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam coming out this Fall, a rewatch of the first Last Exile seemed in order except I was very leery of doing so. Old favorites from when I was first becoming an anime fan haven’t faired that well recently. Paranoia Agent was still as awesome as I remember it (thanks to being done by Satoshi Kon) but I outright hated Witch Hunter Robin and found Kenshin a chore to get through. I didn’t want to lose another one and Gonzo’s later “quality” anime wasn’t reassuring me.

Popping the first episode in, I found myself cringing at the dub and then snickering at it. Did I really once think this was a good dub? Keanu Reeves has more life in his performances then what this dub displayed. A switch to subs was quickly implemented but I worried that this was just the first step to Last Exile’s demise. I watched a few episodes looking for the spiral down to begin but it didn’t and then I watched a few more episodes and then a few more. Last Exile was holding its ground; it wasn’t as good as I remember it but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it could be.

This was a qualified win as far as I was concerned.

The animation still looked pretty good, not bad for an anime that’s eight years old. About half of the CG actually worked with the animation, a far higher percentage that I’m used to seeing from anime of that vintage. (It’s still common to find anime that the CG elements stick out.) The characters were developed competently for the roles they had to play. The plot remained interesting, even when knowing the big reveals at the end. The storytelling was adequate. If I was writing a series review it would start like this:

Last Exile

Final Series Score: 8/12 B+
Rewatchablity: 2/5 – Below Average
Ending:
2.5/5 – Average
Animation: 3/5 – Average to Medium
Pros:
Interesting world building, good production values – the animation still looks good and the music is still memorable, competent plotting and storytelling that doesn’t over-reach or under-reach
Cons:
Ending could have been improved, the middle part of the series bogs down a bit, the side characters are more interesting than the main characters, could have explained the world and why the characters needed to do what they did more

As a side note, one thing that didn’t surprise me about rewatching Last Exile was that my favorite character has changed. This has happened with other older series when I rewatch them. The biggest example of this was in Kenshin; originally, Kenshin was my favorite by a wide margin but when I rewatched the series last year I found Megumi (the female doctor) to be my clear favorite. For this Last Exile rewatch, I found myself shifting from Alex Row as my favorite to Dio. This change helps the new series because I’m now extremely happy to see that Dio’s coming back for the new series.

So, my fond memories of Last Exile were battered but at the end they were still standing. Knowing how the plot unfolds takes some of the enjoyment out of the series but I most definitely recommend watching Last Exile to anyone that hasn’t seen it before. I’m not sure how important watching this series is to the enjoyment of the new series but there’s still time to finish Last Exile and there’s no reason to miss it.

I’ll leave you with a bit of trivia I thought very interesting. As a novice follower of the vocal actors in Japan, I know that sadly many seiyuu don’t have long careers because agencies want to push their newest stars. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting to recognize the Japanese cast to Last Exile because the anime was eight years old but imagine my surprise when I saw three names that even this novice knows: Chiwa Saitou, Eri Kitamura, and Kana Hanazawa. If the names don’t ring a bell – Chiwa Saitou is probably best known today for voicing Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari, Eri Kitamura for voicing Yui from Angel Beats and Sayaka from PM3 and Kanade Suzutsuki from Mayo Chiki!, and Kana Hanazawa for Kobato Hanato from Kobato and Kuroneko from Ore no Imouto and Tsukimi from Jellyfish Princess and a ton of other anime. The piece of trivia comes from looking at their histories as seiyuu. Last Exile was the very first anime Eri Kitamura and Kana Hanazawa worked on and nearly the first for Chiwa Saitou. Interesting, no? Well I thought so, I wonder where these three would be if it wasn’t for Last Exile.

And what was up with the one guy that looks Asian?!? He is literally the only Asian person in the entire anime and, really, does he need to look that Asian? If an American drew him like that it would probably be considered racist.

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4 thoughts on “Rewatching Last Exile: Subtitled – Please, I Don’t Want Another Lose Another Old Favorite”

  1. There’s always Unwardil’s abridged series on YouTube, which was one of the few abridged series I found worth watching. But then it’s pretty nerdy compared to most abridged series, so it’s probably an acquired taste.

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  2. If you think that’s old, watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes. All the old anime are available at bakabt site.

    I was blessed with the fact that I only started to rate and search around for modern anime after I had figured out my rating system. Thus at anime planet, all the anime I rated as 5/5 stayed that way after a rewatch. The ones that weren’t enjoyable as rewatches, I either didn’t rewatch in its entirety or rewatched the ending only. Busou Renkin had an above perfect 5/5 ending that I watched over and over again, but the rest of the series was only a 4/5 like Arakawa: enjoyable, but especially special. Doing one thing well, comedy or shounen action, rates it a 4/5 if it lacks any serious flaws or weaknesses, but it takes some else to boost it up to 4.5 or 5.

    I began with the normal popular fan subs of Bleach and Naruto, and I never had reason to look elsewhere for they were quite enjoyable. When the manga ran out and when the anime series started seriously going into non-original source side quests, that was when I decided I had to get a major source of recommendations for other anime. Then Starship Operators, and uchu no stellvia followed, as well as Legend of the Galactic Heroes. http://www.anime-planet.com/users/Ymarsakar/anime?sort=rating&order=desc

    One thing I noticed is that I tend to marathon anime series, which means I rate slower paced anime a lot less interesting than you, but I rate more dramatic pieces with higher pacing better than you do because high tension rewards marathon runs. It’s just artistically more coherent for the reader to go through both seasons of Code Geass, in a few days, because otherwise people forget stuff and spend too much time being depressed. A reason why some people hate series that contain life and death drama is that they can’t get out of the depression cycle by stepping forward. Continuing to watch dramatic anime is like continuing to live life after tragedy. If you don’t like feeling depressed, keep on walking forward and eventually you won’t.

    Part of the reason for the stability in ratings that haven’t changed to this date, is due to me using a lot of objective criteria and not just the subjective criteria of fun or interesting. While a lot of anime may have been fun and interesting, I do not give them 4.5 or 5 unless they presented an artistic expression above the norm. Drama that invokes emotions, including negative ones? That would qualify (Sola). Epic level story telling that exceeds the limitations of common sense? That would count too. Epic level, like Scrapped Princess, but with erroneous conclusion and unsatisfactory plot development? Above 4, but below a perfect 5. Even after watching the series, I would still like what I liked, and dislike how they tried to end it. But none of that would ever change the reasons why I gave it 4.5 instead of 4, and 4.5 instead of 5. That’s assuming they have no other imperfections or logical inconsistencies. I actually analyze anime like I do security issues, political disagreements, and propaganda. It’s much harder to rate long anime series that never end, like Bleach and Naruto. Those are far more subjective, because an actual objective review would rate them in terms of their PLOT ARCs. Some plot arcs are better than other plot archs in Naruto/Bleach. Just how it is setup.

    I watched Last Exile for a few episodes because it was on a trial Netflix account, but never finished it because I hate watching anime on DVDs due to the constant switching. That is amazingly annoying.

    The guy in the pic doesn’t look so much Asian as he looks Mongolian.

    *If an American drew him like that it would probably be considered racist.*

    That’s precisely why Americans watch Japanese anime. Political correctness has more than downgraded entertainment quality in the US. I hear numerous complaints from the 40-70 year olds I know about this issue.

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  3. I’m generally an unapologetic fan of (post-2000) DUBS, including this one. Steven Jay Blum, Kari Walhgren….we will just have to agree to disagree. And I still love Witch Hunter Robin, though I probably need to go back and re-watch it as well. Because in truth, I seldom re-watch ANY show or movie, I have just barely enough time to keep up with new material, let alone go back and watch something over. Sometimes re-watching lets you catch things you missed the first time round and enhances the overall experience, but not always, as your post demonstrates.

    But, I did happen, quite by accident, to rent from Netflix a copy of the *original* Bubblegum Crisis from 1987, and not later one picked up by ADV Films…and I will agree, THAT dub was an atrocity…it was so horrible, so the acting so wooden….and of course the animation was much more crude and basic.

    It was also bad because in the dub, at least, for so many scenes it was just the actors reading their lines and there was no other sound effects….like a bar scene with no background music, no clinking of glasses, no background chatter/murmurs, just a tomb-like silence and the actor’s voices, making a vain attempt at a dramatic reading and sounding at best like a cheesy radio play from the 1950s…in the end, for me, the original Bubblegum Crisis from 1987 was just unwatchable…I didn’t even make it all the way through the first episode before punching the button on my computer to eject the disk and mail it back to Netflix the very next day. I don’t know if the sound quality was any better for that bar scene in the Japanese original. I did listen to the original dialogue a few scenes later, but was nonplussed. Maybe that bar scene was similarly bereft of additional sound FX in the original as well.

    But from about the early 2000s onwards, the powers that be took the quality of English voice acting in the dubs seriously, and Anime as an industry has benefited. Its popularity and fan-base and success would be a fraction of what it is now if it stayed a “purer”, mainly subtitled/Japanese-only ghetto subculture.

    I’ve learned *some* Japanese over the course of time, and I hate it when US companies go overboard and try to translate *everything*. It’s okay to let your characters just say “Senpai” or “Bento” in the English dub…really! The concept/form of address of “Senpai” doesn’t exist in English, and nobody seriously goes around saying “Upperclassman!”, and in any case Senpai is a much deeper, socially ingrained generational concept. “Elder!” comes closer, but sounds a bit awkward and heavy handed in English, especially if it’s a 14 year old addressing a 16 year old. Better to just leave terms like that un-translated, to remind viewers, yes, this story is set in Japan. On the other hand, some jokes just won’t translate or make any sense with a more literal translation, so I’m ok with re-contextualizing a joke in English in a way that makes more sense to an English-speaking audience…there are sometimes even room for hilarious back-and-forth exchanges used as filler when, in the Japanese original, they’re discussing some finer point of grammar in Japanese, etc…I think it’s funny when ADV Films, for example, uses Spanish as a back-up language for “the foreigner” in the dub when in the Japanese original the “foreigner” character in question is actually speaking English. I don’t mind peppering the dub with some untranslated Japanese terms, I think it adds to the experience.

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  4. The primary issue is that voice actors in America aren’t treated with any respect or especial note. People may become hyped up that Star Wars Republic MMO is going to be fully voiced, but do they know the name of any of the voice actors? No, it’s beneath people’s attention.

    Thus voice actors are given less freedom in the US and less importance. Without the freedom to create their own take on the role, they are naturally limited. Especially as American production companies don’t use visual ques to help generate data that an actor needs to get into their role. They didn’t even provide the actors of Star Wars movie 1 the ability to see the CGI backdrop, so whenever they were in majestic vistas, their face looked wooden and bored. Because they were looking at purely green colors all around them and trying to imagine they were in an elevator.

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