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:
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.