Just keep trying,
keep on flying,
I will be the light...
Last Exile is an airship-saturated steampunk fantasy anime
that began airing in Japan on April 6, 2003 and ended on September 29,
In addition to the mighty combination of beautiful animation and
stunning computer graphics (CG), the series' most remarkable feat is
the sublime, high quality aura of incredible worldly detail. Everything
from mechanical jargon to cultural nuances to character names to
mythological allusions and even to contemporary influences demonstrate
that everything in this fictitious world has been carefully thought out
and positioned to assure that it fits perfectly.
Someone once asked me if Last Exile was original. That's a
troublesome question as critics could easily find a thousand things
"ripped off" from other works. However, I would argue that Last Exile
doesn't copy as much as it gathers and composes conventions used in
anime, literature, cinema, and even
video games with an unparalleled amount of care,
fidelity and love. Hence, even if some themes, ideas, characters and
settings are stock, it's overall presentation is exhilarating and
original. The final result is a marvelous anime that simply blows just
about every animated series from either side of the Pacific out of the
Claus Valca, the unlikely but righteous hero, and his willful life
long sidekick, Lavie Head, struggle to make a living as a pair of
self-sustaining orphan couriers in their tiny two-seater airship. Gifted
with incredible piloting skills, the adolescent pair dream of traveling
beyond the endless and threatening storm that looms eternally in the
highest altitudes: The Grand Stream.
One day, they come across a crash site and dying pilot that entrusts
to them the protection of a young girl named Alvis Hamilton, who
coincidentally holds all the answers to all the secrets of the world of
Prestale. Full of ideals and ignorance, Claus accepts the
responsibility of protecting Alvis and promptly gets himself and Lavie
swept up in a whirlwind of adventure, intrigue, war, conspiracy and all-
- Claus Valca - Claus (charmingly pronounced
Ku-RA-su by the other characters) is the young idealist hero that
champions justice and righteousness. A bit of a thinker and introvert,
he seems perpetually tired and out of the loop unless he's flying his
ship. Many people are impressed by his mad flying skills, especially his
mastery of the difficult "Immelmann Turn."
- Lavie Head - Lavie is the cheerful, resourceful heroine and
Claus' navigator and mechanic. Whereas Claus is the heroic embodiment of
idealism, she usually contrasts as a rationally self interested
pragmatist. However, she also has that soft
spot for chasing dreams and ideals, though to a much lesser extent.
- Alvis Hamilton - Alvis is the kawaii little girl that has,
like so many other anime girls of her age, incredible destructive power waiting to awaken.
Despite this, she permeates childhood innocence, purity and a hard
work ethic. She has wonderful theme music and provides a few scenes of
good comic relief. Particularly worthy of note is her interesting hair, bound up in two spherical
hair ties the entire series.
- Moran Shetland - Moran is an incredibly realistic, symbolic
and political character. He's the hard working laborer, the good loyal
soldier, the bumbling guy always failing to get laid. He represents the
masses of regular Joes; he's the everyman. Moran is a sympathetic
character with his down to earth attitude and probably the funniest
character in the series.
- Alex Rowe - No anime is complete without its bad ass, quiet
dude with a deep seeded vengeance. That's Alex, captain of the rogue
ship, the Sylvana. He's got the whole flowing trench coat and
disaffected stare thing going on... Not the kind of guy you want to mess
- Dio Ecclair - Dio is the spoiled Prince of The Guild. He's
probably the most dynamic character in the entire series; it might be
argued his character's transformation is the most interesting or even
central point of the plot. Like most of the other members of The Guild,
he's an androgen with shoulder length white hair and feminine eyes. His
best friend is another interesting yet minor character in The Guild
named Lucciola. It's hard to describe what an amazing character Dio is
without spoiling anything; alas, I will say no more.
- Delphine Ecclair - Delphine is the sensuous and mysterious
queen of The Guild. By far the most powerful and wealthy individual in
Prestale, she pulls strings and manipulates entire nations for fun and profit. She's a central
character being Dio's older sister, one of the many pursuers of Alvis
and a haunting figure of Alex's past.
- The obligatory cute anime animal - A suspiciously chocobo-like racing bird named Bosuke, or Sleepyhead. He's only in a few episodes, but this was the closest thing that Last Exile had to meeting the obligation.
Nationality is an important identification in Last Exile because of
all the political and ideological undercurrents.
- Anatole is the central kingdom where most of the story takes place.
Almost every important character hails from there. Politically and
culturally, it's not unlike an early industrial pseudo-Victorian Era
Britain except without imperial power, drinkable water and advanced
seafaring technology. Anatolian aristocrats have peculiar ideas about
what honor is and how battles and wars should be fought. Everyone else
in Anatole is worried about being able to afford quality drinking water.
- Dusis is an icy tundra that lies on the other side of the Grand
Stream. Dusisians have what might be considered an early industrial age Viking culture. There's really not much for its inhabitants to live on due to
the climate, so they've been trying to migrate to Anatole for years.
Their migration causes political instability. Anatole and Dusis construct each
other's nation as the "Other" and thus has had a long standing conflict.
- The Guild is a very interesting an enigmatic group of elite, cult-
like people that essentially control the world of Prestale and it's
happenings. Their technology is advanced far beyond either Anatole and
Dusis and their culture is radically bizarre in comparison. All Guild
members have white hair and can kick serious ass with their bare hands.
Airships are as important to Last Exile as a mech is
to a mecha anime. At the risk of becoming an otaku, I'm going to briefly list them and their
stand out features. Note that vanships are the small, mobile two-seaters
that Claus and Lavie fly.
- Claus and Lavie's vanship - The heroes inherited their fathers' vanship as well as their flying skills at a young age. It's looks almost like a gray, metallic canoe
with tiny wings, propellers and an engine. Many modifications have been
applied to it to increase it's speed for racing and delivering messages; Claus is even introduced in the first episode shaving a few ounces off to help it go faster.
- Sylvana - The Sylvana is a giant rogue airship captained by
Alex Rowe. It's famed and feared for its perfect record in battle. This is the only
ship in all of Prestale that has an engine that's unlicensed by The
- Urbanus - The Urbanus is Anatole's most powerful giant
airship in their air force. It has two enormous buzz saw attachments on
its sides to tear apart enemy ships that come to close or that it
intentionally rams. It's name has some special significance as it
represents industrial prowess in contrast to Sylvana's nature oriented
- Star-shaped Ships- The Guild has a stand issue ship that flies
around like an upright cross, kind of like a B-Wing from Star Wars.
They're incredibly fast and power in addition to being able to transform
into a spider like land crawling vehicle.
- Guild Palace - The Guild's Palace is an intimidating floating
monument based on advanced technology. It's easily the largest airship
in the world and likely the most powerful. Once again, a Star Wars connection could be made by likening it to the Death Star. In addition, it's just about
the only ship that can safely travel through the Grand Stream.
One of Last Exile's strongest points is the music. The opening theme
song, Cloud Age Symphony, is a somber, yet energy-filled atmospheric
techno tune that almost rivals RahXephon's legendary opening theme,
Hemisphere. On the other end of the episodes, the ending theme is a
fitting choir of peaceful, enigmatic crooning. Although incidental music
isn't used throughout the most series in favor of ambient engine noises
from the airships, it is still remarkable and matches the moods it's
used with perfectly.
There are two Last Exile OSTs floating around the net. Anime
bittorrent sites would be a good place to look to find them.
Last Exile's combination of animation and computer graphics is
simply the best to date. Jumps between CG and animated scenes are
flawless and even when both are being used it produces an unbelievable
affect that's never been done before. Needless to say, it's far better
than earlier attempts at trying
to casually combine CG with other animation types. The contrast of
colors used in the animation, especially the scenes in the sky, is eye
popping. Last Exile has a special something about the way it uses arrays
of colors that I can't quite put my finger on. Basically it's just
really a pleasing show to watch and listen to on an aesthetic level.
The names of many episodes correspond to chess moves that roughly
equate to how the plot is progressing. There's plenty of chess playing
that goes on in the series as well, especially between members of The
Guild. My guess is that chess reflects that air of political intrigue
that fills the series.
- First Move
- Luft Vanship
- Positional Play
- Arbiter Attack
- Interesting Claus - this title is a bad pun on the main character's name
- Take Back
- Calculate Alex
- Discovered Attack
- Isolated Pawn
- Etude Lavie
- Fairy Chess
- Making Material
- Promotion Sophia
- Sicilian Defense
- Rook Dio
- Queen Delphine
- Castling Lucciola
- Sealed Move
- Quiet Move
Produced by Studio GONZO (also known for Saikano, Full Metal
Panic, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, Hellsing and Vandread)
What lies beyond the sky,
Leading the lost child back to the mother:
*Disclaimer: Spelling of character names, place, etc. may vary from
different sources... Even the official site contradicts spellings
directly taken from the series. So thus you are disclaimed.