Last Exile is an anime already unreal and highly unlike any other animated series, as it adheres to a little known genre called Steam Punk – even that fact aside, the anime deviates much more beyond a typical entry in an already peculiar genre.
Claus and Lavie are two, rather original, teenaged anime characters intent on crossing the Grand Stream, a path in the vast sky so dangerous, few attempt to pass, and none have survived, not even their fathers. They lived a seemingly simple life in their small easygoing village delivering letters and parcels through the air on their Vanship, a sky vehicle of sorts, whilst a war was ongoing between two factions called “the Disith” and “the Nobles” both of which had their hostilities as the result of a third elitist group dubbed “the Guild”.
Claus and Lavie accomplished their relatively easy postal tasks in the first few episodes and hadn’t considered the upcoming fate at all – during an annual village race of Vanships, an accident occurs, Claus and Lavie then find themselves now protecting a little girl and carrying a massive responsibility, taking them on an intricate trip which leads to an even larger war, until finally, all ends well.
Stunningly, the story evolves from something serene, to a fury of heart-racing material – from the start, not a single second is wasted without a development even in down times. Several episodes in, the story gets fueled up and delivers pure action at it’s finest, no crying or complaining by characters, not a single aspect lacking in any area.
The series skillfully deploys a subtle atmosphere amongst a roaring environment of hellish attacks, famines, and contentions, for much of the story up until the final few episodes where it all becomes an indescribable revolutionary exhibit of exquisite hardcore explosive aerial-focused animation from plot to visuals and all in between. Assaults being exchanged by various forces engaged in battle within the Grand Stream are felt by all, viewer included – a mesmerizing display of total destruction.
The series somehow manages to sustain an exceptional balance between the sweeter and more vicious moments, allowing all the scenes to come off with an equally immense, yet different impact as appropriate for the story. The unsinkable ship worthy of the “Kill em’ all” title becomes absolutely iconic as Last Exile takes the viewer inside its hull for a thrilling ride lasting most of the series.
Everything is simply so well developed during conversations, events, and actions, that all feels meaningful for the viewer – a loss within the series would hit the viewer with an equal magnitude as the characters. A contrasting example, every time the Silvana is mentioned, some remark is made on the ship’s legendary status, it’s “Kill em’ all” name, or it’s sheer power – driving the brute epicness of the Silvana into the viewer’s heart and soul.
Alex, captain of the Silvana, says little to nothing, his expression always remained blank and serious – yet as the other characters interacted with him and described him, it ended up building his character to such an astonishing point, his fate in the series leaves us speechlessly sad.
Visuals prove to be clearly unique as they resemble not a single sort of series preceding it – even five years or so later, the scenes remain lush, lovely, and luxurious amongst animations – they not only sport refined artwork, but the character designs themselves are unconventional, far beyond your typical class of anime characters. Not to mention all the amazing aerial vehicles, Vanships, Silvana, and otherwise, which make a strikingly detailed appearance from their interior to their exterior – down to every single dent.
The show steadily shifted from something all soothing, to an entire solid state of intensity as once Claus and Lavie boarded the Silvana, a new unexpected realm seemingly diverged off of the anticipated story, leaving all the viewers with something they never, in the slightest, saw coming.