Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 04

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The fourth episode of Last Exile: Fam tries awfully hard to please. I think it would be well served to try a little less hard as it develops.

As certain of my concerns are being addressed, one by one, my anxiety about where this series is going is decreasing, but not as much as I’d hoped. I appreciate that the pacing has become much more reasonable. I appreciate even more that the focus of the last two eps has largely shifted from “what” to “why”. Knowing what these characters are thinking and why they do what they do is certainly essential if I’m going to enjoy watching them do it. But the sale isn’t closed, at least for me. I’m still finding the tone somewhat off and the characters a little plastic. And to be honest, there’s still a little bit too much pandering for my tastes.

Basically, the episode can be broken down into two parts – a slice-of-life sequence with lots of cute and some discernible shoujo-ai hints before the break, and Fam getting thoroughly pwned by The Silvius after the break (with some discernible shoujo-ai hints). The scenes at home with Giselle’s family are charming, but they would be more charming if they didn’t seem so determined to show how charming they are. The smiles are constant (even Dio is infected), the warmth and comfort pervasive, and even the food is shown to be delicious. We get many more shots of Fam and Millia in their undies, and long, lingering shots of Fam and Millia sharing a bed. It’s pleasant, but does is it inform us in any meaningful way about the characters?

If it does, it’s in telling us something about Gisey – namely, that in addition to her navigational skills she’s an aviation geek of the highest order. When Dio (hmmm…) offers her a murky photo of the reaper ship, Silvius, she’s able to do a pretty good job of deconstructing it for form and function (as Fam and the younger siblings are drawing a ludicrous picture of some sort of cross between a garbage disposal and a staple remover, the funniest moment of the sequence). No one thinks to ask why Dio has this picture, interestingly (“He showed up six months ago and he’s been living here ever since!”) but it certainly comes in useful for Fam’s ludicrous but well-intentioned plan to steal the reaper ship for Princess Millia and the Turan cause.

It’s in the second part that the real LE fanservice comes in. Not only are we treated to some pretty cool flying by Dio and the pilot of the red vanship and a Lusciola mention, we get some sexy interior shots of The Silvius and some very familiar faces. It’ll come as a shock, I know, but the three key figures on board The Silvius are all women. Setting that radical departure aside, we have Tatiana Wisla (Kitamura Eri) – once Alex Row’s wing commander and now Captain. And where Tatiana goes you’re sure to have Alister Agrew (Kuwatani Natsuko), the Lavie to her Claus, the Gisey to her Fam. The third corner of the triangle is the Listening Officer – a vital position on a ship like The Silvius – Cecily (Nakajima Megumi). She’s a newcomer rather than a holdover, and we don’t know much about her yet apart from the fact that she’s cheerful and kawaii and that Alister seems quite, er, protective of her.

I was pleased to see that there were no hard-to-swallow miracles here, and that Tatiana and The Silvius – a fully amphibious vessel, BTW – saw Fam and the kiddie corps as nothing more than a pesky fly. Fam’s pretty good, but none of the sky pirates’ usual tricks were a match for the reaper ship, and Tatiana even saddled up and took her classic vanship out to give the cheeky girls a few lessons in how it’s done. Tatiana, you’ll remember, was as close to being Claus’ equal as anyone on Prester when it came to piloting a vanship. Fam even tried the “Star Wars” trick that worked on the Adess’ flagship, but The Silvius was more than prepared and trapped she and Gisey (literally) like a drowned rat. With those two captured and Dio, Millia and Teddy showing up on their own, a deal is offered to Fam – capture fifteen Adess warships, one for each year you’ve been alive, and we’ll let you fly again. Otherwise, they’ve seen too much to ever leave…

About The Silvius and its crew we have far more questions than answers. What’s their game, first of all, and why do they need ships? Are they fighting for anyone else’s benefit, or acting as a free agent? I also think it’s more than valid to ask why Tatiana seemed so unsurprised to see Dio show up, first in his vanship and then on her bridge. They came to Earth together, and I don’t think it’s unlikely that they’re covertly working together or at least have some common cause. And what of Alvis and, by extension, Claus and Lavie? Now that Tatiana has been introduced, those questions can only be put off for so long. Alvis is an Exile key, after all, and as such a terribly important and valuable little girl – someone a person like Tatiana would want to keep close tabs on.

I wish I could say I love all this, but so far Fam is more of a mild affection that a romance for me. It’s still looking great, and it’s undeniably good to see old friends from The Silvana again. It seems as if that’s where the real potential for the series lies. But the scenes involving Fam, Gisey, Millia, Teddy and their entourage just feel too light and fluffy for Last Exile. What’s missing for me is gravity, and I don’t mean in the physics sense. Gravitas, the Romans called it – “weight, dignity and importance” – I’m not feeling it most of the time, and the reason I felt the third episode was easily the best was because it was the only one of the four that did make me feel it. That disappoints me especially because gravitas was absolutely vital to what made Last Exile stand out so proudly and admirably from the crowd. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to feel differently, and I certainly don’t think it’s impossible that this series will grow into the one I hope it will. But I can’t be anything but honest in my impressions, and I’m not going to sugarcoat them to make either of us feel better. If you love Fam, I’m glad – and I hope it makes me love it just as much before it’s done.

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  1. F

    Was Alister's voice that sexy in the original? I feel like I need to go and watch it in Japanese now.

    Anyway, I'm sure you know what my favorite parts of this episode were, but damn if I don't find Fam's earnest and somewhat confusedly directed pursuit of Milia to be adorable.

  2. Yes, it's K-On meets Castle in the Sky. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but admittedly, Gonzo is looking pretty smart (for a change) right now, based on the fan reaction.

  3. M

    Lots of things to like, though one could say that the second segment was fanwank of the highest order for people familiar with the previous show. Still the episode serves its purpose in bridging the distance (somewhat) between Fam and the original Last Exile, as well as moving the plot forward. In your traditional screenplay, I suppose one can consider this 'Plot Point 1' (as per Field's structure), where something twists the story in a new direction, facilitating more change in the status quo, particularly character-wise.

  4. M


    Funny thing is, I'm not sure Fam herself realizes this. While I'm sure it's really motivated by platonic reasons, it sure won't look that way to viewers with particular leanings.

    And I think like you, I didn't have to wear my yuri goggles for this episode; the darned show did it for me.

  5. E

    Admittedly yuri isn't my thing at all, so I am really REALLY hoping that at some point a male lead will show up and give us a break from this swarming harem of girls. To me the fanservice sometimes feels confusing. The storytelling seems to suggest that the show at least wants to be taken srsly … I just find it hard to do so with the random instances of panty/garter shots and/or yuri innuendo.

    Out of all the girls so far I very much enjoyed the captain of the Silvius the most, she seemed like a no nonsense badass, and there's always room for that in my book. I'm wondering about Dio though (who I thought was a girl up until this episode) Between him and Tatiana Wisla there definitely seems to be some similarities in appearance, how does he factor into the equation?

    Maybe I should just go back and watch the original, cause for someone who is new to the series there's just about a million unanswered questions at this point.

  6. A

    @Enzo: who is the person Dio was talking about? the one who used to sit at the navigator seat

  7. That was Dio's BFF from The Guild, who died in the original LE series.

  8. F

    I just find it hard to do so with the random instances of panty/garter shots and/or yuri innuendo

    Can we not group those things? Would you still be upset about the innuendo if Fam were male?

  9. E

    @ Fencedude

    Can we not group those things? Would you still be upset about the innuendo if Fam were male?

    Um, is there a particular reason why I can't group those things? And as for the second, I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm upset by it. It just relegates this show firmly into the fanservice arena, which I personally think detracts from the story that's being told … And I don't know if you mean would I be bothered if it was fanservice geared towards women instead or if Fam was just a male in general. But either way, while I don't mind it in moderation I just don't care for gratuitous fanservice, no matter what demographic it's intended for.

  10. F

    No, I'm asking why a possible girl/girl relationship is "fanservice" while a potential boy/girl relationship wouldn't be.

    Also seriously, its not like fanservice is new to LE or anything. The first series had more than a few loving shots of Tatiana's ass and crotch.

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