We’re five episodes in, and Last Exile is starting to settle into a comfort zone. It might not be exactly what I’d like it to be, given the choice, but at least the series is establishing a clear (if somewhat bipolar) identity.
It’s worth noting that the fifth episode is just about when Claus and Lavie first encountered The Silvana and its crew, so it’s sort of ironic to see some of the complaints I’ve seen after this ep, that “Fam” has become too slow. Well, for me the best thing the series has done in the last three episodes was to slow down and devote most of its time to exploring the characters. We’re not talking about Seirei no Moribito or even Fate/Zero (or the original LE for that matter) here – the characters are not deeply layered, and their interactions are painted in pretty broad strokes in primary colors. In many ways they’re more archetypes than individuals, but that’s fine – for this to work they need to be able to carry the show, and for that to happen we need to see them going about their daily lives as we have the last few weeks.
The Silvius is a decidedly happier ship than The Silvana was, at least so far. Even Tatiana and Alister seem to be in a better mood. And she’s got a whole bunch of bishounen grease monkeys below decks, led by the grizzled maintenance chief Olaf (Terasoma Masaki). All of the pretty boys are suitably agog over the three new girls in their midst, though it takes a demonstration of Giselle’s Kit Cloudkicker-like navigational skills to endear herself to Olaf (who seems to barely notice Fam’s alive). Also of interest on-board is the fact that Dio was indeed working with Tatiana, at least unofficially. When the crew members salute you, you have some cachet on the vessel.
The two threads of the episode’s story are both exceedingly silly, but agreeably so. If the plan is for Fam and Gisey to steal 15 Ades ships (“It’s going to be hard with just the two of us”? You bet it is, Giselle.) it’s a darn good thing the Ades crews are apparently dumb as stumps. Using nothing more than some of the wardrobe of bishie crewman Elio (Komatsu Mikako), a sewing machine and one vanship, Fam and Gisey manage to steal an Ades vessel with the help of Olaf, hidden below decks and trying not to peek up Giselle’s skirt. The sheer absurdity of their plan seems somewhat at odds with the seriousness of the overall premise, but one assumes that not all 15 heists will be that easy.
Meanwhile Millia is adding cosplay to the mix, dressing up as a maid to try and use her feminine wiles to get herself a little chunk of The Silvius to claim as the capital of the new Turan Empire. Just where Millia got the idea that maid cosplay is irresistible from in this mythology is probably a question you’re better off not asking, but everyone from Tatiana to stone-faced ship’s cook Leonard (Nakata Kouji) is quite unmoved at her her efforts (doubling her shame is the fact that Teddy is furiously documenting every failure on his notepad). Finally Millia takes matters into her own hands and claims the galley and shower room while the crew are at battle stations. It’s one of the cuddliest terrorist attacks ever, but this thread has more emotional punch that the silly ship-heist – for all the incongruity of maid cosplay in Last Exile, there’s at least the pathos of seeing a proud and highborn girl willing to do anything just to make a totally symbolic gesture on behalf of her homeland, about to be annexed by the Ades Federation.
Next week’s ep looks as if it may focus a bit more on Sara, Luscinia and the Federation, who still preach the gospel of returning displaced people to their homelands (One nation, one planet, one people, glory to us. Catchy!) There is a somewhat odd dichotomy to “Fam” in that the underlying plot is rather dark and unpleasant, with entire kingdoms wiped out in one fell swoop, but the interactions with the main cast are extremely upbeat and light. I’ll be interested to see if and how those two halves get reconciled. In the meantime I’m hoping old pal Dagobert gets a speaking role next week instead of just a cameo, learning about Luscinia’s Sleeping Beauty and looking forward to seeing who those new faces in the preview might be. I’ll also be interested in seeing if the noticeable detail loss in the character and background animation this week is an aberration or a trend.
Thinking long-term, it looks as if the climax of the series is going to be the restoration of the Turan Kingdom and the revival of the Grand Race. I wonder what original LE characters might possibly be good candidates to compete in such an event…