I’ll leave it to the military history buffs and technogeeks to dissect the relative merits of The Slivius’ armaments and defenses vs. The Silvana’s, etc. That stuff is interesting but not especially interesting for me to write about, so have at it. From my perspective it was truly impressive visually, and that’s my primary concern with that aspect of the show. Better than half the episode was consumed with air combat, and other than a few jitters here and there the CGI was top-notch. Old show or new this is something Last Exile has always been good at, and it’s plain to see that the Gonzo team haven’t forgotten how to choreograph aerial combat on a large scale. It was impressive stuff.
As regards the story itself, I remain more impressed with the outline than with the details. I confess to being surprised to hear the fighter pilots from Glacies (all female, shockingly)led by their commander, Dian (Yukana) speaking Russian. Glacies looked a lot like Northern Russia on the map last week, but that was a very nice touch by Gonzo (I can’t speak to how good the seiyuu were with the language, of course). We still don’t know a whole lot about them except that they’re extremely xenophobic, and in that light it’s no surprise the presence of The Silvius and several Ades fleets on their border would have gotten their attention. The testing of their neutrality is clearly going to be a major plot point for quite some time, as Tatiana (and perhaps Vincent) do their best to ingratiate themselves with the Glacians (?) to form an alliance against the Ades.
In that light, the little act of rescue that Fam and Millia (more on that in a minute) pulled with the doomed Glacies pilot Primura (Hara Sayuri) and her navi Magnoriya (Omigawa Chiaki) might just help engender some goodwill. Given that the pilots are girls, have brand-name seiyuu and have a presence in the OP, it’s a good bet that they’re going to be important players in the rest of the series and perhaps they’ll be the voice arguing for peace with Anatoray (Tatiana overtly stated at last that The Silvius is indeed fighting for Anatoray). With things now pretty explicitly Anatoray vs. Ades – with Glacies in the middle – that contextualizes Dio’s role and brings all sorts of possibilities for Guild connections and characters like Sophia to become involved. For the nonce, Tatiana proved herself more than capable of leading The Silvius in a hopeless battle – “Bad news everyone – the Captain is smiling” sums up he resolve in the face of fire pretty well.
But that wasn’t the only good Fam and Millia (more on that in 30 seconds) did in their sortie. They also managed to bring down the Ades flagship with a single shot. It must be said, what I’ve seen so far really leads me to question how the Ades managed to conquer half the planet. I understand that the first 14 skyfish Fam captured were mostly from outlying territories and merchant-marine types, but this is presumably the best Ades has to offer, under the command of their most experienced commander, Sadri (Hashi Takaya) – and a little girl with virtually no flight and no combat experience brought it down with a hand-held anti-Claudia weapon. I give props – no pun intended – to the Sky Pirates for their ingenuity and street sense when it comes to fighting larger, better-armed foes – but it’s hard to take Ades seriously as a world threat given that we’ve seen their best ships are virtually helpless against vanship-based resistance. Wouldn’t they have come up with some sort of counter-measures by now, assuming these small combat vanships have been around a while? Do they even have a flexible fighting force of small craft they can deploy in aerial combat situations?
Of course, the episode can’t be discussed without answering the question of Gisey’s role. The dissolution or even weakening of a pilot-navigator partnership is a traumatic thing, as we saw in the first series. We’ve definitely seen signs that Gisey feels Fam is slipping away from her, but I thought it odd that there was no conversation between the two of them prior to Fam’s entering the battle with Millia in the navigator’s seat. While it was pretty clear what was happening with the three of them, I thought it somewhat clumsily handled, and the build-up to that moment was perhaps a casualty to the amount of time the ep spent on the big set pieces. As a result, Gisey’s breakdown at the end – while understandable and very sad – didn’t have the impact it might have if there’d been more build-up in the episode. As for the future, I can’t imagine their breakup will be permanent and I don’t think Millia is going to usurp her as Fam’s sidekick, but it’s not immediately obvious how that’s going to be resolved. With the contract fulfilled I suspect Gisey will want to go home for a while (assuming Glacies allows it) so I wouldn’t rule out a brief separation for the leading pair.
Lastly we have a new ED sequence, with a sort of smooth jazz rendition of “Starboard” set to a montage of the 14 ships Fam procured for Tatiana. Interesting that they elected not to show any preview stills – perhaps there’s something or someone they don’t want to show just yet?
ED2: 「Starboard [Silky Wind ver.]」 by Hitomi