Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 15.5

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Remember that “If I see something noteworthy I’ll blog it” from last week’s post?  Well…

OP: “Cloud Age Symphony” by Okino Shuntaro

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I have a simple message for the good folks at Gonzo:

You better not fuck this up.

The inevitable has happened, the elephant in the room has finally been acknowledged, and the heroes of Last Exile are back.  With the story headed towards Anatoray’s involvement at last it seemed likely, and this unique recap episode – effectively a recap of the entire original series, bookended with brief new footage (I still can’t get used to KanaHana as Al) confirms it.  My assumption is that the “Tabibito” manga is going to woven into the storyline, linking the events of the classic show with the new one. 

To say that I’m conflicted about this is a huge understatement.  Especially with the implication that Claus is disabled, unable to walk and reduced to dreams of flight, this seems like a cheap stunt – a way to acknowledge his existence without upstaging the current cast.  I’ll give “Fam” the benefit of the doubt on that, but I have every reason to be concerned that Claus, Lavie and Sophia (presumably) will be ill-used based on how badly the current crop of characters have been written – either as stunt casting or a last ditch attempt to save the show.  To be honest I’d rather have had them not be involved in this sequel – I don’t think they can save it, and I’d rather have their place in the mythology untainted.  Nothing would make me happier than to be surprised for the better, but I wouldn’t be shocked to find that Claus is now voiced by Kaji Yuuki.

A few things jump out at me in watching the old footage.  First of all, the original show holds up incredibly well visually – in fact, it’s a shocking reminder of how ordinary “Fam” looks in comparison, with it’s blindingly bright color scheme.  The original OP and ED hold up too, and I won’t deny the powerful emotional tug when the strains of “Cloud Age Symphony” started to play.  Finally, while “Fam” has grand scale and an interesting geopolitical premise, the sheer joy of flight is nowhere near what it was in the first series.  For one, the act of flight has been less prominent – somewhat overshadowed by that intrigue and sweeping plot.  But as well, it simply isn’t as magnetic as represented by Fam and Giselle as it was by Claus and Lavie.  The magic isn’t there. 

I won’t pretend for a moment to be impartial – I’m not.  I love Last Exile and seeing it in all its glory simply serves as a reminder of how far short of those glories “Fam” falls.  It’s a bold and risky move for Gonzo to try and revive the classic series and hope for some reflected light on the new one, because I don’t think the current show will hold up very well to the comparison.  On the other hand, it seems impossible to believe that the inclusion of Claus and Lavie wasn’t planned all along, and it’s impossible to set a show two years after the one old ended and not acknowledge their iconic role in the mythology.  I’ll be optimistic and look at this as an opportunity – the last opportunity – for the creative team to lift their game and make “Fam” into something that can offer a meaningful contribution to the Last Exile canon.  It’s not too late, but there’s no time to waste.

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ED: “Over the Sky” by Hitomi

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  1. d

    Yeah! I can now watch Last Exile without watching Last Exile!
    Time efficient!

  2. M

    The thing is, GONZO seems to be caught in between a rock and a hard place with Fam. From what I've read in Japanese fora, the watchers really find all the world-building that's enthralled Western viewers boring. On the other hand half of the total Western viewers are having a difficult time even tolerating Fam, when the Japanese watchers seem to want to see more of her (or rather, her flying with Princess Milia). The production can't win.

  3. They've made their own bed, so don't waste your sympathy there. No one held a gun to their head and told them to hire the guy who wrote Linebarrels and the Itsu-Ten adaptation.

    I think Gonzo is guilty of what Taichi feared would be his fate – jack of all trades, master of none. They tried to hard to conform to what they saw as the prevailing trends in fandom, and they didn't do it well enough to explode with those fans – and in the process, pissed off fans of the old series and lost what made Last Exile magical. The BD/DVD sales are mediocre, and I can't say I'm surprised.

  4. M

    I can't really comment to that, but I will say that it's kind of sad how the things that Silver Wing REALLY has going with it — the scale of world-building and geopolitics brought by having Ades as opponents (lets be frank here, Delphine was very one-dimensional for a big bad) — isn't what the Japanese watcher wants (remember, international watchers like us aren't even a secondary consideration).

  5. I don't know, Myssa – LE was a huge international hit by anime standards – probably a bigger hit outside Japan than in, in some ways. Obviously external DVD sales aren't as big a business now as they were then, but I wouldn't assume they had no hopes for international success.

  6. M

    Oh, I am sure that GONZO was hoping for some revenue returns coming from outside of Japan, but the fact is international sales, when they happen, are just an added bonus instead of something that's expected (which is why I'm sure the folk doing Working and Ikamusume were delightfully surprised at how well-received the shows were abroad). The core target for productions like Silver Wing are always local, and judging by the timeslot the series airs (around 2:00-ish in the morning), it's obvious WHO the audience subset is.

  7. S

    My expectations for Fam is fairly low right now, but it was still nice to see Claus and Lavie again. The original does stacked up incredibly well visually against Fam which is impressive to say the least considering how big the time gap is.

  8. E

    Question Enzo … Where the HECK is this episode?! I'm like tearing out my hair trying to find it .. was it labelled 15.5 (cause I've been coming up with nill there) and who subbed it? Any help would be appreciated 🙂

  9. I assume no one subbed it because it was a recap, though I certainly think it was eventful enough. I watched it raw – If I go very slow with lots of pauses, I can just about get the gist of a raw. And there was really only about 3 minutes of new footage.

    Isn't this on Animax Asia? Do you have access to that?

  10. M

    The episode *was* subbed, only much delayed due to real-life stuff. It's now available in the usual places.

  11. E

    I do have accès to Animax Asia – not familiar with it but if FAM is on there I will certainly get acquainted xD! I actually wouldn't mind watching the raw version either (though I'll be watching at a SNAIL'S pace to even vaguely glean an understanding lmao – my japanese is just about preschool level *hangshead*)

    I'm interested in the events of the first Exile though. Sometimes it feels like all of us who haven't seen the predecessor and are watching FAM are at a bit of a handicap without the backstory.

  12. Not to mention you're missing out on a series that's much, much better than the current one.

    BTW, Niconico now has the subbed version, nice and legal.

  13. E

    Found it, and I have to say … HANDS DOWN BEST EPISODE OF THE ENTIRE SEASON. I'm literally in shock at the difference in quality! I totally get why you've been so disappointed now, that RECAP was infinitely better than Fam has been in its entirety … holy smokes! Half the characters barely even spoke and yet the emotion was there (I literally got choked up – such a sap lol) I'm going to be marathoning Last Exile over on funimation this weekend, but as for the next episode of Fam I'm both excited .. and absolutely terrified that they'll screw this up. Fingers crossed tho!

  14. B

    Ballsy maneuver for them to have a recap of the first season. Backfired in a big way IMO, all it really did was make plain that this season is not nearly as good as the first. I was thinking that this season was pretty okay because I hadn't seen the original in a while, but after watching this episode all I can think is how much of a failure this season is in comparison.

  15. M

    But the second season IS much better, if you ignore Fam herself. We have compelling villains now (whereas in the first season we had… Delphine, who was just insane), and a much richer world setting when compared to Prester (with its two warring countries).

  16. Boy, do I disagree with you here, Myssa. "Fam" falls short of LE in every area IMHO, with Fam herself just being the biggest anchor weighing it down.

  17. M

    I'm likely as much a lover of the previous Last Exile as you are (I have all the DVDs, regularly maintains its TV Tropes page, AND I upload pictures of the series to Danbooru from Pixiv semi-regularly), but I think you're really holding the nostalgia too close. Last Exile is a good series, but it isn't a show that should be placed on so high a pedestal, and I sure as heck remember a LOT of awkward moments in it, especially the middling episodes (particularly after the battle against the Urbanus), like Lavie moping (for THREE straight episodes!), or Sophia cozying up to Claus with little build-up.

    It all boils down to a difference in opinion, I know I know, but it just seems that you're ignoring the good parts of the show because of character who just happens to be on the title… who doesn't even act like a main character at all.

  18. Nope. I suspect the very things that endear me to LE are probably the ones you're complaining about, for starters. And Fam is not the disease with "Fam", she's merely the most glaring symptom. The show is suffused through and through with bad writing (not "concept" but writing) and it impacts the execution in every way.

  19. B

    Yeah, I agree with Enzo. This season would be good without Fam, but it would still not be as good as the first. It would at least be in the same ballpark though, you are right Myssa about the fact this show's main problem is Fam herself. Without her this show would be an 8.5 to the original's 9, instead of the 6 or so that it's hovering at right now.

  20. A

    I see so many comments where everyone is hating on Fam, but I've never really seen someone explain exactly what's "wrong" with her. As a character, that is, not as a fictional person.

  21. You can read my earlier blog posts on the series for numerous examples. It starts pretty damn early.

  22. F

    Basically "Fam" is bad because, GONZO instead of staying true to its roots with the first season, decides to pander to the otaku, who LOVE the objectification of women which is why the cast is pretty much all female-cast, not because "women are finally becoming equal as men or whatever any otaku apologist would say (i.e. fencedude) but because the show wants to make money off of nerds who want to wank to cutesy caricatures of women since they cant handle real women in real life. As a women I personally find this (and the current trend in anime that I just mentioned above) to be highly offensive, knowing that women in anime have been delegated to fetish items, not even deserving of a decent writer to portray them! Its infuriating, and gives me an impression that Japanese men are just all chauvinistic bastards (and I live here in Japan!) I would like to see more seirei no moribitos, more moretsu pirates, or even more library of bantorras(ok bantorra DID have some pandering, but the female characters were STILL wonderful characters despite the obviousness there) in which the women are treated like ACTUAL HUMANS for once instead of a marketing object for more nerdy loser kids to wank to who live in their parents basement and couldn't get a shag even if it hit them in the glasses. The fact that some have defended this as if it were a step up for women, really illustrates how clueless some people are, ESPECIALLY when they use some political correct bs argument to try and back up the fact that they want women to look like some whiny , out of touch moeblobs with no discernible personality outside of the "wikipedia Cliche playbook" that enzo commented on in the past. People who defend this garbage really are the enablers that allow this degrading of women to continue and get worse in anime. I am surprised that no one has called anyone out on this.

  23. 0

    Well, I can explain why I don’t call people out on it.

    How many moe fans do I talk to (online and off) who think that K-On! Is funny and adorable? Many.

    How many moe fans do I talk to (online and off) who have attitudes about women similar to those you describe? None. Well, okay, maybe one guy if you include people I only occasionally talk to online.

    There’s a myriad number of similar binary comparisons I could have used too, some of which do indeed involve the word “wank”. I can only assume the otaku you describe are some lowest common denominator in the moe fandom who I’m good at avoiding…. a sad case of the only people who get noticed being those that make fools of themselves.

    Also, if you get to cite something like Moretsu Pirates as an example of something with decent female characters, than I’m going to cite Hanasaku Iroha, which is every bit as much of a “mostly female cast” show as Fam is. Ano Hana and Steins;Gate had some pretty solid female characters in their casts too. Madoka… I wouldn’t say the girls in Madoka where necessarily super realistic, but their portrayal was generally respectful. Over the top cute and character quirks tend to be more of a 4koma adaptation thing, which isn’t surprising since that isn’t a medium I’d expect to focus on having well developed characters.

    Which brings me back to Fam and the topic of otaku appeals in the Last Exile franchise.

    The original Last Exile actually has quite a few otaku appeals. Multiple female characters failing for the boyish male lead. Tight flightsuits. A redheaded, midriff bearing “wrench wench”. TWO lolis, one a macguffin and the other dojikko – and the latter (Holly) was first anime role of fan favourite voice actress Kana Hanazawa. And did I mention those Range Murata covers? Pretty damn moe, especially for 2003. But somehow, the bulk of it blends into the story and some of the more egregious excesses are easily forgiven. (Just as a lot of people tend to easily forgive the writers having Lavie angst for three freaking episodes.)

    In Fam, it felt like the writers just decided that “wow, 4koma adaptations are popular, let’s base our characters off what’s popular in them!”. Maybe they thought that since a few works – Key’s stuff and Denpa Onna come to mind – get away with mixing quirky girls and drama they can too (which totally ignores that those series only get away with it due to their somewhat fairy-tale esque nature, but that’s a topic for another day!). Anyway, I think don’t think I need to explain to readers of this blog how well this worked – or not. Honestly, I’d say characters like K-On’s Azusa are far better developed than Fam (admittedly, K-On season 2 made a concentrated effort to make up for the weak character development in season one), meaning Fam’s character development is actually worse than in some 4koma derived productions.

    Or just try comparing Fam, Lavie, and Hanasaku Iroha’s Ohana Matsumae and pick the two most similar. Enough said. I was absolutely ecstatic when Lavie was reintroduced in this episode as she was my favourite character in the original, and the fact that subsequent episodes have shifted focus back to Fam and company just makes me want to say f*** you to Gonzo because it honestly feels like a massive troll to season one fans.

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