09 February 2008

Review:: Last Exile (anime)

How do you feel about Star Wars, circa Episode IV, back when Luke first called the Millennium Falcon "a piece of junk"? (Not that his speeder on Tatooine was a prize-winner.) How about the Joss Whedon TV show Firefly, where Mal's space ship looks like it's about to fall apart and kill everyone on board?

If you enjoyed the rusty look of both these sci-fi classics, then there's something for you in Last Exile-- or, if you want to say it in Japanese, Rasuto Eguzairu, which is the same thing just in a cute accent. The main characters, Klaus and Lavie, are like brother and sister. They deliver messages around the universe with the utmost dedication, when they suddenly get stuck delivering a little girl with unimaginable power. The visuals are often breathtaking. Lots of space ships blow up, characters stand around looking stoic or cool, and the obligatory zoom-in into a woman's chest does not happen until the last quarter of the series. Well-done.

I particularly enjoyed how the setting has shades of the Industrial Revolution, but people race hovering Vanships. They're kinda like pod races, a la Episode I, but here it's even sweeter because the 2-D characters can actually act.

So satisfy your inner geek crying out for some more "galaxy far, far away" love. This is just one of those anime that works for both guys and girls, and those really are hard to come by.

8.43 of 9. See "Pacing."
Whoa. There is actually an anime out there where the young girl is not overly cutesy (think Azumanga Daioh's Chiyo-chan) or completely annoying (think... well, there's so many that I can't think of any right now). Alvis is very sweet, very real, and she wears her hair in the precursor of the Princess Leia cinnamon buns. Lavie is also a fascinating female character. While she can be emotional at times, she is a worthy mechanic and can fix the heck out of any Vanship. Hmmm. Kinda like Kaylee in Firefly!
Wonderful for most of the episodes. It's the kind of story that can be almost anything. Humorous. Heart-wrenching. Suspenseful (oh, the cliffhangers!). Then suddenly everyone starts getting infatuated with each other, and the story slows down a bit as they endeavor to work out the love and the lust. Ah well.
Early teens and up. There really isn't a whole lot to be afraid of in this one. Even when a couple of characters spend the night together, nothing is shown. It's all implied.
Like it? Try this!::
Um, Star Wars. Or Firefly. Or its film version, Serenity. Just tear your heart out before you watch it. That way you won't suffer.
Further Notes::
You know how some anime takes a while to really hit close to home? Last Exile had me at "hello" by the second episode. (Hmmm. I guess that's more like, it had me at "how-are-you?") I was completely captured, and not many anime can do that so easily. Then it kinda lost me with the whole Love Boat turn of events, but you know what? Even anime characters need a little love every now and then.

Last Exile. Directed by Koichi Chigira. Gonzo Production Company, 2004. 650 minutes. $99.98.