In the world of Prester, flight is the dominant mode of transportation, made possible by Claudia Fluid: a liquidized form of the crystals that are produced on the planet. An organization known solely as "the Guild" has absolute authority over the skies, with a monopoly on the engines that make use of this fluid. Moreover, as ecological disasters destabilize the warring countries of Anatoray and Disith, the Guild also arbitrates in the disputes between the two. Caught in the middle of the conflict are Sky Couriers, piloting small, two-person vanships that fly freely through the sky.
Last Exile follows the adventures of two teenagers who dream of surpassing their parents: Claus Valca, son of a famous vanship pilot, and Lavie Head, Claus' best friend and navigator. Their job as couriers entails passing through an air current called the Grand Stream that separates the hostile nations, which even standard airships struggle to survive. However, when they take on a high-rated delivery to bring an orphan girl named Alvis Hamilton to the battleship Silvana, they get dragged into a much greater conflict that pits them against the might of the Guild.
THE ANIME CRITIC REVIEWS: LAST EXILE
Last Exile. An anime that merges the historical design aesthetics of the 19th century with the futuristic technology of the 21st. An anime where steadfast loyalty, treacherous deceit, daring courage, and burgeoning love intertwine in a mesmerizing dance on the grand stage of the sky. Co-pilots Claus and Lavie, who are also childhood friends, dream of crossing the infamous Grand Stream to reach the mysterious Exile, in their flying courier vanship. Their world, Prester, suffers due to the unending and brutal “Guild Wars”. But one day, they encounter a mysterious girl named Alvis, and their journey takes an unexpected turn.
Soon, they get entwined in a series of events that reveal dark conspiracies, grave secrets, and the devastating consequences of unquenched power. They now bear the daunting task of navigating through political strife while battling the separate, dire threats of both natural calamities and monstrous creations. As they journey further, they realise that they hold the key to reviving the dying world of Prester, and unlocking the doorway to Exile. But, will they be able to face the cost?
ANIMATION & ART STYLE
The animation in Last Exile is absolutely stunning. Gonzo, the studio behind the series, artfully blends traditional 2D animation and CG effects to create a unique, steampunk aesthetic. The detailing and meticulous rendering in each set, the intricacy in the design of the airships, the landscapes, and the mechanical elements provide an immersive environment that adds depth to the storyline.
Claus and Lavie are not your typical anime protagonists. They are complicated characters who are forced to grow and adapt as they are thrust deeper into the political crisis engulfing their world. The supporting cast too, are well defined with their own unique characteristics, and add substance to the overall plot. New characters introduced as the series progresses do not simply fade away but are woven organically into the central narrative.
MUSIC & SOUND DESIGN
Music in Last Exile deserves a standing ovation. Hitomi Kuroishi and Dolce Triade have done a fantastic job. The distinct style of the opening theme “Cloud Age Symphony” captures the essence of the entire series beautifully. Sound design is no less exceptional; everything—from the hum of the vanship engines to the clamour of the marketplaces—is incredibly realistic.
Last Exile is a brilliant masterpiece that blends fantastic animation, a compelling story, remarkable character development, and exceptional sound design. If you have a taste for stretching your imagination and love intricate plots that’ll have you thinking, then this anime is a must-watch. It’s a rewarding viewing experience that provides intellectual stimulation and an emotional roller-coaster in equal measures. It’s a perfect addition to anyone’s anime collection, whether for streaming, renting or buying.
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