Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, November 30, 2015

Last Exile, Fam and Space Operas

I've done it before. I'll do it again. Let's talk about Last Exile and its sequel Fam, The Silver Wing.



Oddly enough it started because I was trying to defend Battlefield Earth on Twitter. I actually like the idea of the resistance having to rediscover and relearn how to use some long lost technology to overthrow their oppressors and that is basically what Last Exile is, with the eponymous Exile being said long lost piece of technology.

To prove my point I posted a couple of episodes from Funimation's YouTube channel and immediately (after hemming and hawing over it for half the day) thought please sirs I want some more dogfights.

Last Exile is one of those forgotten classics of a bygone era. The shortcut to making any anime top 10 list for that time is to look at what Cartoon Network was airing. Sure a lot of other networks had an anime block but CN had made a covenant with viewers and transformed itself into the place to watch anime, airing everything from Astro-boy to Ghost in the Shell.




But.

Okay they didn't air everything.  Last Exile is one of the shows that didn't get a proper Adult Swim airing until much later and it's why I feel it gets over looked. Things are changing, with the advent of streaming and while I'm glad Toonami is back I'm also glad it isn't the anime monopoly it was in my teenage years. Viz's stuff is on Hulu and both Crunchy Roll and Funimation simulcast subtitled stuff.

I'm kind of starting feel the inverse with all of Disney's acquisitions. Seriously Marvel and Lucus Films. Does The Mouse really need all that, though Jessica Jones was pretty good.

But anyway back to Last Exile. I love it. Even I occasionally forget how much I love it but I do. It has an epic scope and almost immediately gives the sensation that we're watching an age coming to an end, in more ways than one.

The immediate metaphor from the get go is that we're watching a transitional period in the world's version of aviation. Transitioning from the golden age of exploration and innovation to one of militarization where the primary reason to fly is to defend the homeland.

Going in spirit from backyard bi-planes to spitfires over London.   We're watching a world in an ever escalating war and it's starting to finally feel it as the skies start to turn crimson.




By the way, lots of WWII metaphors. The vast majority show takes place in a steam punk aircraft carrier, The Silvana, a prototype vessel for a new type of warfare where rather than ship to ship combat ships house planes that can cripple enemy craft before they reach firing range. Though we still get loving shots of rotating turrets.  There's more to it than that but that the least complicated version.

There is this on going feeling that what is happening in the series is important because the events we see are shaping a new world that will be something wholly different from the old order even if they can't see what that might be.

Okay while my twitter feed has probably spoiled every damn thing in Last Exile. I don't want to so let me move on. Show is beautiful. The colors are muted to give this sort of pastoral look most of the time, evoking a sense of Hudson River School romanticism again highlighting that we're in an age of transition with something lost.

Beyond that if they get a name and dialogue you'll remember, Vince, Godwin, Frank, Anthony, Claus, Lavi, Luciolla, Alex, Sophia, Titiana, Alvis, Dio, Mulin, Dunya, Delphine, Cicada, Walker, Ralph Wednesday, Duke Mad-thane, Holly Mad-thane, Alister,  and even Fat Chicken.

Which is why I can't stand Fam, the Silver Wing. It's got no characters. Okay It has characters just none I really care about.

It even makes me care less about all the characters in the original. Every time I got bored with it it would dole out Dio, or Vince, or Titiana and hint they were going to do something cool with them only for them to not show up for another three episodes or so.

At first I wanted to excuse it. "Hey this is a new installment. It's not about them." But every time they pulled that move I would just get madder and madder and madder until some revelations occurred to me.

First off. Nope. No longer giving it a pass. For the past month or so I've been heavily invested in Star Wars Rebels. And that show got me to care about it's new cast of immigrants in about 3 minutes flat.



And then I couldn't get my head out of the stars and I realized if you rip out all the original cameos Fam, the Silver Wing is nothing more than a run of the mill low budget space opera anime.

And now I'm trying to figure out how I feel about that. Let me parse my words very carefully. In my head I know that Gundam (all of it), Battle of the Planets, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Legend of Galactic Heroes form some of the foundations for this medium. Further more like what you like and all.

All the same every season there are some slow, monotonous clunky ones.



That drone on like the most boring history teacher in the world. And to a degree I get it. They're trying to tap into that relational aspect of history where big moments are the result of small decisions made for even smaller reasons.

But their characters always sound more like textbooks written a century or two after the fact rather than living breathing human beings with personalities and relationships.

I love the small moments of Last Exile. Lavi waking up Claus and yelling at him that his oversleeping keeps them from getting the best cuts at the deli. It explains everything you need to know about the relationship between these two. They take care of each other and are practically a married couple in all but name.

They're basically the Lindberghs.

And don't get me started on all the moments between Sophia, Alex and Vince, or what Dio's death scene says about him and his relationship to Luciolla. I'll call the man in Fam DINO. Screw it Fam itself is LEINO. Last Exile in Name Only.


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