Last Exile: Fam of the Silver Wing is the sequel to 2003’s Last Exile, which won my bronze award for being significantly better than most anime, but still not within spitting distance of some of the titans of the industry. While the first series focused on the journey of two friends as they delivered a girl named Alvis to a pirate ship and inadvertently put an end to the oppressive rule of their planet’s overseers, the sequel is operating on a grander scale.
While the story was quite good and the characters memorable, it did a less than satisfactory job with immersing the audience in the setting. It didn’t explain just who the Guild was until the end, or what the purpose of the conflict was that propelled the story forward. Thankfully, judging from the first episode of Fam of the Silver Wing, this issue has probably been rectified without dedicating several minutes to clumsy exposition. Also, you have a girl in negligee hanging by a bungee cord from a large aircraft, so I’m sure that plays to some kind of fetish.
Basically, this world is playing host to two opposing factions: A kingdom headed by two princesses while their father’s ill, and a federation likely formed to check this kingdom. One day when the two meet to arrange a truce, the federation goes back on its word and moves to attack the two princesses before launching a full scale invasion of their kingdom. All seems lost before sky pirates, headed by our true main character Fam, swoop in to save the day. The pirates destroy a hefty chunk of the federation’s fleet before commandeering the kingdom’s flagship and saving the princesses, under the condition that they get to use the ship from that moment forward. And thus begins a tale of political intrigue the likes of which will maybe rock the anime industry for years to come… or it may just be a retread of the original, just on a larger scale. Either way, at least it’ll be a spectacle.
The battles are still as spectacular as ever, and the ships mix and match various components of steampunk into a veritable mix of fantastic flying machines. Zeppelins somewhat ill-suited to dogfights zip here and there, peppered with missiles and guns from the sides of gigantic air frigates as every ship makes a desperate move to breach thick cloud cover and gain the advantage of height. Basically, f your adrenaline isn’t pumping sometime in the last ten minutes of the episode, you are doing something very wrong with your life.
Possibly the biggest draw though is the vibrant setting that contrasts perfectly with the parched borderline-desert world of the first Last Exile. Water is plentiful in this new world, reflecting the illumination from the many moons inexplicably grouped together with an almost blinding shimmer. The budget and love that went into the animation is evident, with everything meticulously designed while still feeling almost alive. Very few movies, video games, and shows can truly capture a living breathing ecosystem quite like Last Exile did here. Even if the rest of the series turns out to be a total flop, I will continue to praise the aesthetics that work so diligently to mask the shit.
If I have any complaint, it’s that Fam of the Silver Wing might be working on too large a scale for its own good. Hell, if it were only running for thirteen episodes that would definitely be my sentiment. Compared with the first iteration, it’s working on a less personal level. I mean if there was any aspect that the first series absolutely excelled at, it was the characterization. This one’s looking at the big picture, soaking in the sights and sounds of the impending federation invasion, while not giving much time to our heroes.
But, to be perfectly honest, the first Last Exile was safe. It was good because it didn’t risk much until the end, when even I thought some of the elements got rather schlocky. This one feels like more of a chance, an effort to push the envelope and delve into new territories the likes of which we can only imagine. If it does well, I daresay this could be one of the best shows of this new decade. It’s just that strong.
One question that will most likely come up in the comments section is whether watching the first series will be required viewing in order to understand this sequel. And while I say that prior understanding will definitely help, and somewhat explain the presence of one rather out of place albino, it isn’t instrumental to understanding Fam of the Silver Wing as far as I can tell. I’m sure there will be plenty of references to the first series that would fly over the heads of new viewers, but thus far it looks to be a story that will hold up on its own merits without borrowing too heavily from its predecessor.
To put it bluntly, Fam of the Silver Wing puts a lot on your plate right from the get-go. Either you’ll enjoy the fast-paced air skirmishes and fun characters, or you’ll find the whole affair overbearing and tedious. Quite frankly, I know nobody in the latter camp thus far, so I think that speaks volumes as to the general competence of this introduction. If you give it a chance to sink its hooks into you, you’ll be in for quite the treat in the next few episodes.