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Last Exile -Fam, the Silver Wing- PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 30 March 2012 11:29
Making what should have been a triumphant return around eight years after the original Last Exile comes the second season of GONZO's signature work. With the Exiles having returned home, pressure for resources and conflict between the returnees and those who had remained on the planet are creating an unstable situation - into which young sky pirates Fam and Gisey are about to be dropped headlong...

High above the sacred waters of the Grand Lake, a battle rages between the Ades Federation and the Turan Kingdom. Powered by the might of its battle fleet, the Federation seeks world domination. For the Turan Kingdom and its princesses, all hope lies with a female sky pirate named Fam - who has an annoying habit of sleepwalking out of her airship on a regular basis. Not good for the health, that. When peace talks between Ades and Turan turn out to be a sham, with Ades declaring war just when a peace treaty was meant to be signed, Fam and her friends find themselves quickly drawn into the war...

The main driver behind the conflict is Ades' Premier, Luscinia - he's very much the power behind the throne, manipulating the young monarch of Ades, the Augusta Sara, into following his course of action. His reasoning is quite simple: over the past 100 or so years, several of the vast Exile colony ships have returned home, bringing with them a huge number of people - people who have displaced local populations, and put a heavy strain on the planet's ability to support its population. Some thinning out is required - mass genocide, some might say - and ironically, the Exiles provide just the method for doing that. The kingdom of Turan becomes an early victim, after Luscinia kidnaps the princess & heir to the throne Lilliana - who is also the Key to Turan's Exile - and, perhaps taking a cue from Gundam, simply drops it on Turan's capital. You would think such a move would turn Lilliana against Luscinia fairly quickly, but he's a persuasive man, and with Lilliana converted to his cause and willing to use her Exile to fight alongside him, the war gathers pace.

Meanwhile, "stars" of the show Fam and Gisey come into contact with Lilliana's younger sister, Millia, and with the battleship Silvius, of the United Kingdom of Anatoray-Disith (names that should be familiar if you saw the first season). As next-in-line to the Turan throne after Lilliana, Millia finds herself at the centre of efforts to form an alliance to oppose Luscinia's plans - an alliance that soon comes to feature the Augusta Sara herself.

On one level, then, -Fam, the Silver Wing is a series of epic battles - the fate of the world is at stake, there are huge fleets prepared to do battle on both sides to bring about the outcome they want, and when they come into contact with each other, sparks fly. The battle scenes are hugely impressive visually, while maintaining the signature style of the original series, and I quite often found myself on the edge of my seat while these sequences unfolded - the series isn't afraid of delivering blows to the "good guys", there's a good amount of to'ing-and-fro'ing in the flow of the war that keeps it unpredictable for the most part, and on that side of the story there's little room for disappointment.

Sadly, though, there's more to the series than the battle sequences, and that's where it begins to fall apart a bit, for several reasons. First up, the new lead characters, Fam and Gisey, aren't really suited to being leads. Fam is idealistic but immature, not understanding how the world works and driven purely by her desire to see a rerun of the Grand Race, whose one previous running was rather spoiled when the then-Augusta, Sara's mother, was assassinated at the event. Gisey rides on Fam's coat-tails - a talented navigator, to be certain, but very unsure of herself in just about any other way. While the two, through accident of fate, have found themselves at the centre of the action, you never get the feeling that they're making any impact on the series - they're just a cute courier service for Millia, and I often found myself wondering why they had top billing. Millia at least plays a major part, courtesy of her royal lineage, although even that's a bit overplayed.

The second major flaw is setting the time of the series close enough to the first season that there's a natural expectation you'll see its characters, an expectation that's stoked by Doi's key role and the presence of several of the old Silvana crew - but for the most part, all we get are short cameos, just enough to remind us of how good the first season cast was (and point out the injustice of Lavi getting screwed out of significant screen time in both seasons now) but not enough for any of them to have any real impact. Even Dio seems to spend most of the series on the run with Alvis, rather than standing and fighting - which would be a far more Guild-like thing to do.

Finally, there are massive flaws in the storyline. The first season may have had pacing issues & a rushed ending, but at least it made sense - here, while series villain Luscinia is given a motive and an understandable reason for going to war with the rest of the world, the methods he chooses to pursue his aim make no sense at all, and while I don't want to spoil that side of things, I ended the series honestly believing the whole thing was a simple waste of time. There are plot threads that are started but then don't go anywhere, leaving you wondering why the time was wasted on them in the first place. There were very few characters that I could connect with, they were caught up in a war whose justification was flimsy, and whose execution - by both sides - was seriously flawed.

A telling point: perhaps the best moment in the series was the start of the second "recap" episode, which covered the events of the first season and began with the original OP theme, Cloud Age Symphony. The one moment of nostalgia I had for the original series when that song started playing brought me more enjoyment than any other single scene in -Fam-, and stands as a marker that whatever the new season's aims ultimately were, it failed to achieve them. Watch for the battles, which are impressive - but the rest of it? Sorry, can't recommend.

Rating - **