Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing Part 1 Limited Edition Anime Blu-ray Review

Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing Part 1 Limited Edition Anime Blu-ray Review

LASTEXILE – Fam The Silver Wing

Unifying a planet by force never goes well, especially when fifteen year old girls get involved.

What They Say:
Years ago, humanity abandoned the ruined Earth. Generations later, with the planet again capable of sustaining life, mankind returned. In the skies above the reborn world, rebellious young Fam and her best friend Giselle make their living as Sky Pirates. Atop sleek Vespa Vanships, the girls dart fearlessly through the clouds, capturing and selling airborne battleships for profit. It’s a life of care-free swashbuckling – until the Ades Federation attacks.

The only nation to remain on Earth during humanity’s exile, The Ades Federation wages war against those who returned only after the planet’s darkest days had passed. When Fam and Giselle rescue a princess from the clutches of the rampaging Ades armada, they join the young royal’s battle to save her Kingdom from destruction – and undertake the impossible mission of uniting humanity in peace.
This limited edition includes a chipboard artbox designed to hold parts 1 and 2 plus a booklet featuring the art of Last Exile!

Contains episodes 1-11 plus episode 9.5

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is solid throughout as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the new English language dub in 5.1, both of which used the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has a pretty good mix of action and dialogue scenes so you get the full range as it’s used here with both tracks. The series core is a stereo mix and that comes across very well here as the forward soundstage is well used with the action throughout and some good scenes with dialogue as well because of the way the characters and ships flit about. The 5.1 mix takes things up a notch and adds more to the rear channels but largely just goes with the bass being improved, which certainly helps the actions sequences. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing from 2011 to 2012, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The set contains the first twelve episodes of the series, which includes the 9.5 recap episode, spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by Gonzo, the show hews closely to the previous series with its look but a bit more polish overall which helps it to connect well to what came before while also looking current. The show has a rough world feeling to it with the mechanical aspects for a lot of it and the whole piracy side where it’s not all about bright, glittering and clean looking outfits and locales. We do get some of that with the military side at times and the various governments/kingdoms with their outfits, but by and large it has a good but real world look to a lot of it. The animation has a clean look and the mechanical animation is slick and strong, though it stands out intentionally rather than attempting to blend in to the character and background animation. Some of the darker colors look a little murky at times and it has some noise in a few solid color fields, but by and large it’s a clean looking transfer that represents the source material well.

Packaging:
The limited edition version of this release has some good packaging to it and a nice extra inclusion with it. The heavy chipboard box has a great illustration of Fam and Giselle on the front amid all their usual environments which gives it a rusty kind of feeling that works very well with the outfits and designs. The back cover gives us a lighter and more silvery look at the pair in their vanship as it lilts through the clouds in the sky with some good sunshine coming down on them. The bottom portion has a strip around it that has the series logo across it on both sides that’s simple but effective. Inside the box, we get the Blu-ray case that holds the first half of the series while the spot for the second half is filled with a spacer box that’s black and white with some decent artwork. We also get a really nicely designed art of Last Exile booklet, which is far too short, that has some of the Japanese home video covers and promotional artwork that is really great to have here.

The Blu-ray case inside is slightly thicker than normal but not so much that it’s problematic. The front cover uses the interior shot from the box itself of the two girls which looks good with the gold strip along the bottom that has the logo. The back cover is fairly traditional with a few choice quotes and a look at what’s on the disc and the team behind it. The usual array of shots from the show are included and we also get a decent summary of the premise. Extras are clearly listed and we also have a good technical breakdown grid, though some of it is a little hard to read in a few places because of the color design. The cover is fully reversible where the front has a great image of Lilliana and Millia together while the back side of it is the same as the main cover. No show related inserts are included.

Menu:
The menu design for this release mirrors the packaging in a way as the navigation is kept along the bottom with a silver/gray strip that has the logo along the left with the navigation section itself on the right. The rest of the screen has the silver underwater design to it with the logo floating in the middle of it as the light shines through with a wavy feeling to it. It’s simple and fits the show well enough so that it works nicely enough. The only problem is the usual here in that the navigation text is just too small even on a larger screen most of the time which makes it difficult to read with the color design used. Submenus load quickly and easily and navigation is breeze as it’s the standard layout. The show has its audio/subtitle tracks locked so the language selection only allows you to select the audio.

Extras:
This release has a couple of good extras to it that definitely makes it a bit more fun. For English language fans, we get the fun episode commentaries for two episodes, one on each set, that allows the cast and production team to talk about the show and their experiences with it while watching that episode. The release has a couple of good promotional spots as well as the clean opening and closing sequences. We also get the first round of bonus OVA shorts which has seven of them that run a total of about three and a half minutes. They’re simple little pieces that add a nice bit of humor to the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the very well received Last Exile series that debuted in 2003, it really is surprising in some ways that it took so long for a sequel series of some form to be made. Starting in 2011 and retaining much of the top level team from the original work, Last Exile – Fam the Silver Wing – takes us just a couple of years forward from the events of that first series. Admittedly, I can’t remember much of Last Exile at this point beyond the general look of it and the flow of events. So when I went into this series during the simulcast, it was such a confusing and uninteresting mess that I gave up after the recap happened after the first nine episodes. That was just to give the production team a window to get back on track, but man, it was the last thing I needed at the time. But by that point, I was so frustrated with the show that I just washed my hands of it until I could just marathon it.

And that definitely made a huge different in my taking in of the show and understanding of it. The big picture aspect to it here is that the Ades Federation, with a young figurehead leader that can be manipulated easily enough since her mother died ten years earlier, is attempting to forcefully unify the world. With those that had left years ago during the greater war and fled to the skies, they came back and reclaimed lands that were taken by others and caused one hell of a mess. Now, the Federation is intent on taking down all of these smaller nations that are straining events around the world and unifying it all by force in order to create one world, one people, that can deal with what’s threatening them all. That last part is kind of off to the side, but there’s more than just a simple conquer power play going on here. The show opens by giving us an example of how the Federation works as they go to meet and talk with the young proxy leaders of Turan only to have them essentially crush the country, capture the elder sister and use her power as a key to the Exiles up the sky to utilize that as a weapon to desecrate a holy area.

That incident is what introduces us to the core cast of the series. The Turan daughters of the king, the proxies, get split at this point as Lilliana is taken by the Ades Federation while the younger, Millia, is rescued by a pair of fifteen year old sky pirate girls named Fam and Giselle. We get some good bits with Fam before all of this, introducing us to the life of a sky pirate and all it entails, and also some of the quirks of the pair. Fam is a straightforward type where she’s kind of a luck of the moment and filled with immense flying skill while Giselle is all about the calm and collected navigator type that’s capable of sussing out a situation quickly and with minimal details. The two initially see some reward aspect to rescuing Millia, but there’s also the matter of just doing right after what the Federation did. For Fam, it works out well as when she brings Millia to her father in Turan, she gets charged with protecting her and getting a pretty good reward right from the get go. With their fates intertwined, it’s off and running as Millia hides out with the sky pirates and eventually hooks up with a segment of the Turan military and begins to set up a government in exile until they can figure out what to do.

Being that the girls are the same age, it’s an easy bonding process once they get some sanctuary with the military ship and form some bonds there, but there’s also an amusing deal made with the captain. Because of what the girls get out of being there, Fam and Giselle contract with them to gain fifteen warships for them. Which is a sizable undertaking to be sure, but Fam sees it as the right thing to do to build the fleet that Millia needs in order to secure Turan once again. There’s a certain youthfulness to it all of course, but with the skill and surprise that the girls have when piloting, it makes for some exciting scenes as they capture ships, wheel and deal and even gamble a bit by going up against one of the best that used to participate in the Grand Race that Fam still dreams about taking part in some day when they happen again. It’s simple to be sure, but there’s a good and easy smoothness to it that definitely makes the skill and ability of the team work well, even when Millia starts participating more and learns what’s involved.

In Summary:
While I couldn’t even get to the halfway mark of the series during its simulcast run, I’m really surprised with how well the show works in marathon form. I find myself liking the characters more, seeing the situation come together in a cleaner and much more engaging way that has me looking forward to the second half. Though it doesn’t feel like it’s on the same level as the first series, it’s definitely standing well on its own here without being tied heavily to the characters and mythology of the first. There’s some neat twists to it that come into play, I’m definitely liking the characters a lot more and the mechanical animation is still one of the best selling points of the show as the ships are just fascinating to watch. The set is nicely put together with a solid package, good extras and a visual presentation that obviously shames the simulcast and makes you realize the quality of the animation itself. I’m definitely glad I took the chance on marathoning it rather than just giving up.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, Spinoff Anime CM Series “Friday Night” #01-07, FAM Event Opening Movie, Commercial Collection, Textless Songs

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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