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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 5 Theatrical trailer
  • 3 Cast/crew biographies - Character profiles
  • Photo gallery - 25 pics
  • 2 Short film - Creditless titles

Last Exile 1 - The First Move

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

From the trailers alone this show looked great. Some clever use of computer modelling had been dragged into a 2D environment and a film dealing with strange flying machines in a clear blue sky.

It turns out it’s not a film, but an ongoing animé series made for Japanese television in 2003. The trailer hadn’t lied either, this show is superb. Steering itself miles away from the general animé mecha wars, Last Exile has re-engineered them to suit itself. Vast armies fight in giant floating tanks in the skies over an imaginary world based on our own. Taking elements from our history and modifying them into a bizarre mixture of the past and the future, this retro design for the show creates a more pleasant style than that of 1984 or War of the Worlds, while still having simple and plentiful comparisons to draw.

This world of fighting armies in the skies is brilliantly envisioned and even delivered in 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement for a change. Not many animés use this screen size and it manages to portray the vastness of the battles without disappointing. The computer animation that has been imported to the majority of 2D character work has been well done, but for occasional moments of ordinariness. However, the bulk of this show looks deliciously pretty.

The story is novel and intensely interesting, with the entire world created within used rather than just a clean overlay of life in a futureworld. The major characters struggle against the rationing of war and finding work as mail delivery freelancers, living on the ground in a rural slum. Yet, they still live their lives in much the way anyone would; with laughter and challenges and friendship.

Here we have the first four episodes on this first disc, which is one of an eventual seven-disc box set. Our episode list runs thus:

  • Episode One: First Move
    Lavie Head and Claus Yalca are two teenage orphans who freelance as mail delivery people. They are entrusted to deliver a message to a warring army high in the skies over their world. As the orphans arrive and the giant warship is still reeling from a previous battle with heavy casualties, they are attacked by an unknown armada who aren’t fighting in the prescribed methodology.
  • Episode Two: Luft Vanship
    The attack leaves Lavie and Claus short of delivering their message, so they employ the P.A. system to deliver it to the leader of the warship. Soon, due to their commitment, they are entrusted with another important mission in return.
  • Episode Three: Transpose
    Returning to regular life, Lavie and Claus prepare for that week’s race against the other local pilots. They employ a new booster and look like finally winning when they encounter another freelancer who is seriously injured. He entrusts his mail to the orphans and they accept before escaping a horrifying and mysterious enemy.
  • Episode Four: Zugzwang
    After taking on the delivery, Claus and Lavie and their new friend Al must try to escape from the deadly new enemy. However, after being trapped and seemingly beaten, they are helped by another mysterious new friend.

This is entirely impressive and the design of this retro industrial influenced series is astounding. There are even less subtle references to more recent epics like the Pod Race in Phantom Menace that the quick will pick up on. Good stuff. Bring on Disc Two!

  Video
Contract

Incredible delivery here with pristine colour and transfer quality. As noted the digital 3D is mostly excellent with but a few lesser moments. The lighting here is also worthy of note, as they’ve mixed both computer lighting with natural animation ability to create a brilliantly lit stage for the series. The battles in the air are also remarkable with nothing to be faulted, as even the animation cycles aren’t shorter six or 12 frames but deeper and more realistic 18 or 24s.

In whole, this series is spectacular and one I am now quite hooked on. Now I gotta find time to watch another animé series. That’s okay though. This rules!

  Audio
Contract

Whilst only delivered here in Dolby 2.0 stereo, this is more than adequate for the soundstage of the series. Dialogue is all available in original Japanese or dubbed English (as usual) and both sound fine. Subtitles are slightly different to the English delivery, but not in a monumental manner. Sound effects are awesome, particularly during the monster battle scenes and even incorporate some newer sounds with the bizarre alien attackers.

Music is the pinnacle here. This has been scored by a group called Dolce Triad and features an eclectic mix of world music that joins to fuse a new reality on this otherworld. The opening strains of didgeridoo and bagpipes may sound peculiar verbally, but in actuality sound sensational. The whole score is allied like this with varying different ethnic instruments mixing to create a brand new feel. Awesome!

  Extras
Contract

Only a small bunch, but worthy for the most part. Firstly there are the textless opening and closing credits of the show, and these actually run for quite a while compared to credits of other animé, and feature some great animation and action stuff. So, a worthy inclusion.

The promo trailer that comes next is the one I referred to earlier and is superb. This too runs in 1.78:1 with enhancement and goes for 1:53.

Character profiles follow and there are three included, for Lavie, Claus and Alyis. Not much here save for a few text pages, but worth a look. On a similar track is the art gallery which contains 25 colour model sheets with plenty of the other mail vanships to check out (the vanships are the mail planes the freelancers all fly around and race in).

Finally, the Madman Propaganda trailers. These include the loathesome Initial D, Haibane Renmei, Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie and Grave of the Fireflies.

So not a bad batch, but the show is entirely strong enough to stand on its own.

  Overall  
Contract

This is an extraordinary show filled with incredible images of war, landscapes and action. The characters are well-described as is the world they inhabit. The story also progresses at a regular pace, not discarding important matters so as to get to the action and even showing the lesser moments to help build on the characters within.

I am wholly impressed by the series and am looking forward to seeing where it goes, something I haven’t felt for an animé since Haibane-Renmei a little while ago. This is plain old good stuff with exceptional animation and design. Just brilliant.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3720
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      And I quote...
    "Exceptional animé incorporating 3D modelling and animation with traditional 2D stuff in a brilliantly envisioned alternate world."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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