When a sequel to Last Exile was announced, it had a real air of desperation to it. It felt like Gonzo were desperately rummaging through their back catalogue to find an IP with recognisable quality that they could rehash for some extra dough. The original Last Exile was great, but it was also complete, and ended in a way that solved all the characters issues and wrapped everything up in a perfect package. It by no stretch needed a sequel. But they did so anyway, setting it with new characters and on a completely different planet, with only very loose connections to what happened in the original. That all said, Gonzo put an extraordinary amount of effort into this, pumping out something that I would say could stand proud alongside the original. That is, if it wasn’t for Fam.
Let’s talk about the good first though. Last Exile was a standard-bearer for how to integrate CGI into hand-drawn animation well, keeping only the machinery CGI. Last Exile Fam is that except bigger, better and with more intricate detail. The scale of the CGI models for the battleships is phenomenal. They really give the sense of these giant clunky machines that were built by real people, with insignias and rivets and everything. Asides from simply looking impressive, this also helps flesh out the world by designing everything so well. The variations between the bad guys factory produced fancy ships and the pirates less conventional looking weapons to the Russian women’s pointy fighter jets. There’s a real sense of different cultures conveyed through the designs. It feels like a proper world. There’s a great sense of epic scale to these battles too, because you can feel how immense these ships are. Compared to something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, where the space battles may as well have been some kid on his playroom floor going “pew pew pew”, when a ship explodes in Last Exile Fam, it really gives the sense that a monster has been taken down. The pitched battle sequences here are probably the best in any anime I’ve ever seen.
The way the different cultures are portrayed ties into the other big area I feel Last Exile Fam excels at: The politics. Each nation has a reason for fighting and reasons for wanting peace, but what it does really well is how it is portrayed. It’s not done through some boring narration over a shot of people fighting. When you just throw names of nations and political ideals at you, it just goes in one ear and out the other. You have no reason to care. Last Exile Fam does this well by having the politics centre around a small group of characters that are central to the conflict and it’s their ideals and personalities that shape the direction. On one side we have the two Princesses of Turan and on the other we have the military one-eyed general and his teeny tiny Augusta. It all works because it explains why these people are fighting through character development, which is how politics in a story should be conveyed. OK, it’s a little too keen on making the military general start massacring people, but his reasoning are logical and human. You understand why he’s doing it.
The problem starts when the person they use to watch this conflict through the eyes of is a complete brainless twat. As far as I’m concerned, Princess Millia is the main character in this story, or at least she should be. She’s the character with flaws and the one with the real human investment in this conflict, both for political and personal reasons. She is the one who is developing slowly through her encounters with different nations and people. However the person she chose to ride around with is Fam. Fucking. Fam. The most brainless moronic single-minded simpleton to ever grace the skies. A character who mindlessly blunders her way through anything and everything, not having the mental capacity to doubt herself or justify her actions beyond her witless adherence to the genki philosophy. This character archetype has slowly but surely become one of my most hated, up there alongside the Yuji Everylead the Bland. The problem here is that genki juvenile idiotic energy is treated like A Good Thing. Her justification to just jump into things because it feels right should not be something that constantly rewards her. It’s not that I can’t enjoy a stupid character. Yuki in Future Diary is an idiot, but he gets punished for his idiocy, and is therefore incredibly entertaining to watch. People just conform to Fam’s way of thinking, degrading the intelligence of the conversation around her.
Possibly my favourite episode of the series so far was the flashback one to the Grand Race where Fam is only 6 years old, part of the reason being because her idealistic energy flying in the face of actual facts fitted someone who was only 6 years old. Every single other character from the flashback had since developed. But not Fam. Oh no. She remains exactly the fucking same. The next episode had a scene where Fam said she wanted to return to the times like the one where the Grand Race took place, only for the Russian chick to point out that there was an assassination there that highlighted that there was unrest beneath this seemingly happy scene and it was merely a mask for the problems in the world. But such a complex issue couldn’t fit into Fam’s tiny brain, so she just blunders on saying she wants to recreate that day anyway. What’s worse is the other characters agree with her. They get sucked in by her stupidity, their own brains abandoning their skulls in the face of this black hole of intelligent writing.
I like this new rendition of Last Exile. I love the scale and intensity of the battles, the development of characters such as Millia and the military commander, and how well realised the world is. But Fam is a giant gormless genki wart on this otherwise great series, degrading everything she comes into contact with. Fuck you Fam, you suck.