Last Exile - Volume 2: Positional Play Review
After their encounter with a Guild vessel, exhausted Claus and Lavie begrudgingly hand over Alvis to Alex Row and his men. From here Alvis is taken onboard the grand ship, Silvana which Claus and Lavie desperately seek in order to rescue her. Upon their arrival the Silvana comes under fire from an attacking Guild fleet, forcing the young pilots to stay aboard and fight.
Last Exile doesn't mess about for its second volume. No sooner has Alvis been taken away from them, Claus and Lavie immediately set off to where the rest of this volume takes place. As youngsters the pair find themselves not being taken seriously within the belly of the Silvana. Claus is quickly accosted and laughed at by the ship's mechanics, while Lavie as a young woman still contends with her unpredictable bouts of emotional outbreaks, due to her job becoming tougher, with no amount of credit or appraisal given for what she does.
Lavie gets a lot more attention in this volume as her character is written in a way that enables her to face her fears. As a navigator used to making deliveries she is second to none but in battle she is unfit and this causes tension in her new environment. For Lavie the new situation to which she is forced into becomes a test of endurance and mind over matter as she knows she has a special relationship with Claus and that in order to run like clockwork they have to always be in the right mindset, staying firmly attuned to the task at hand. In this volume the series takes more time out to further extend their relationship whereas first time around it only begun to dig at the surface.
Onboard the Silvana they meet several new faces, the most interesting to date being young pilot, Tatiana Wisla and her navigator Alister. Although we don't get a great insight into either of these it is apparent they work in good unison but while Tatiana is constantly focused on battle and little else out of the field, her partner feels slightly disconnected from her on a social level. Later on we begin to witness a strange partnership as if Alister is no more than an instrument to the eyes of Tatiana. What we do see from Tatiana is a strong willed young woman, who doesn't take things lightly but does have a certain amount of respect for people, mostly at this stage Claus who has so far managed to intrigue and yet annoy her at the same time. After a rough introduction Claus and Lavie eventually befriend the ship's mechanics, who inject some well timed and much needed humour to the series.
Not only does Claus manage to get off to a decent start with Tatiana he also catches the ever curious and lazy eye of the feminine Lord Dio, who commands the Guild army with right hand man, Luciola. Dio is impressed by Claus, not because of his skills as a fighter pilot but something else, resulting in a dog fight of wits, much to Claus's frustration. We know very little about the Guild other than their playful desires and virtually unstoppable fleet, so future episodes should be interesting as their motivations are still unclear.
With not much else being divulged as to the importance of Alvis and the fact that all four episodes here take place on the Silvana, Last Exile delivers upfront a barrage of action sequences that comprise of stunning, aerial photography and combat which produces more adrenaline in one episode than some feature films manage. GONZO have these techniques down pat and they're not about to disappoint at this stage. There's a certain amount of beauty and grace to these sequences that feature large and small steam powered ships effortlessly take on the skies and the execution of it all is simply breathtaking as the studio get ever closer to perfecting the blend of several mediums.
The world of Prester is examined a little further by episode eight of the series. After their tough time facing a Guild squadron Claus and Lavie get to sit back for a little R&R. Here they are reunited with someone who once helped them, a musketeer called Mullin who appears to be very fond of Lavie and much of this episode follows them as they go on a gambling spree and enjoy the surrounds of an air born casino. An interesting aspect of the series here is that water is the most sacred of all drinks, easily substituting alcohol as a preference amongst pilots. No one more than Lavie expresses sheer joy in drinking fresh water, which is scarce in many areas and to highlight something like this so much is a nice conceptual addition to the series.
Volume 2 - "Positional Play" features the following four episodes. As a note of warning there are some minor spoilers so feel free to skip this segment of the review.
Alex Row saves Claus and Lavie from the Guild ship, before taking Alvis away to his ship - the Silvana. Claus is determined to keep his promise and look after Alvis, so he and Lavie set out toward the Silvana. They eventually arrive at their destination but are confronted by the ship's mechanics and one of its ace pilots, Tatiana. With their Vanship damaged and no way to get back they are stuck on the ship for an indefinite period.
Lord Dio and Luciola find one of their downed craft at the site where Alex saved Claus and discover he was protecting the young girl. Meanwhile Tatiana and Alister arrive at the Emperor's palace and inform him that Alvis is safely onboard the Silvana. Alvis decides to roam around the ship but is soon found by its mechanics who decide to look after her while Claus is recovering from his injuries. Soon there is a call and the Guild is about to attack.
Claus has offered his service as a fighter pilot for the Silvana and is quickly taught how to use the Vanship's weaponry. After despatching one of the "Starfish" ships he takes to the skies where he soon meets Dio, who is out to play a few games.
The Silvana makes its way to "Walker’s Dock" after its battle. Here Lavie and Claus get a little rest time to enjoy the casino, where Lavie runs into Mullin, who reminds her of their last encounter when he presents her water canteen that she gave him. The enjoyment doesn't last long when Lavie and the Silvana's mechanics discover that the casino is corrupt, prompting a fight to break out that will result in a duel between the Silvana and another airship.
While there are no little booklets or goodies with this release, ADV present the series with another attractive sleeve which features Alex Row and the XO on front and on the reverse Row and Claus (though this is just artwork and doesn't serve as a reversible cover).
Last Exile is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 ratio which is almost a beautiful transfer. The series has a lot of hazy sequences, which tend to highlight artefacts and provide most of the transfer's problems, though this is slight and not distracting. With the pacing of the series' action sequences it is good to see them being handled well, with no visible pixellation or blocking, aside from some light banding. Otherwise the series is superb looking, with brilliant colour tones and detail that are finely rendered in amongst its computer generated moments.
ADV offers a choice of English 2.0 or Japanese 2.0, both of which are excellent tracks but I know where I'd place my money. Presumably we don't get an English 5.1 as this was no doubt ported over from Geneon's R1 release. There isn't much difference sonically between the two and listening on a larger set up will reveal some nice use of surrounds through the rear speakers, though separation isn’t huge.
Non Credit Closing
You can enjoy the nicely animated closing sequence without any credits ruining its face.
Original Japanese Closing
This is the same closing sequence but with kanji overlapping the print.
Commercial Collection (2:32)
This is a series of advertisements for the Last Exile OST collection. I know I want to go and by it now for sure.
This is brief, consisting of only five pages. These are dedicated to Alex Row, Tatiana Wisla and Alister Agrew.
25 pages of character and mechanical designs, all of which feature in this particular volume.
Trailers as usual, this time for Kino's Journey, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum, Get Backers and Gad Guard.
It's still early days for Last Exile as it merely hints at any kind of development but what it lacks here it makes up for in other areas. There's enough character insight to please and plenty of quick fire action to astound so things are good. It's also not surprising given how many volumes we are to get over the coming months so time will tell if its secrets become unlocked and I'd wager they most certainly will be. For now sit back and enjoy this instalment of the series as it takes us to new heights (sorry).