Created by Gonzo, released domestically in the US by Geneon in 2004. 26 episodes spread out across 7 discs. DVD extras include art galleries, commercials, trailers, a production interview, and creditless titles.
Better planning (like keeping two-part episodes on the same disc) could have (and should have) brought that down to 6 discs, not seven. 4 episodes for discs 1-5, and just 3 on the last two.
Should have written this up as soon as I finished the show, which was a good month ago, at least. I hope I can remember enough to write up a decent review here. I should start by saying that I enjoyed Last Exile, in that it entertained me…most of the time. I did get a little bored by it every now and then. And I had a lot of problems with the show as well. It is a decent little show, one that I would recommend watching at least once. If for nothing else than some fantastic animation (with some amazing airship battles) and a really great soundtrack. That’s the best the show has going for it, along with the Range Murata character designs. The story, while interesting, has a lot of flaws in its execution. It could have (and should have) been a much better show; all the potential was there, but it just seems to fall a little flat. I’m not sure why, though looking into the show’s origin and production could reveal some clues.
The main problem is that the story just feels so choppy, as if pieces are missing. I often felt as if the story jumped forward without explanation, leaving me a little lost and confused from time to time. Every once in a while there would be an unhelpful flashback. That’s the easiest way to describe the feeling – that pieces are simply missing from the story. As if they should be there, but were instead left on the cutting room floor. Within the rather complex story are the characters, who are at once simple and complex themselves. Their development leaves much to be desired. Often you think a character is going one way, and then they go in the opposite direction instead…or nowhere at all. This happens most often in regards to character relationships (particularly romances, if that’s important to you). Something starts to develop, and then it just seems to get tossed aside. On top of that, a character or two dies for unnecessary reasons; which is to say no real reason at all other than to exit them from the story (and it has no impact on anything). I’d like to explain more fully, but this would give away the story, so you’ll just have to see for yourself and decide if you feel the same.
In Last Exile, vanship pilots Lavie and Claus fly deliveries (it’s sort of like a mail service) in the vanship left to them by their deceased fathers. Several years ago their fathers left on an extremely dangerous mission to deliver a letter of peace from Anatoray to Disith. Unfortunately the Disith were on the other side of the Grand Stream, an extremely powerful and destructive stream of air, which proves destructive to fullsized battleships, never mind the small vanship that their fathers fly in. Only one man from a second vanship on the journey returns, and reports the death of their fathers. Orphaned and alone, they decide to sell their home and spend what little money they have to get their vanship up and running, promising each other to one day go to the Grand Stream to see what their fathers saw. During a vanship race they come across a crashed vanship, and pick up a young girl named Alvis whom they are told to deliver to the Silvana, a powerful, infamous battleship captained by Alex Rowe. Once aboard the Silvana, they discover the true nature of the battle that rages in the skies, and must decide what their own part will become in the quest for peace, in a world where the "freedom" of the skies is ruled over by the merciless Guild.
Lots of familiar vocal work in the English dub, which is well done for the most part. Johnny Yong Bosch voices Claus (Trigun, Wolf's Rain, Bleach), Kari Wahlgren is Lavie (Samurai Champloo, FLCL, Witch Hunter Robin), and Crispin Freeman is Alex Rowe (Blood +, Ghost in the Shell, Witch Hunter Robin).
As I said, I think it’s worth sitting through once, but I wouldn’t buy it (though I would definitely consider buying the CD soundtracks). Unless you’re just really into the animation, and if that’s the case, your money would be better spent on the Robot books. Though I do recommend buying any figure of the adorable Alvis you can find.
Sorry for the funky text issues; typed this up in MS Word and copied it over. The html coding didn't agree with it.