Last Exile (ラストエグザイル Rasuto Eguzairu?) is a Japanese animated television series created by Gonzo. It featured a production team led by director Koichi Chigira, character designer Range Murata, and production designer Mahiro Maeda. The three had previously worked together in Blue Submarine No. 6, one of the first CG anime series. Last Exile premiered on TV Tokyo on April 7, 2003 and ran for twenty-six episodes until its conclusion on September 29, 2003.
The story is set on the fictional world of Prester, where its inhabitants use aerial vehicles known as vanships as a means of transportation. On this world which is divided in eternal conflict between the nations of Anatoray and Disith, sky couriers Claus Valca and Lavie Head must deliver a girl who holds the key to uniting the two factions. Although Prester itself is not a representation of Earth, it features technology reminiscent of nineteenth century Europe at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Many of its designs were also inspired by Germany's technological advances during the interwar period.
Last Exile was well received in North America, and the series was licensed for the English language by Geneon Entertainment (then Pioneer Entertainment) in June 2003, two months after the first episode aired in Japan. Funimation Entertainment began licensing the series after Geneon ceased production of its titles. It was also licensed for English releases in the United Kingdom by ADV Films and in Australia by Madman Entertainment. Other published media included two soundtracks that are now out of print and a rumored live-action film adaptation.
Last Exile is set on the fictional world of Prester.[Note 1] Prester's two nations of Anatoray and Disith are separated by a turbulent region of the sky known as the Grand Stream and are engaged in eternal conflict according to the code of chivalric warfare. A superior faction known as the Guild enforces these rules. It also provides the two nations with technology but, unknown to them, has dishonorable intentions, to preserve the status quo and enforce its dominance of both sides. Although the story is set in the future, the technology employed differs from that in a typical space opera. Instead, the show's retro-futuristic setting resembles nineteenth century Europe at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Inhabitants of Prester operate aerial vehicles known as vanships in the world's Golden Age of Aviation.
Various scenes in the series also show existing tension between the upper and lower classes. Anatoray's nobility and military officers generally believe that commoners do not understand their codes of chivalry. On the other hand, the lower class also despise the aristocracy for their monopoly on resources. This tension extends to the accessibility of clean water, which varies in price according to purity grades. In the larger story, the advanced Guild society is portrayed as degenerate and lazy, while the people of Anatoray and Disith are creative and industrious.
The series introduces viewers to a wide range of naval and military vocabulary.[Note 2] More primitive navigational methods such as dead reckoning and instruments such as the sextant are also used in the series.
The story revolves around fifteen-year-old pilot Claus Valca and navigator Lavie Head, who fly their vanship as sky couriers in the nation of Anatoray. Although they usually take up missions of relatively low difficulty, they are one day asked to complete the mission of a dying courier. The mission, rated seven stars out of ten, is to deliver a young girl named Alvis Hamilton to the mysterious battleship Silvana. Despite their fears, Claus and Lavie deliver Alvis to the battleship but decide to remain aboard to keep her safe.
Claus and Lavie are initially treated as intruders but eventually befriend the crew of the Silvana. They learn that the Guild intends to capture Alvis for reasons unknown to them. In the first battle between the Silvana and Guild forces, Guild member Dio Eraclea takes an interest in Claus's flying skills and his signature move, the Immelmann turn. Wanting to learn more about Claus, Dio willingly allows himself to be captured by the Silvana. He reveals to Alex Row, the battleship's captain, the existence of four Mysteria which act as a key to something known as Exile.
When the Silvana's executive officer, Sophia Forrester, is revealed to be the Emperor's daughter and heir, she returns to Anatoray at the request of the prime minister. Sophia assumes the throne after the Emperor is killed during a surprise attack at the capital by the Disith nation. She then pleads for an alliance with Disith in order to capture Exile and end the Guild's control. Sophia reveals to Claus that Alvis is linked to the Mysteria, but as preparations for the assault are made, Alvis is captured by the Guild.
Delphine Eraclea, the Maestro of the Guild, reveals that Exile is a colony ship used by those who first settled their world, and she intends to use Alvis and the Mysteria to take control of it. However, Claus and Alvis escape the Guild stronghold and are reunited with Lavie when the alliance fleet attacks. As the fleet follows Exile past the Grand Stream and enters Disith, it is able to destroy Delphine's forces. After Claus and Alvis recite the four Mysteria, Exile reveals itself as a starship that will carry people to a new world free of conflict.
Last Exile was created by Gonzo in celebration of the company's 10th anniversary. It featured a production team led by director Koichi Chigira, character designer Range Murata, and production designer Mahiro Maeda. The three had previously worked together to create Blue Submarine No. 6, one of the first CG anime series.
Conceptual designs were created by Murata, who was given complete freedom to create the setting. He began drawing detailed sketches of machines and everyday objects from a daily newspaper. His research was given no constraints with the exception of production deadlines. Gonzo initially intended for Last Exile to be shown in a space setting, but producers did not want the characters to wear sterile space suits. Instead, the final product was described by Jonathan Mays as an "ugly" world of "rusting bolts, lots of blues and grays". Murata believed the design took "the course the story had laid out". His character conceptualization included a great amount of time spent on costume design. Wanting to portray each character's personality more fully, he "tried to draw in the kind of material that would have been used in creating their clothes and try to represent the stitches connecting the fabric". In contrast to crewmembers of the battleship Silvana who wear modern and utilitarian uniforms, other characters wear traditionally aristocratic attire. High amount of attention was given to character animation. Animators especially experienced difficulties with Alex Row's hair and flowing cape.
Production of Last Exile relied heavily on 3D computer animation. Of the 350 shots used in the first episode, more than 200 included computer-generated animation. In comparison, Gonzo's previous work Vandread used an average of 40 to 50 computer-generated shots per episode. Animation was also supplemented with Victorian era flourishes. In order to combine hand-drawn animation with computer-generated ones, the production team used a technique for non-photorealistic rendering, which could not be used for Blue Submarine No. 6 because of a stylistic conflict. At the 2003 Anime Expo, Maeda, who also worked with Studio Ghibli's production of Castle in the Sky, commented that "[Last Exile] is very advanced in how it will incorporate the two mediums".
Real-world historical designs were also adapted for the fictional world. Flying battleships of the Anatoray and Disith nations included components of Japanese dreadnoughts in commission at the turn of the twentieth century. Uniform designs for Anatoray's musketeers were based on Napoleon Bonaparte's army and American Civil War soldiers. On the other hand, Soviet Red Army fur coats provided the basis for Disith uniforms. Another inspiration for creators came from a silent film of the airship Hindenburg, which depicted the aircraft's UFO-like silver-plated design in contrast to the traditional buildings below. This imagery was reproduced in the series.
Producers selected a specific historical time frame to serve as a point of reference.
We had this image of Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century. We thought that Germany of the interwar period had very interesting characteristics. People think of something of dark and negative because of the rise of the Nazism. But so much of things appeared at that time, like a rapid growth of the cities and richness. Industrial technology, chemistry, scientific discoveries, much of inventions also in the design. Bauhaus appears there, for example. [...] I think that all that Germany produced at that time was extreme and unique.—Mahiro Maeda, interview in Geneon Entertainment's volume 1 compilation DVD of Last Exile
Several characters were also named after historical figures. The name of Claus Valca's father was derived from Hamilcar Barca, the leading commander of Carthaginian forces during the First Punic War and father of the talented tactician Hannibal. An Anatoray general was named after Vitellius, who led the Roman Empire for several months during the Year of the Four Emperors.
Last Exile premiered in Japan on April 7, 2003, and aired on TV Tokyo until the airing of its final episode on September 29. A total of 13 DVD compilations were released by Victor Entertainment between July 23, 2003, and July 21, 2004. A complete seven-disc boxed set was released on November 21, 2004. The deluxe edition of this set included a model of Tatiana's and Alister's red vanship, a short story on the fictional Battle of Otranto,[Note 4] unpublished articles on the series, and illustrations by character designer Range Murata.
After receiving a respectable amount of attention in the United States, Pioneer Entertainment (later Geneon Entertainment) licensed the series in June 2003, two months after the first episode aired in Japan, and the first compilation DVD was released on November 18. TechTV premiered the series in English language during its Anime Unleashed programming block on March 8, 2004. The first thirteen episodes aired nightly until March 14, and remaining episodes premiered on December 6 after channel was merged into G4techTV, with new episodes airing each weeknight until the series concluded on December 22. All 26 episodes were also aired in a marathon broadcast on Christmas Day. AZN Television and G4 Canada also broadcast the series in 2007. After Geneon ceased distribution of its licensed titles in North America, rights to the series were transferred to Funimation Entertainment, and a four-disc boxed set was released on May 5, 2009.
ADV Films owns the license for the series' English release in the United Kingdom, while distribution rights in Australia and New Zealand are owned by Madman Entertainment. Last Exile is also licensed for regional language release in France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and Taiwan. It has been hosted at the streaming media website Crunchyroll.
Two pieces of theme music were used for the series. "Cloud Age Symphony", performed by Shuntaro Okino, was used as the opening theme for all 26 episodes. It was released by Victor Entertainment as a maxi single on May 21, 2003, and remained on the Oricon music charts for six weeks, where it peaked at 52nd position. Hitomi Kuroishi's "Over The Sky" was used as the ending theme.
Music trio Dolce Triade, which includes Kuroishi, produced two CD soundtracks for the series. Last Exile O.S.T. was released by Victor Entertainment on June 21, 2003, and remained on the Oricon music charts for seven weeks, where it peaked at 52nd position. It includes both theme songs and 17 additional instrumental tracks. The second soundtrack, Last Exile O.S.T. 2 was released on September 3, 2003, and remained on the Oricon music charts for five weeks, where it peaked at 55th position. It includes an alternate version of the ending theme song and 19 additional instrumental tracks. Geneon Entertainment licensed both soundtracks for release in North America. The first soundtrack was released on February 17, 2004, and the second was released on April 13. However, both soundtracks are out of print in North America after Geneon ceased production of its licensed titles in 2007.
A 136-page art book titled Last Exile Aerial Log was published in February 2005 but has since been discontinued. It was published in Japanese and was never translated for English-language release. The book contains detailed character sketches and descriptions as well as technical manuals for aircrafts that appeared in the series. It also includes exclusive interviews with members of the production staff.
On February 11, 2005, a report on Anime News Network mentioned a possible live-action Last Exile film. It was based on a blog post by Patrick Macias, writer for Animerica and author of several books on Japanese pop culture and anime, which noted that while he was attending the Tokyo International Anime Fair, a Gonzo employee suggested that an unnamed New Line Cinema producer was interested in adapting the series for a live-action production. On July 8, 2009, a concept art image was leaked on Internet but was removed at the request of filmmakers.
After receiving a respectable amount of attention in the United States, the series was licensed to Pioneer Entertainment (later Geneon Entertainment) in June 2003, only two months after the first episode aired in Japan. When Geneon's compilation DVDs were released, reviewers such as IGN praised them despite the use of Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix over a 5.1 mix. "The separation is masterfully taken care of with voices, music, and sound effects leveled off very cleanly for both the Japanese and English audio tracks." In an interview with director Koichi Chigira given in July 2004, he was surprised to find that the series had reached a great level of popularity among fans in the United States.
Last Exile has been likened to Hayao Miyazaki's classic work Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and the early steampunk novel trilogy A Nomad of the Time Streams. It received numerous praises for its artwork and production, placing it as one of Gonzo's best work. By integrating music and sounds of a European theme, the soundtrack contributed to the series' unique flavor. Anime News Network rated the series as "a must-have for all anime fans". However, the complex storyline tested viewers' patience because "mysteries pile upon one another before the answers start spilling forth in the second half [of the series]". Despite this complaint, Last Exile's action sequences and cliffhangers compelled viewers to wait and see these mysteries resolved.
TechTV vice president Laura Civiello stated that Last Exile "had more universal appeal than other types of anime shown on the network, which often contained lots of references recognizable only by hard-core fans". When the series premiered on the network, The New York Times recommended it for younger viewers as well with the headline "An Anime Marathon, and It's Not Just for Adults". The network moved its Anime Unleashed programming block into prime time to take advantage of the quality of the series, eventually launching it into a top ten position on the Nielsen VideoScan anime survey in the middle of 2004. Sony Pictures Entertainment selected Last Exile, Blood+, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, and R.O.D the TV as part its promotional campaign throughout 2007 and 2008 targeting audiences ages 15–35. It streamed the four series throughout Europe, Latin America, and other parts of Asia on Animax and Animax Asia through various 3G mobile phone services.
- Although not mentioned during the series, the name "Prester" was published in additional materials released by Gonzo and its subsequent licensors Geneon Entertainment and Funimation Entertainment.
- A glossary defining unfamiliar terms and technology is provided on the Japanese-language website published by JVC. The English-language version of this glossary was made available on Geneon Entertainment's former Flash-based website under the "Story" section in the menu.
- See the list of Last Exile episodes for details on specific chess terms that are used.
- In episode 11, "Develop", Vincent Alzey reveals that he and Alex Row once served together in the Anatoray military during the Battle of Otranto.
- Chigira, Koichi (director). (2003) (in Japanese with English subtitles). Last Exile. [DVD]. Funimation Entertainment. ISBN 1-4210-1819-5.
- Murata, Range (2005). Last Exile Aerial Log (in Japanese) (1st ed.). Tokyo: MdN Corporation. ISBN 4-8443-5783-2.
- Mays, Jonathan (February 28, 2005). "Interview: Range Murata". Anime News Network. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
- "Story" (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- Gustines, George Gene (March 14, 2004). "An Anime Marathon, and It's Not Just for Adults". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- Yadao, Jason (January 25, 2009). "Mysteries multiply in 'Last Exile' anime". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- Paquet, Olivier (December 2005). "A-chronies japonaises: l'histoire comme ikebana dans les séries de science-fiction (l'exemple de Last Exile)" [Japanese anachronism: history as ikebana in science fiction series (the example of Last Exile)]. Cycnos (in French) (University of Nice Sophia Antipolis) 22 (1). Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- Mad-thane Chief of Staff: "No child or commoner could understand the ways of chivalry, and especially not vanship pilots!" Claus Valca: "That's not true! We understand!" Lavie Head: "Have you ever had a day where you couldn't sleep because you were too hungry? As far as I'm concerned, chivalry can kiss my ass!" "Luft Vanship". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. April 14, 2003. No. 2.
- First Water (一番水 Iciban Mizu?) is a high-quality drink sold at Walker's floating repair station, the Casino Royale, for 80 Claudia. Upon learning of the price, Lavie Head, who comes from the rural town of Norkia, reacts with astonishment. "Words 第8話" [Episode 8 Words] (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- Third Water (3番水 Sanban Mizu?) is the highest grade of drinking water available at the rural mining town of Norkia and is taken directly from groundwater. "Words 第14話" [Episode 14 Words] (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- Henrickson, Eric (November 4, 2003). "'Last Exile' provides eye candy that's sweet". The Detroit News. p. 6E.
- Alister Agrew: (Peering through a sextant) "The stars are becoming unreliable. You can't get a correct bearing even if you look at the stars." "Develop". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. June 16, 2003. No. 11.
- "Transpose". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. April 21, 2003. No. 3.
- "Positional play". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. May 5, 2003. No. 5.
- "Interesting Claus". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. May 19, 2003. No. 7.
- "Develop". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. June 16, 2003. No. 11.
- "Promotion Sophia". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. August 4, 2003. No. 16.
- "Breakthrough". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. July 21, 2003. No. 18.
- "Sicilian Defence". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. August 11, 2003. No. 19.
- "Rook Dio". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. August 25, 2003. No. 21.
- "Queen Delphine". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. September 1, 2003. No. 22.
- "Quiet move". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. September 22, 2003. No. 25.
- "Resign". Last Exile. TV Tokyo. September 29, 2003. No. 26.
- "A-Kon News". Anime News Network. June 1, 2006. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- Arnold, Adam (January 2004). "Last Exile: A Time for War". Anime Fringe 5 (1): 2. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- "An interview with Range Murata". Cosplay Lab. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
- Mayerson, Ginger (July 4, 2005). "An interview with Range Murata". The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society: Miscellanea and Ephemeron. Lincoln Heights Literary Society. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
- "Into the borderless skies...". Newtype USA: 30–31. August 2003. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- Wolf, Jessica (July 13, 2003). "Director Maeda Blends Mediums in 'Last Exile'". Video Store 25 (29): 28.
- Hamilcar Valca (ハミルカル・ヴァルカ Hamirukaru Varuka?). "Words 第13話" [Episode 13 Words] (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- Vitellius (ヴィテリウス Viteriusu?). "Words 第16話" [Episode 16 Words] (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "DVD & Video" (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- "Last Exile, Vol. 1: First Move". Borders Group. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Tech TV Updates on Last Exile". Anime News Network. January 29, 2004. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- "Last Exile 14-26 on Anime Unleashed". Anime News Network. November 18, 2004. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- "Last Exile to Start Airing on AZN Television June 25". Anime News Network. June 16, 2007. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "G4 Canada continues exclusive anime programming with six new concurrent series". G4 Canada. June 25, 2007. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Last Exile: The Complete Series". Borders Group. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "ADV Films UK Press Releases for February 2005". Mania. January 7, 2005. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Last Exile Collection (Fatpack)". Madman Entertainment. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- "Last Exile" (in French). Déclic-Images. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- Schubert, Karsten (April 2004). "Last Exile – Schlachtschiffe im Wolkenmeer" [Last Exile - Battleships in the Sea of Clouds]. Funime (in German) (37): 29. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Last Exile" (in Swedish). TV4 Science fiction. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Аниме" [Anime] (in Russian). MC Entertainment. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "最後流亡" [Last Exile] (in Chinese). Muse Communication. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Cloud Age Symphony" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Music" (in Japanese). JVC. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- "Last Exile O.S.T." (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Last Exile O.S.T. 2" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Last Exile, Vol. 1". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "New Geneon CDs". Anime News Network. March 11, 2004. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- "Geneon USA to Cancel DVD Sales, Distribution by Friday". Anime News Network. September 26, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Last Exile Aerial Log". HobbyLink Japan. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Live Action Last Exile?". Anime News Network. February 11, 2005. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- In his blog post, Macias quoted Arthur Smith, president of Gonzo's parent company GDH International: "Joel Silver is not looking at Last Exile as far as I know…although that would be great. There is, however, a producer who works with New Line who is looking into two of our titles for live action adaptation…Last Exile and Burst Angel." Macias, Patrick (February 9, 2005). "free soul wada akiko". An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla. Blogs.com. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
- Billington, Alex (July 8, 2009). "Check This Out: Cool Concept Art from The Last Exile Project". FirstShowing.net. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- Diaz Jr., Efran (April 26, 2004). "Last Exile Vol. 3 - Discovered Attack". IGN. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
- (FLV) Interview with Last Exile director Koichi Chigira - Part 2. YouTube. June 27, 2009. Event occurs at 1:30. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SSMxaAJ20M. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
- Divers, Allen (February 5, 2004). "Last Exile DVD 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Anime in Prime Time". ICv2. February 2, 2004. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "'Read or Die the TV' On G4/Tech TV". ICv2. October 5, 2004. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
- "Sony Pictures Television International's Global Animax Brand Goes Mobile". Anime News Network. June 13, 2007. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Animax Mobile spreads festive cheer in Malaysia and Singapore". Animax Asia. December 1, 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- Last Exile at JVC Music official website (Japanese)
- Last Exile at Funimation Entertainment official website
- Last Exile at Madman Entertainment official website
- Last Exile (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Last Exile at the Internet Movie Database