GATE – 17

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Last week was a little…weak,but that’s because it was only the somewhat tedious prologue to this: the titular decisive battle in the Fire Dragon Arc. Yao brings the remnants of her clan to meet Itami, and nine of them join them in the fight. This is more like it.

Itami giving them a crash course in RPG launchers before heading into the dragon’s lair deep within Mt. Duma. Forest elves? Alliances and fellowships of nine? Mt. Doom-a? It would be a Tolkienesque episode – were it not for the inclusion of modern weaponry, which actually works in GATE’s favor; as I’ve never seen a dragon slain in the particular manner we witness this week.

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Itami devises a plan in which they mine the dragon’s nest with buried C-4 explosive, but he/she returns before they finish, and Rory (who can’t/won’t go underground for some reason) isn’t able to stay in radio contact.

As a result, the assault teem has to improvise, which for a group of dark elves given only the most rudimentary training, means a lot of elf redshirts buy the farm in this battle. Indeed, so closely did all the female elves resemble each other that I incorrectly believed I’d witnessed Yao’s untimely demise…more than once.

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In fact, before the end of the battle, all eight of the elves who accompanied them will be lost, though they all die fiercely battling the dragon with everything they have, and buying time for Itami to finish the bomb, and also, for Lelei and Tuka to have a turn at the beast.

We really haven’t ever seen much of Lelei doing anything at all, so it’s immensely satisfying to see her test the hardness of the dragon’s skin with telekinetic swords. Once she gets the force level right, she cracks an uncharacteristic (but welcome) knowing smirk.

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Indeed, this is Lelei at her most emotional and badass, and it’s because like Tuka, her village and people were killed by this thing, and she wants revenge too. Her blizzard of swords propelled into the dragon from all directions doesn’t finish it, but it does mess it up.

Enter Tuka, who has been watching people fight and die around her, and finally decides to take a chance and use her power, even if it isn’t enough. She had been blaming herself for her father’s death, turning her frustration over the futility of defeating the dragon inward. But now she turns it outward, and it’s awesome to behold, as she summons a storm of dragon-roasting lightning.

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With all the metal in and around the dragon, it isn’t long until some of the electricity it all conducts touches the bomb fuse, and it’s BTOOOM! City. Bye-bye, Fire Dragon. The multi-angle explosion made for an excellent spectacle, all the more satisfying because it was a total team effort. The victory would not have been possible with everyone’s contributions, in addition to the elves’ sacrifice.

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And yet, even when the dragon is slain and Itami, Lelei, Tuka and Yao get back outside safely before the caverns cave in on them, they’re still not out of the woods, because Rory, who had remained outside the whole time, took all of Itami’s injuries and pain, and is in bad shape.

She’s also being harassed by Giselle, the very blue apostle of the goddess Hardy who isn’t a fan of fabric that covers the front of her chest. She’s come to capture Rory so Hardy can marry her. Out-of-left-field extra conflict, or a rich dessert at the end of a wonderful meal? Your mileage may vary, but I happen not to mind this development, because it’s interesting to see Rory actually worried about something for once.

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It’s certainly convenient for Giselle to appear here out of nowhere at this particular time when Rory is by herself, not to mention Gisells just happened to be the one who bred the very fire dragon hatchlings whose shells were found in the nest. But also closing on Mt. Duma is a the SDF air and artillery attachments, sent to aid Itami at Yanagida’s request, but also happy for some action.

It certainly feels like very sugary dessert when, after Giselle exercises dominance over the situation for no more than a minute, she’s absolutely schooled by the display of JSDF force, and her baby dragons are wasted instantly. It’s almost too easy, but I did enjoy Rory’s gloating in the aftermath. She’ll be the one to decide who she marries, thank you very much.

That last skirmish also doesn’t undercut the fact that Tuka is no longer insane, but has gotten the revenge she needed to move forward…though she still intends to keep calling Itami “Dad” as her pet name for him.

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Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 15

The Anti-Luscinian rebel movement is in full swing, as Vasant amasses a fleet to defend the fortress city of Boreas, which assures dominance of the entire region between Ades and Glacies. Without Boreas, the rebellion stands little chance of surviving. Sorush and Orang are ordered to attack it. Millia, Fam and Gisey meet Augusta Sara in the Adean capital of Morvarid. Fam chides the rebel forces for being so hungry for killing and revenge, while Millia sees how her actions have and will affect the common people, and is shunned by Dian for being Lily’s sister. Augusta is entertained by Fam’s stories of the Grand Race. Deep in Glacies, Luscinia unlocks a sleeping goddess.

So yeah, we’ve seen Luscinia’s past. We know he let his empress die, and he feels bad about that and really raw at the people who assassinated her. Still, what is it with this guy and his mythical superweapons? It’s kind of hard to sympathize with a guy whose idea of peace is the quiet achieved from every living thing on the planet being killed. That’s the only peace we can see superweapons achieving, frankly. Which is why, despite Sara’s misgivings about killing him, we’re firmly on the side of General Vasant. No matter who makes the global peace omelette, it will require a great many eggs.

That being said, they have an uphill battle to fight. Even without Luscinia’s goddess in play, there’s still Exiles up there in the sky, and two huge fleets headed for a key strategic asset in Boreas. Luscinia is going to make Vasant, Millia, and the rebels spill a lot of blood in an attempt rid of him. Maybe too much, muses Fam. Fam was a little out of her element this week; in the desperate situation the rebels are in – up against an utterly ruthless foe – they can’t really afford to “calm down.” Her idealism has limits. A Grand Race can’t solve all the world’s ills…the last Grand Race proved that, fer cryin’ out loud. And there can’t be any race as long as there are still baddies with superweapons and evil maniacal laughs like Luscinia loose.


Rating: 3.5

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 13

Note on episode numbers: The recap was titled Episode 9.5, so we’ve corrected our review titles according to Fam’s official site.

The Federation launches a multi-pronged attack on Glacies, first sending a vanguard of provincial fleets first, which are utterly annihalated by the Wing Maidens, then sending the second, third, and fourth fleets in to overwhelm defenses and bomb Glacien ground targets. The Glacian elders resort to raising the “White Legacy”, a gargantuan protective wall rising high about the maximum altitude of the ships, and armed with golden arms that reach out and destroy others. Observing the battle from afar, Luscinia calls upon Lilliana to bring another Exile down upon Glacies. Fam, Gisey and Millia retreat to Spargel to find it in ruins, and suspect Kartoffel too may have been attacked.

Glacies is brought into a war kicking and screaming, while our heroines find themselves naught but spectators of the mass carnage. They warn Dian (with more interpreting by Millia; one wonders how she can be heard speaking so softly while racing through the sky), but the Glacian Wing Maidens swore to defend their country by any means, or die trying, so that’s what they do. Cut loose and low on fuel, Fam & Co. deicide to go to Kartoffel. Of course, we know something they don’t – which will only compound their misery. On top of it all (literally), yet another Exile has been summoned thanks to Lilliana, which will likely bring Glacies to their knees as it did Turan.

This episode’s pace was extremely brisk, almost uncomfortably so considering the scale of what went down – whole fleets and thousands of lives being lost and all. But a likely reason for that is that in war, things can get real back real fast – and they do exactly that this week. Knowing that their home is likely wrecked, we imagine Fam and Gisey will head to Anatoray. Mythical power will have to be met with mythical power, and that means Alvis Hamilton, or so we think.


Rating: 3.5

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 12

Dio saves Alvis from Federation assassins as the grounded Urbanus is attacked. Ades means to hit Glacies with an enormous aerial strike. Meanwhile, Fam, Gisey and Millia are guests of Dian, a respected Glaciesian “wing maiden” paying them back for saving her comrades earlier. Millia, who speaks her tongue, interprets for her, and they repair the vanship. Fam tries to instill in her her own ideal of what the sky should be: fun, freedom, and peace, not an eternal battlefield. Dian is dubious, she was at the last Grand Race and doubts another will make any difference. After letting Dian try out their vanship, Fam, Gisey and Millia take off for home, but when Gisey spots the Ades fleets approaching Glacies, Fam turns around to warn Dian.

It’s far easier – and to some more satisfying – to wage war than it is to prevent it. Many philsophers argue that humans are always going to branch off into factions and fight each other about something; it’s just in our nature, and that of other animals. Glacies is a cold and remote land full of surprisingly warm people, but they’re extremely weary of outsiders, because they feel the best way to avoid war is to simply avoid contact of any kind with other factions. It’s worked so far for them, but at the cost of isolation. Aside from loving her sexy Russian accent, we really liked Dian’s character for her unique perspective on the world.

She cannot fathom why a vanship would lack weapons, any more than she can fathom why Fam would help people in need – even potential enemies. Fam would say it’s the right thing to do, but for Dian, the right thing to do is the thing that keeps you alive. While Dian may still be confused by such foreign ideas, a seed was definitely planted in her head: not all outsiders are out to get you. Some are cute girls who just want to be your friend. More takeaways: Fam may be a good pilot, but Dian demonstrates rather hilariously that she’s not much of a fighter; and when you crash in a foreign land, it always helps to have a princess who is fluent in the native language!


Rating: 4

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 11

The show goes back ten years to the time of the Grand Race, organized by Queen Augusta Farahanaz to celebrate a sprawling peace treaty amongst all the nations of the world. A young Giselle and Fam are on hand to watch Giselle’s father race, as is the king of Turan and the princesses Lilliana and Millia. Fam even meets Millia as the two wander off. Gisey’s father wins the race, but as he and his copilot Kaiser are being awarde, assassins attack the queen and kill her. One of her bodyguards, Lukia, cannot protect her, and she is killed.

The second half of Ginyoku no Fam takes place not in Glacies, where Fam & Co. must crash land, but with a flashback. But this is a good flashback, one that is formative (almost too conveniently so) for most of the cast and indeed the world itself. If there’s anyone who can achieve world peace through her power and influence, it’s Queen Farahanaz. With her infant Princess Sara in hand, she is also a mother and caretaker to her people, warm and kind. But as she fiddles with her prayer beads, we’re conscious that the peace she’s about to achieve was not gained entirely without bloodshed. If you want to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs, after all.

Her bodyguard Lukia – who will later become Luscinia – always shared her ideal, but was always conscious that it may lead to her death. Back in the present, he and other more aggressive and bitter elements of Ades are in control, as Queen Sara is too young to fully exercise her power, which led to war with Turan and so many other conquests. But on the other end of the spectrum, people like Fam is so inspired by the race (up until the traumatic assassination), that she’s dedicated her life ever since to becoming a pilot worthy of flying in the next Grand Race; a race that will bring the people of the world back together. But like the old queen, is she simply a naive idealist?


Rating: 3.5

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 09.5

On a quiet day aboard the Silvius, Giselle sits down and writes a letter to her father in Kartoffel, regailing him with everything that’s happened thus far. Millia, who owes so much to Gisey’s father, writes a letter of her own. They both write about how important their friendship with Fam has been throughout all their adventures, and that there’s still more to do.

Oh GONZO…recaps are so 2005. I suppose a clip show had to happen eventually – those sky battles aren’t cheap to produce, after all, and this is the studio’s first major work in a long time. That’s fine; we owe the awesome production values of the last nine episodes in part to this tenth sacrificial pawn. And it wasn’t that bad a recap: it was nice to get some analysis of what’s happened so far from Millia and Gisey.


(No Rating)

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 03

With Iglasia destroyed, Turan is quickly falling to Ades. Luscinia returns to the capital to convene with Augusta, the young leader of Ades. In Kartoffel, Millia is upset that the Lasas is being cannibalized for parts. When she sees someone bartering for her sister’s silver water goblet, it’s the last straw. Fam agrees to track the sky pirate down and retrieve it. Millia learns how Fam was orphaned as a baby, and owes everything to Gisey, her family, and all the sky pirates who got her where she is now. When they return, goblet in hand, the village releases balloon lanterns to honor the dead that fell in the recent battles. There are murmurs on both sides about the Reaper Ship Sylvius, Fam’s next target.

This week, Millia took steps to transform from a spoiled, helpless, headless chicken to the potential queen of her people. With her father dead and Lillia’s wherabouts unknown, she may already technically be queen. And a queen can’t get all indignant after the people who saved her claim payment in the form of the Lasas. We were with her, however, when she wouldn’t let one thing stand: someone making off with that goblet. It may just be a silver cup, but if her flagship, her capital, and her kingdom are to be torn to shreds, one has to have something to hold on to and maintain hope.

Fam is her usual strong, cheerful good sport in helping Millia get it back, when combined with the gorgeous, moving Okuribi service, seem to inspire her to buck up, shear off her girlish locks, and portray a more regal bearing. The scenes with Teddy at Gisey’s house were a nice snapshot of a very warm, loving family; you can see why Fam is such a happy girl. This episode was a needed resting point after lots of battle, death, and destruction. But with both the brass in Ades and Fam keen on restoring the “Grand Race” and Fam’s interest in capturing the Sylvius for Millia, big things lay on the horizon.


Rating: 4

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 02

Lillia raises the Lasas and the Turan fleet regroups to intercept the Ades fleet, while she sends Millia ahead to Iglasia, care of Fam and Gisey. The city is evacuated of civilians, but the ailing king is staying. Lillia attempts to ram Luscinia’s flagship, the Impetuous, but fails when Lukea steals aboard, kills her crew, and captures her. Dio is aboard his vanship at the time, and informs Fam of the situation. Millia orders Fam to rescue her siter, so they join the battle and fly into the Impetuous from a gap in her hull and travel the ventilation shafts to emerge right on the bridge. After a brief standoff, Luscinia utters a spell that puts Lillia in a trance and send an immense shard of Exile careening into Iglesia. Fam, Gisey and Millia are forced to retreat.

Any concerns about whether the eye candy would be ratcheted back in this, the second episode, after the feast-for-the-eyes first episode, were quickly dismissed. If anything, there was even more cinematic majesty this week, including a phenomenal scene of Fam flying into and through the big bad Impetuous. The sheer visual complexity and intricate detail presented at such a breakneck speed makes for a most engrossing experience. And even things like light and sky are just so incredibly gorgeous. On looks and production values alone, this series is quickly running away from the Fall pack.

But with all the airship battles and cresent moons falling on cities, the show doesn’t forget about the little humans. Fam and Gisey are once again game, valiant, fearless, and adorable at the same time. We are fully invested in these go-getters as they find themselves in the middle of a conflict much bigger than they might’ve imagined. Even Dio, who was a little too comic-reliefy last week, settled down and got serious when shit started hitting the van. Luscinia is still a bit stiff, and his right hand man is downright scary. On top of that, Turan is in serious trouble; it’s king is dead, the crown princess is who knows what, Iglasia is a ruin, and the fleet is in tatters. But hey, their luck can only improve from here, right?


Rating: 4

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 01

Young, fiery, and talented vanship pilot Fam and her copilot Giselle are members of a band of sky pirates who race to the aid of the two princesses of Turan, Lillia and Millia, who have been ambushed by the treacherous Ades Federation led by Premier Luscinia. In exchange for their rescue from the battlefield, Fam demands the Turan flagship, the Lasas, in return. Her colleague Dio Eraclea boards and feints a scuttling in order to escape the battle, but as Turan’s capital is vulnerable to Ades attack, the ship will have to be quickly mended.

It’s been eight years and a month since Last Exile concluded, and even as the Fall 2011 Season started, we had to wait a little longer. The first series wasn’t perfect, but it was (and still is) one of the best-looking we’ve ever seen, had a lot of ingredients that really got out juices flowing, and indeed stoked our passion for anime that strives to transcend its medium. If ever a universe deserved a sequel, it was Last Exile…and here we are. Studio GONZO returns in force, Koichi Chigira is back to direct, as is our favorite character designer, Range Murata, and Hitomi Kuroishi, who composes a haunting and exciting score. The voice cast is excellent, with Aki Toyosaki (Railgin’s Uiharu, Hanasaku Iroha’s Nako) providing the voice of Fam, who kicks ass every which way, and her more tranquil partner Giselle is voiced by Aoi Yuki (Shiki’s Sunako, Puella’s Madoka). The princesses are Ai Kayano (AnoHana’s Menma, Memo-cho’s Ayaka) and one of our favorites, Miyuki Sawashiro.

This opening episode quickly re-establishes the crazy steampunk world of floating armadas, sky pirates, and gorgeous cities. It’s attention to detail is impeccable. Last Exile’s CGI was ahead of its time, but Fam manages (unsurprisingly) to surpass it, fully utilizing the widescreen HD environment and all the other new tech. From the quiet nighttime opening to the fantastic aerial battle on a clear blue day, this episode has all the scale and epic-ness of a full-length, big budget film combining all the best elements of Miyazaki and Final Fantasy. With everything that went on, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to get into the myriad characters, who occupy three distinct factions so far (warlike Ades, peaceful Turan, and opportunistic pirates), but we like the Fam/Giselle duo so far, and their blue-collar tomboy lives should clash nicely with the pair of princesses. We’ve looked forward to this series for a long time, and all it took was the opening episode to propel it to the best of the season so far.


Rating: 4