Last Exile-Volume 1 (2003)

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Released 14-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternative Version-Non-Credit Opening And Original Japanese Opening
Theatrical Trailer-1:53
Biographies-Character-3
Gallery-Character (25)
Trailer-Initial D, Haibane Renmei,Revolutionary Girl Utena:The Movie
Trailer-Grave Of The Fireflies
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 97:33 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Koichi Chigira
Studio
Distributor
Gonzo
Madman Entertainment
Starring Mayami Asano
Johnny Yong Bosch
Chiwa Saito
Kari Wahlgren
Anna Shiraki
Eri Kitamura
Toshiyuki Morikawa
Crispin Freeman
Yosuke Akimoto
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Dolce Triade


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode preview

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Now this is a strange coincidence: I've just finished writing about Haibane-Renmai (a very good anime series), which is about people with wings, and now I'm reviewing Last Exile, which is about aeroplanes without wings. That's spooky!

    Last Exile is set in a different world. A very different world. A world that shows many aspects of our world as it was about the turn of the last century (circa 1900AD), perhaps a bit earlier. A world with some of the idiot ideas associated with a decaying aristocracy, with honour more important than life, where battleships begin fighting by having squads of musket-carrying commoners shoot at one another — the nobility seeming not to care how the commoners bleed and die — and only resorting to their cannons after the musket carnage seems indecisive. (Sorry, but I found that short piece of the show upsetting, even though it seemed quite appropriate to the world). There are lots of differences, though. For a start, the battleships are sailing through the sky! And the muskets are powered by steam. They communicate by ASDIC (light flashes) or signal flares — this world doesn't seem to have radio. It also has considerable social injustice — the nobility can use clean water for decorative fountains, while the common people have to boil their water before they can drink it safely...

    Flight, in this world, does not rely on wings, nor on balloons. Even after seeing all the episodes on this disc, I still don't know what stops their aircraft from falling out of the sky. As well as the huge battleships, they have much smaller craft. The smallest aircraft they fly is called a vanship (no, I don't know why). It seems to be an equivalent to early monoplanes — a little ahead of cloth and wire biplanes, but still flown by intrepid aviators. And there are no more intrepid aviators than the youthful pair of Claus Valca (their version of Kingsford Smith, but only 15 years old) and Lavie Head (Amelia Earhart, perhaps? Also 15 years old). Both their fathers were intrepid aviators, too. Their vanship is quite plain, looking as though it has been made from ridged sheetmetal (looking vaguely reminiscent of the Southern Cross). When we first meet Claus and Lavie, they are preparing for a big air race, but they could really do with an acceleration booster, so they decide to take a job delivering a message to get the money they need for the part.

    They take a really dangerous job (3 stars), delivering a message from Lady Mad-thane to her husband Duke Mad-thane, because dangerous jobs pay more. Why is it dangerous? Because Duke Mad-thane is commanding a fleet in battle. They get the message through, but not without incident, but get back too late for the time-trials, so they start the big race from last spot. They are doing well when they have to break off. They come to the aid of an injured pilot, and take over his mission (7 stars!). Now things get really dangerous...

    This is not the first anime series I've watched which blends elements drawn from the past with elements of fantastic science fiction (fantastic as in "drawn from fantasy") — Steel Angel Kurumi was like this, blending super-robots with the Japan of the Taisho era. It is an excellent way to disorient the audience enough to get us to accept the fantastic elements of the story, but still give us a good understanding of the basics of the society. It's much more effective than a totally alien society, where they'd have to spend a lot of time ensuring we understood the motivations of the characters.

    The episodes on this disc are:

1 First Move We meet Claus and Lavie, and they take a job delivering a message
2 Luft Vanship The battle goes awry, and Claus and Lavie are in danger
3 Transpose The day of the big air race arrives
4 Zugzwang Claus and Lavie taking Alvis to the Silvana

     This, like so much recent animation, uses a mix of 3D computer generated animation and traditional animation. The 3D work is limited to the ships in flight, and it's very effective there, showing both the big ships in their majestic progress, and the tiny and much more manoeuvrable vanships. The vanship race can't avoid reminding everyone of the pod race in Star Wars Phantom Menace, but it has some excellent variations on the theme.

    Interestingly, we don't yet know what the title means, or who the exile is.

    Last Exile shows a lot of promise, especially if they can maintain the balance between telling us too much and leaving us to gape in awe at the visuals. I'll not go overboard about it yet, but I am quite keen to see the next volume...

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. That's how this show was meant to be seen, and makes this another entry in the wonderful world of widescreen anime.

    The picture is superb — sharp and clear — you could not ask for better. There's no significant low-level noise or film grain.

    Colour is excellent, with a realistic feel to the palette. There's no colour bleed or over-saturation, but there are scenes which seem a bit over-bright.

    There are no visible film artefacts — it is quite possible that this was transferred digitally. There is next to no aliasing — this is marvellous, because I expected a lot of aliasing. There's no real moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts. This is a very good transfer.

    There is only one set of subtitles, which is unusual for a release coming from Madman. The subtitles are easy to read, and seem well-timed to the dialogue.

    The disc is single sided and dual-layered, but not RSDL; the layer change is at 48:44, placed right in between episodes 2 and 3 — close to invisible, even with the seek from the outside of the disc to the inner.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are the expected two soundtracks, in English and Japanese. Both tracks are Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded, at 224kbps. Apart from the language, there's no difference between the two — even the voice acting is fairly similar (although the words vary).

    The English dialogue is clear and understandable. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear, too. I didn't see any particular mismatches between the mouth movements and the dialogue on either soundtrack

    The music is credited to Dolce Triade. It is well suited to the show, but never draws unwanted attention to itself. The opening theme, Cloud Age Symphony, and closing theme, Over the Sky, are decent songs, but nothing special.

    These pure stereo soundtracks, despite offering a decent stereo image, provide nothing for your surrounds and subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated with music. It's attractive, and easy to operate.

Non-credit opening (1:33)

    The opening sequence, but minus the credits. Nice, but I hope it's only on this disc.

Original Japanese opening (1:33)

    The opening sequence as originally presented, complete with Japanese credits. It makes an interesting comparison with the English credits version.

Promotional Trailer (1:53)

    A Japanese trailer for the series, but unfortunately without subtitles.

Character Profiles

    Quick profiles for Claus, Lavie, and Alvis. There are no spoilers, but that's because they are very brief.

Art Gallery

    A decent 25 pages of character and vanship designs.

Madman Propaganda

    Four trailers that are individually playable.

DVD Credits

    The usual self-promotion of the Madman crew responsible for this title.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 versions of this disc offer the same episodes. There are three versions of this disc in Region 1, and two versions in Region 4. I'm only going to compare the disc-only versions here — I have to write up the collector's box versions in a separate review (watch out for it!).

    As far as I can tell from reports, the Region 1 transfer is as good as the Region 4, so there's no reason to prefer one or the other on that basis.

    The Region 1 disc has an extra that we don't get: a 12 minute interview with Mahiro Maeda, the production designer for this series (he designed the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion). Other than that, however, the two discs seem to have the same features. I'd have liked to have the interview, but I don't regret buying the Region 4 collector's box.

Summary

    A new anime series where I'm looking forward to the next volume so I can see enough of it to decide what I think of it.

    The video quality is very good indeed.

    The audio quality is very good for a stereo soundtrack.

    The extras are reasonable, but the Region 1 disc gets an interview that we don't.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
Great series, poor translation - Anonymous
R1 version is way too bright - Fred (read my bio)
NTSC vs NTSC to pal conversion - JLCK