Posted on 24 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam




It’s a bit hard to recommend Last Exile – Ginyoku no Fam, because it had to live up to the expectations of the original Last Exile… and it didn’t. Still, I still consider it a series worth watching, and it is the proof that Gonzo isn’t dead yet.

But yeah, go into this expecting a war story that just happens to take place in the same universe as Last Exile. The mood and tone of this series have some signfiicant differences, and mots of all this series lacks the refinement that its predecessor has. The character animation often is sloppy, there is much less time spent at believable acting and realism, and the charactes too are a lot closer to caricatures.

The big difference is in the plot, though. It’s here where Ginyoku no Fam lacks creativity. It’s all just too average and straight-forward, and it tries too much to center aruond cute girls… in the middle of a war. Too many episodes are just dedicated to “war is bad”, without much refinement to it. To me, the creators seemed very conflicted on what they wanted to do with their main character, Fam. First they establish her character as a delivery girl, and there are times where she really does well to keep true to that role, in particular the ending. At other times though, they want her to be more involved in the actual war, and that’s where this show leaves the most to be desired, as we’re treated to a very whiny teenager who keeps preaching peace over and over again, and who gets shoehorned into politics that she doesn’t belong in.

So yes, be warned. Those who give it a chance however, will be rewarded by some absolutely gorgeous aerial battles, an excellent sense of world building and a pretty engaging atmosphere here. It’s especially the setting int his series that stands out, because the creators created a ton of interesting locations, with some of the most gorgeous background art and architectures. They dabble a bit in different cultures, and the creators really managed to bring the overall world to life, especially in the first half of this series.

The characters are a bit of a mixed bag, but there also is enough good stuff among them. Fam has her moments where she gets really annoying, but she also has a vew moments where she redeems herself, and the cast of side-characters has a number of interesting people walking around who do manage to spice up the story. It remains an unbalanced production though, but I do think that it gets too much flak. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s got enough reasons to make it worth watching.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Could have used a bit more ambition and gets distracted often, though its atmosphere is good.
Characters: 7/10 – The creators were conflicted in how to use their main character, and thefore she tends to get in the way of everything. It’s got some good moments of characterization, though.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Amazing background art, the action scenes in this show look gorgeous. The 2D animation… not so much.
Setting: 9/10 – Excellent and intriguing setting. This series has a lot of fun with its world building.

Suggestions:
Shantri-La
Guin Saga
Simoun

Posted on with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

You know what? I liked this.

Really, as an ending, you could do much worse. My big fear of Fam magically pushing the “solve” button here was averted. Instead, she ended up playing out her role in this series: that of a delivery girl. She also failed to really pull through with her ideals, and she also failed to prevent many people from dying. I really did not expect the creators to make her stay true to this, and that’s what really saved the final third of this series for me. I mean, I do’t really need all my protagonists to be hero or leader material. It makes them all too similar. It also pays off to show the glory of someone who isn’t the central focus, while this series also made sure to show off the actual scale of the war by using Milia. In fact, the parts of this series thta were the most grating were when Fam stepped beyond her role, and tried to involve herself with politics and large-scale decisions. She just isn’t fit for that.

I also like the way the Grand Race was used. My big fear was that with all that build-up they’d find a way to use it in a Deus ex Machina or something. Intead, they realyl turned out to be just the hopes of a young girl, which eventually didn’t really mean anything in the context of a war. As soon as the peace arrived though, Fam got her wish. I can live with that.

Instead, the doomsday weapon destroyed itself by being just so damn inpractical and unfinished. It’s hinted that Luscinia knew that this would happen all along, but something tells me that he also just realized that his plan wasn’t going to work when he saw the actual thing in motion. I liked how he actually took his loss like a man. Yes, I liked this ending better than Shangri-La’s ending. Also, Claus and Lavie return in the epilogue! Awesome aftermath here!

In the end, the biggest mistakes of this series were made when the plot was outlined. In the end, the creators could have tried better, the show needed more variety and less inconsistencies. A touch of realism would also have helped this show a lot here, and the creators also should have spent time to ask the question of how to make Fam more likable. I like how she was used in the finale, but in the end she did whine way too much throughout the series. She has strong ideals. Her portrayal should have made us sympathize with these ideals. Fam I think repeated them too often, and that made her whiny. Overall I like this show, but the original Last Exile it ain’t.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 17 March 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

That was actually much better than what I expected it to be. As the penultimate episode (not counting that epilogue that seems to be scheduled for this series in two weeks), this episode was meant to take down the giant doomsday machine. This machine is this giant flying monster with impossible fire-power, being controlled by just two people who are hiding in the center of it. The episode finally ends up boiling down to trying to get inside, reach those two and stopping them. And yeah, that’s something that Fam is really good at. I really feared that when they pulled the princess card a few episodes ago, they would do something similar here, but really: it’s been established that she is a very good vanship pilot. It makes sense for her to be the first to reach Luscinia when you take this build-up into account.

Also, Koichi Chigira really did it: he really made the battle against this giant flying monster work. The Grand Exile really feels HUGE. Even when Fam gets inside, it takes ages for them to get from one side to the other, while in a flying plane, of all things. The build-up to this also was great. They made the Grand Exile a really formidable foe, while also giving it its weaknesses that come with being so big.

When looking at the big picture though, Ginyoku no Fam in the end did not live up to the original Last Exile. I still like it, but nowhere near as much as with its predecessors. Let’s take Luscinia, the main villain. In the end, he is pretty poor, and I can only hope that the final episode at least redeems him. There’s very little to set him apart, and as for being a threat… he seems more like this angsty guy who can’t get over one death and therefore upholds a plan that just can’t be sustained in the long run, and he just pales in comparison to the villains of Shangri-La and the first Last Exile, who had much more confident and smug personalities that actually made them feel a threat.

Also, I do think that the first half of Ginyoku no Fam is better than the second half. It’s because there, it was doing something that it was actually really good at: world building. The second half put much more focus on the war and politics, and to be honest it doesn’t really stand out. It’s solid, don’t get me wrong, but beyond the gorgeous graphics I’m missing something to set itself apart. The Gracies idea was nice and probably the part that stands out the most, but the grand scheme of things still seems a bit… simple.

I mean, it’s essential for a show to change over the course of its time, but the change itself needs to be good. The second half of a series, especially of the 2-cour format, is something where the creators can really go all out, but Ginoku no Fam missed the mark a bit in trying to be too epic, while ignoring the parts that they also should have paid attention to: the characters and setting. things were added to them, but I feel that this was not enough.
Rating: *+ (Great)

Yeah, this is a new rating, between 8 (Good) and ** (Excellent). I found myself more and more in the need of one. While running this blog I got to spend a lot on various kinds of ratings. Tkae my reviews for example: I started out with using numbers as 82/100, 74/100, etc. At one point I simplified those ratings to 80/100, 82,5/100, 85/100, etc because I found myself unable to explain the difference between a show that I’d rank 85/100 and 86/100. Afterwards I started to use the same kind of philosophy for rating episodes.

I’ve often been criticized for not having an evenly distributed rating scale, but honestly, I don’t care about that at all. I just want something that I’m comfortable with, and the current rating scale mostly evolved from rating countless of series and episodes. However, now that I’ve used this system for a few years, I’ve noticed that I run into more and more episodes or series that belong inbetween two ratings (like this episode for example: it was better than the episodes that I usually label as “Good”, but at the same time I didn’t consider it to be “Excellent”). I’m going to try and refine these ratings at the points where they need to now.

Posted on 10 March 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

Here’s an interesting twist: Fam actually admitted that she was wrong when all she did was trying to figure out a way to bring the grand race back. I’d almost praise, her if it wasn’t for the fact that we’ve still got a climax left. I mean, it’s not certain, but there are an awful lot of arrows pointing into the direction that she’s going to be shoe-horned into saving the day and getting rid of that giant Exile that was activated in this episode. If the creators pull that twist, then all of this build-up would have been for nothing. It’s because of that that I’m not going to judge this series yet, because that ending will be really, really important for this series.

And yeah, this episode was fairly straightforward build-up. It was a bit strange when Luscinia just walked out with an unconscious Augusta and nobody found it strange, but then again he also holds a very high position. It’s the same here: if the ending is good, then this episode is also good. If the ending is bad though, then this episode was just delaying the inevitable.

Still, I liked that the creators succeeded in portraying that that doomsday weapon really is a doomsday weapon. These are themes very heavily lifted from Gundam, of all things and it makes me wonder why Luscinia spent so much effort in getting this war going if he could have just fired off that thing a few ties, but ah well: he has been proven to be a deranged ruler who believes that he can bring peace as long as he is the ruler of everything, so I probably shouldn’t look too deep into the meaning behind his actions.
Rating: * (Good?)

Posted on 3 March 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

Hah! Now this is more like it. This episode had really little action, and yet it’s my favorite Ginyoku no Fam episode in quite a while now. It had this genuine warmth that I have been missing for a while now, it was different from the previous episodes and offered some variety, there was a lot of focus on the different politics of this series and again Fam knew her role and wasn’t shoved at the center stage.

With this episode I realized that the previous episodes of this series have been a tad monotone, and really needed a bit more variety than what they have shown so far. Probably the big culprit of that was how this show had to focus on cute girls and all. This episode also finally developed the themes of war further. Thins really got resolved now, yet at the same time the ending of this episode showed how fragile peace can be. It was a particularly good twist to have the Gracien girl try to assassinate the big bad guy, and Lilliane’s death definitely made an impact, especially considering how she consciously sacrificed herself. Also, Fam is a princess.

The next episodes have a tough question to answer: why was that necessary? I mean, with Shangri-La it always was obvious that Kuniko was special in the way that the villain was intereseted in her. Here though, I’m not sure what the purpose of all of this is other than making Fam feel special. This is episode 20, there are only three or four episodes left. It feels tacked on at this point.

What also worries me a bit is that we still haven’t gotten any new information about new Gonzo projects. The sales of the second volume of the DVD were about as much as the first volume (around 3000 copies), which thankfully isn’t the disaster that was Shangri-La’s record, but still means that Gonzo probably made some losses, having also financed a lot of this project themselves. However, what are their plans for the rest of the year? They’re awfully quiet, considering taht they should be nearly done with Last Exile here.

The impression I get from watching Last Exile is that most of Gonzo’s talented animators went over to David Production, along with a bunch of producers (you can really see Gonzo’s boldness in a lot of David Production’s projects), while Gonzo’s 3D department, the part at which they were the most innovative, remained at their side, along with most of their bad animators (the badly animated parts of this series are animated in the exact same way tht other badly animated Gonzo shows were). It’d be a shame for them to go bankrupt anyway.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 25 February 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

There are many challenges about series that place children at the center of adult struggles. One of the big ones is making their roles in the grand scheme of things believable. Ginyoku no Fam is struggling with this, clearly. And yet here it barely managed to make things work.

A lot of stuff in this episode challenged my suspense of disbelief, but on the other hand it was exactly what the previous episodes had been building Fam’s character up to. The big problem with that evil empire is that it’s got this very young empress who has been hi-jacked by a revenge-crazed psycho. All it would take is someone who would make her a bit more proactive, and that’s where Fam comes in. This episode had her play the role as a delivery girl, and to be honest, it’s there where she really belongs.

Having said that, though…

Something went wrong with the world building here. It’s been bugging me for quite a while now, but this episode convinced me: the world of Ginyoku no Fam feels empty. This is a very serious issue for a show whose biggest asset is exactly the world it created. My point is: how on earth was Fam the first to suggest to that princess to make them stop fighting? What happened to the to her subordinates here? Aside from the main characters, in the end the world here feels lifeless.

There also was one point in this episode that couldn’t be excused with the budget troubles that Gonzo has been having. It’s the point where the Sylvius appears, and immediately starts shooting down every single warship in its vicinity. And that after all of the previous episodes were building up how hard it is to actually control such a thing: the sylvius spins a bit and suddenly everything is gone and we cut to a new scene. That was just plain laziness.

And with this, the major conflict is over. And the only thing that remains is that bad guy. I mean, he wasn’t involved in this episode for a reason: there’s that doomsday weapon of an exile that’s going to threaten the entire planet, yadda yadda yadda, we know the story by now. I really wonder whether the creators will be able to make that kind of an ending interesting.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 18 February 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

This was pretty much a build-up battle. Nearly the entire episode was dedicated to it, but it was just there to build up to the next episode, and the visuals also weren’t as good as with the major battle scenes in this series.

Probably the most interesting was actually Fam. Yes, I’m surprised to say this too, but for once she could act according to her role: a teenager who is caught up in the middle of a war, and who happens to be a really good pilot. With this, it’s natural to assume that she would try her best to help her side win the war, but this conflicts very much against her previous ideals of not wanting to kill others. Finally the creators actually made her torn a bit between this dilemma, and finally it seems like she is starting to understand the situation she’s in. In the second half she goes back again to trying to disable warships, but that’s completely in-line with her character, and for once she actually fails at doing this.

I might also have to correct something I said earlier. About a month ago, I found out that this series is supposed to have 21 episodes. I thought that that was with the recaps included, but the official website of this series seems to suggest otherwise. If I understood things correctly, then there will be 21 regular episodes, 2 recaps, and one special episode (presumably at the end). This episoe at least makes more sense that way: with three episodes left, this wasn’t the kind of finale buid-up that I’d expect, with the main villains doing… absolutely nothing. With two extra episodes focusing on the side villains like here though, it makes sense.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 11 February 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

It has been a while. Since I watched an episode that left me with such conflicted feelings.

This episode. There was no Fam in it whatsoever. Seriously, she had no scenes at all. But, Gonzo. Are you serious with this? Did you seriously just air a recap episode of the first season?

I mean just… what the hell. This episode even had the OP of the first season. Alvis basically narrated what happened to her in that season. Most of the episode was taken up by this. It was annoying, and I skipped through most of it. And then the new material came and suddenly explained what happened at the end of the First Last Exile, and it FINALLY showed the grown up versions of Claus and Lavie. My inner Last Exile fanboy rejoiced here and started jumping up and down with excitement, much more than I thought it would at the eventual revelation of this. On top of that, it all just looked so completely gorgeous and imaginative. As strange as it was, this episode definitely highlighted all of the character development that went on.

Okay, Gonzo. I’m game. I won’t judge this episode badly until the entire series is over. Last week I said that the final third of this series will be its worst. This episode instead did something I completely did not expect. If you’ve got a plan to just go completely against conventions, then I’d love to see it. If this recap was necessary for that, then I won’t mind. Right now though, it’s too early to tell.
Rating: #!&% (???)

Posted on 4 February 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

So, imagine that you’re a general of an army. There is one particularly nasty country who keeps attacking others and killing your own people. At this point you’ve finally managed to find the opportunity to form an alliance with other parties who were in the same situation as you. You’re in a meeting between all kinds of leaders in order to complete this alliance, and suddenly some random girl starts yelling things about love and peace and how you should not attack each other.

This episode showed that the final third of this show will very likely be its worst part. This is simply because the story of this show is pretty much its weakest aspect. Last Exile is about world building. Show us more of that! The big problem with this episode was that Fam wanted to bring peace to the world by bringing the grand race back. That’s nice and all, but that’s not exactly the right way to stop an evil psycho with a misguided cause of trying to get revenge for some leader who was killed. Fam just fails to see the core problem of what’s going on here.

The core problem here is that we have some guy exploiting the fact that there is a country that’s being run by a six-year-old. And the annoying part is that a lot of other characters DID figure this out. Focus on them! The part where they have to guide this young of an empress into getting control of her subordinates: that’s an interesting storyline. This show was actually well on its way to do that, until Fam stepped in and started to distract her with that Grand Race.

Children being stuffed into an adult setting. It’s not like that can’t work. However, they need to know their place and what they can do. The big problem is that Fam can’t do anything aside from piloting a vanship really well, and skill has been completely pointless for the past months. Heck, my favorite series, Mahou Shoujotai, is about something very similar: a girl of Fam’s age with very big pacifist ideals. The thing is, that Arusu actually tried her hardest to stop the conflicts, and she actually did stuff that mattered, not to mention that she was in a position and a world where she actually could.

The more I think about it… what has Fam actually done in this series? Um… she stole a bunch of ships, I guess. She saved this princess. In terms of politics however, she has been completely useless, and yet the creators keep shoving her in that role. And I think that that’s the thing with the production of this series: Koichi Chigira is a very good director, and you can really see how he breathes life to this setting and scenario despite the limitations. Kiyoko Yoshimura however just isn’t cut out to write original stories. You can really see that she just isn’t a good writer. The producers at Gonzo were most likely responsible for putting Fam into the position of the main character. It was her job of fitting a good conflict for her and making her a likable character. Instead, this feels like a story where she was just pasted into, without really considering whether or not she really fit. And it just feels like a very sloppy job at that.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 28 January 2012 with categories: Last Exile - Ginyoku no Fam

Oh, this episode. It really had me torn about Fam. I’m not certain of this yet, but this episode pushed me much more into believing that this series has the “bad main character”-syndrome.

There was one particular line of hers that really stood out. It was at the beginning of the episode, in which she was crying about the fate of her hometown. I think the line was something like “why? We just want to fly.”

Um, why? Because you’ve been stealing the federation’s ships, obviously. This line really told me that Fam… doesn’t really understand the situation she’s in. She also immediately got cheery after that, acting like everything will be alright, even though a lot of people died here. The rest of the episode thankfully did show that she’s bothered with a lot of things, but she never could accurately describe them, nor find a good solution for this until the salvation came at the end of this episode. That’s the kind of mentality that is good for a side-character, but not a main one who is supposed to drive the storyline forward.She;s still an enjoyable character, but she so doesn’t fit this series. Compare that to Kuniko of Shangri-la: she knew that she was a leader, and she actually kept trying to take responsibility for it.

And the thing with this episode: the rest of the characters were really good here. Milia developed, we know why her sister betrayed her (neat idea to change the federation from the inside) and the dialogue between the different side characters continued to build upon the setting and story here. That all was really well done.

So in the end the problem is a bit with the marketing of this series. Shangri-La unfortunately bombed, so the producers didn’t want to go with an as colourful and strong main cast this time, and instead went for the safe option of having a bunch of cute girls at the center in order to boost the sales. And really: Giselda and Milia are just fine. It’s just Fam whose character just feels out of place here.
Rating: * (Good)

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  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 06:05 PM)
    @Bam: Actually let me rephrase
    I meant that you will like: http://letterboxd.com/film/the-company-of-wolves/
    Because it is fairyrale inspired
    Because you liked brotherhood of the wolf and tale of tales.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 06:02 PM)
    @Bam: I meant tale of tales =)
    @Mario: My usual ratings are ***/***1/2 rating and ****
    Generally that indicates a film is kind good/good or great.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 04:17 PM)
    The one liner Dialogue is getting on my nerves, the lack of a great villain characterisation(Zemo is a step in the right direction but still not enough) and most of all that each movie is setup to a another movie.
    Deadpool was a step in the right direction(Yep I knew it was fox and not disney) and was as good as it was because it shook things up. At the moment marvel movies are just too…safe.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 04:13 PM)
    @Bam, I am very much in agreement. I like what the marvel cinematic universe has done but things are getting out of hand. They have prefected the superhero formula too well and it’s causing the flims to be popcorn fodder. I am walking out of their movies admiting that I enjoyed them but I don’t really think I will remember them highly. Plus the thrends of the movies are really starting to bug me.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:27 PM)
    Deadpool belongs to Fox, not Disney, but there are rumors circling of the two studios opening up to negotiation. The success of Spiderman Homecoming will greatly precipitate another such lucrative cooperation.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:23 PM)
    I have yet to see Civil War, but by every new entry their colorful feel-good flicks are starting to become too derivative and cliche. It feels like as if they’re doing the same story arc over and over again. It’s almost lazy at this point, if you ask me, and they really need to Shae things up.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:18 PM)
    @Aidan: such high praise. So Marvel did in a cameo what Sony failed to do in 5 movies. I hate the massive bandwagon that Marvel is steering, but I’m not the kind of hipster contrarian that hates on things just for their mainstream appeal, so I give them credit for doing things right; despite the fact that they really go out their way to please the masses. Their love and respect for the material far outshines their prerogative of their by the book fan-pleasing.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 12:21 PM)
    Also like how they differed him from the other fast talkers of the universe. Deadpool is pure insane comedy, Ant man has this sarcastic awkward thing going on and Spiderman is like the nerdy fanboy. I would love to see a movie with all three together as it would be pure comic gold.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 12:18 PM)
    @bam, I was taken back by him at first. I wasn’t used to seeing Spiderman and especially aunt May look so young. I thought he was too bumbling in the beginning but as I watched on he just clicked. He has the nerdy nature of Tobies Peter Parker and the spitfire commentary of Garfield’s Spiderman. He’s spot on perfect.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 10:05 AM)
    I was staying clean for a drug test, and during this hiatus I completely fell out of anime. Surely enough, as soon as I resumed burning again I also started getting into some of this season’s shows. I wonder if there’s a direct correlation, or just a byproduct of having some free time again. I’m interested in comparing my experience to others, but (un)fortunately nobody here seems to share my vices.

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Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

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Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]