Episodes seen: 1-2 of ?
Claus Valca lives in Prestale, a world within an endless sea of cloud where an enormous storm called Grand Stream rages on unceasingly in the sky above. Working in the carrier business as pilot on a Van Ship (flying boat) which his father had left behind, he dreams of passing through the impassable storm to reach beyond. His friend Lavie Hed helps him out with the business as a highly skilled navigator and a mechanic, and she too, dreams of going beyond the Grand Stream.
A ceaseless war has been fought in Prestale between two nations that occupy the world which involved flying battleships in occasional skirmishes, and for Claus and Lavie who live in a small town, the war has been a remote incident unrelated to their lives. One day, however, they witness a savage battle when they deliver a letter to the commander of a fleet of flying battleships. The incident marks a drastic change in the course of the war. Because of their insatiable desire to reach beyond the Grand Stream, they inadvertently get involved in the war that is about to affect the lives of all people in Prestale.
Herself the Elf sez: Just.....wow. Steampunk isn't a genre you see much in anime, but this is certainly a worthy example. The art is truly gorgeous, with an ethereal feeling that really suits the 'air battle' theme. The animation is smooth, with truly excellent CG effects and gorgeous art direction. The aesthetic style and colour scheme are a bit reminiscent of Witch Hunter Robin, with subtle colours used to great dramatic effect.
The mechanical designs are brilliant, fusing sci-fi with classic Victorian aesthetics and Industrial-Revolution technology. As for the story itself, it's pretty mysterious so far but gives us just enough information to tantalize. Who and what are the mysterious Guild that hovers above the battlefield and appears to have far superior technology to the combatants? Why are they fighting in the first place? And who set the very strict rules by which they fight?
Like my favourite of the Gundam series, War in the Pocket, Last Exile is a war story told from the point of view of non-combatants, which in my opinion makes it more accessible and emotionally powerful. Claus and Lavie are perky go-getters, but not to the point that they're annoying. They're committed to their jobs but also idealists, and are very appealing protagonists.
After the waves of derivative mediocrity that have been anime recently, it's so nice to see something truly innovative and fresh. A great intro, kickass opening music, extremely cool Victorian-style design and a compelling story make this a winner. I can't wait to see more of Last Exile.