Steampunk has been a concept that’s cropped up in a lot of Anime, some of which I’ll talk about more of this month — but Anime is a medium that’s allowed retro-futurist tech to flourish in their concepts, as they don’t have the same American need for “hard” science fiction or fantasy delineations, often making for really cool creative concepts.
Last Exile is one of those series, something I loved years ago, and so I started watching it again as we discuss Steampunk topics, as I recalled it being one of the closest anime to steampunk that we had.
The series is about a fantasy world Prester, and there’s a couple nations Anatoray and Disith which are at war with each other. There’s a guild that oversees the rules of airship combat — and it’s got the oldschool chivalrous form of warfare where sides line up and fire at each other. The opening episode starts with a group breaking that chivalry and sending the world into turmoil.
It’s got steampunk airships — which teeter between steam/dieselpunk in their operations. they have machine gun type weapons that soldiers are outfitted with, driven by steam pressure, shown off in the very first episode. It’s got a lot of Napoleonic cultural themes to it as well. I love the different airship designs representing the different nations, it’s very cool.
The art doesn’t hold up all that well– these were early experiments in the transition to digital art in anime, and it shows in a lot of spots. Though I like the way the ship designs are and the characters look, there’s points where it throws a viewer out.
The first couple episodes really show us that whole big-world scope concept, while introducing the main characters Klaus and Lavie — who are independent messengers who use their personal airship, more of a fighter-style one they call vanships, to deliver messages. We learn there’s a guild and rating system for how dangerous the missions are, with pay accordingly.
They get thrust into this conflict that we see, and it’s actually a pretty dry presentation of the battle from an impersonal perspective most of the time. I wasn’t nearly as gripped in these episodes as I remember being with the series from a long time ago. Still, the world is intriguing enough to continue.
The third episode is where it gets interesting. We start off with a pod-race style set up, which is boring in and of itself until the twist, where we see a downed fighter pilot, a young girl, and a message that has to be delivered. Some crazy sci-fi enemy is chasing him down and our heroes accept responsibility to bring her to safety. It’s just the opening volleys, but with great airship battles and fast pace, I’m excited to go through this series again.
A big focus overall so far on adventure and battling, with ordinary heroes who are taking on more than they can chew.