Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing

Fam Fan Fan Giselle Collette Vingt Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam Silver Wing Range Murata

Back in the summer of 2006, right at the cusp of my growing anime interest—which is a fun tale in and of itself—I chanced upon Last Exile. The anime impressed. It soared at a scale above many of its peers. Several years later, a sequel was released—Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing. It played on the nostalgia and fond memories of the open skies, and I set out for the clouds.

Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam Silver Wing Giselle Chuppa Katotsuba

My excitement quickly dropped after a few episodes. I had expected Fam, the Silver Wing to feel similar to the prequel. Yet, the parallels between the two series are only skin-deep. Like the first series, Fam, the Silver Wing follows two unsuspecting pilots as they are thrust into the midst of conflicts far greater than themselves: wars between nations and schemes to control lost technology of the Exiles. Sky pirate Fam Fan Fan and her navigator, Giselle, embark on a quest to restore Turan after rescuing Turan’s princess, Millia. This premise is rich enough; it has the potential for an awe-inspiring story. I had hopes for colossal flying fleets, dogfights, intricate steam punk machinery, political intrigue, and all the features that makes Last Exile feel grand, sophisticated, and, yet, still gritty.

Last Exile Fam the Silver Wing ginyoku no Fam Fam Fan Fan Giselle Collette Vingt grunge Range Murata

Instead, Fam, the Silver Wing relegates these features to the background. Granted, the rare moments of aerial battles, rows and rows of ships, and Vespa flights are all gorgeously animated. The steam punk flavor—when it is highlighted infrequently—are beautiful as well. [1] However, these best aspects of Last Exile are not only too few, but replaced by an emphasis on immature girls, who simply seem to be out-of-touch with the scale of events around them.

Last Exile Fam Silver Wing big weapon

I have talked about sizes of stories before, and it is worth noting again. [2] The scale of a world and its happenings is a very delicate, but oft overlooked facet. Some—like most slice-of-life anime: K-On!, Tamayura, and such—are small. Others are large and involve worldly tales and epics. Last Exile is a story that wants to be large. The political struggles among super powers, apocalyptic weapons, and world wars all point towards a big story. Despite that, Fam, the Silver Wing focuses almost entirely on small-scale affairs of three little girls, whose relevance to the events at large is vague. This creates a jarring disconnection between the main characters—from whose lenses we see the story unfold—and everything else that goes on.

Last Exile Fam Fan Fan annoying at meeting

I remember one particular scene that highlights the frustration that comes with this poor juxtaposition of naïve children and global politics. While several leaders of nations are discussing measures to curb a dominant hostile force, Fam Fan Fan blurts out her wishes for everyone to just get along. She may as well have been talking about ponies, firetrucks, butterflies, and her crayon drawings. Yes, that is very nice darling, and I am glad you have feelings, but adults are talking.

Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam Silver Wing Murata Renji Tatiana Wisla Alister Agrew

Fam, the Silver Wing thus attempts to tell a great story with a wrong cast and scope. Its prequel establishes a tone and a scale that Fam Fan Fan and her friends could not keep. Though it may not be fair to hold Fam, the Silver Wing to the same standard as Last Exile, a friend makes a compelling point: Because the sequel relies so heavily on the plot and characters from the first Last Exile, it is not a standalone series, and should be kept consistent with the original.

A quick look at their openings further illustrates the difference.

Cloud Age Symphony. Magnanimous, hauntingly powerful, the opening sequence put war and flight at its center.

Buddy, on the other hand, emphasizes the three girls and their inner emotions.

Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam Silver Wing Giselle Collette Vingt Millia il Velch Cutrettola Turan Murata Renji

To a certain degree, the difference between Last Exile and Fam, the Silver Wing may represent a shifting trend in anime from masculinity to femininity. Besides the change in the leads’ genders, the sequel also contains more emotive, loud characters and an increased focus on character-driven relationships. These are all traditionally associated with more feminine anime. [3] Unfortunately, anime has not moved past the overly-idealistic, self-righteous, whining lead, who is just as frustrating regardless of gender.

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  1. Range Murata’s works have an uniquely attractive, fascinating aesthetics. Giselle, in particular, is stunning.
  2. A good example of a story that is both small and large: Shingeki no Kyojin.
  3. Of course, this comes with the caveat that feminine anime is not only enjoyed by or even targeted for women. Think Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

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About Yi

''lol...you're either sleeping or eating'' ''oh and watching anime'' ''and indulge in fashion.'' ... Ahh the busy life~
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41 Responses to Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing

  1. Cratex says:

    Last Exile, though arguably not perfect, is one of my favorite, possibly favorite, shows.

    Fam of the Silver Wing, if objectively looked at as a stand alone, is a decent, but not great, show. But, your friend is absolutely right – it is and extension of and relies to heavily on the former to be evaluated in isolation, and when that is considered it comes out fairly weak.

    Possibly the thing that sticks with me the most about this show is the contrast between Fam and Millia. Fam supposedly is the main character and star of the show, and I was taken with her immediately. On the other hand, Millia was introduced as a very weak, petty, spoiled child that I saw as very much a weight dragging at Fam. But, in the end, Millia showed considerable growth and in my opinion became one of the stronger characters in the show – she stood up, reached out and took control of herself, her path, and the events around her. Fam, on the other hand, while she remained incredibly brave and loyal, not only failed to grow, but showed some poor characteristics, flaws of judgement, and at the end was simply floundering in the sea of events around her.

    • Vucub Caquix says:

      Hear hear regarding Fam & Millia.

    • Yi says:

      @Cratex: Fam is not a terrible series; it has its lovable parts and strong moments. I would even go further to say that it’s in the better half of the anime released that year. Unfortunately, because Fam stands on the shoulders of giants, it merits higher standards and harsher words. But yep, it is actually quite an enjoyable series… Mostly.

      I find it interesting that we see the same contrast between Milia and Fam, and that we both appreciate this juxtaposition of characters abd their developments, but have different feelings about the girls themselves and their effect on the series. (This goes for vuc as well.) You’re absolutely right about how Fam captures your attention immediately, but remains stagnant, and how Millia slowly grows. However, I found that too often do I feel that she is an immature, ignorant girl playing at politics. On this front–and though I used Fam as the example in the post–Millia is the bigger offender. Indeed, I felt like I was watching yet another Disney-esque teen movie where the kids show the adults up because kids are so emotionally awesome. At least Fam acts her age, even if it’s unbefitting of the situation. Millia’s character, on the other hand, is not only annoying, but undermines the anime’s credibility. It was the last straw to see her command an entire fleet with little experience in warfare.

      Anyways, thanks for the thoughts and discussion. ^ ^

      • Cratex says:

        “Fam is not a terrible series; it has its lovable parts and strong moments”
        Agreed. I enjoyed it and gave the show an 8/10 – I tried hard not to compare it to the original when I came up with that rating.
        About Millia, I agree but I also disagree. With the death of her father and the capture of her sister she had no choice but to fill the role of leader, whether she was up to the challenge or not. There was no one else. She had to do something, right or wrong. She gave the people a rally point as the representative of the government in exile as the only legitimate heir to the throne that no one else could fill. She made mistakes, and to the show’s credit she paid the price for some of them, particularly when early on she failed to cement the support of the crews of the first ‘fleet’ Fam and the other sky pirates had collected for her and lost them.
        Regarding “commanding the fleet”, she was leader, but I didn’t see her as commander. She was the rally point and chose to lead from the front to share the risk, but was not usually giving the orders (except, if I recall correctly, for her own ship when again she found herself as the only one who could for a while).

        • Yi says:

          I’ll agree that she has had to grow up faster and be a leader quickly, and that was interesting to watch. Also agreed that she is a rally point and a symbol. I enjoyed her the most when she is in that role. It is the moments when she goes beyond that—and when the series suggests those moments had relevance— that makes me take a step back. For example, the episode when Millia declares her own territory within the Silvius. It is certainly not political intrigue at its finest.

          “Regarding “commanding the fleet”, she was leader, but I didn’t see her as commander. She was the rally point and chose to lead from the front to share the risk, but was not usually giving the orders (except, if I recall correctly, for her own ship when again she found herself as the only one who could for a while).”

          In the final battle, Millia actually commands the Silvius. She is also more than just a figure head leader, and gives explicit commands of tactics, such as: “Alert all ships and order evasive action.” This I found very silly. Surely a crew as experienced as the Silvius could produce a chain of command such that they would not have to rely on an inexperienced young teenager for orders.

          But beyond these scenes, for the most part, I agree with you about Millia.

    • dyananyad says:

      Hmmm … perhaps Fam was illustrating identifiable ” human ” characteristics that may surface from incredible pressure, lack of precedence/experience – people themselves can show a lack of depth under certain situations. In support of anthropomorphism, I too have floundered in the sea of events around me. Once or twice, maybe … large, well-attended sporting events … I keep swearing I’ll never do those again – and perhaps, in the sequel to Siver Wing, Fam will be of greater character because she has been capable of learning.

  2. Smithy says:

    Loved the original “Last Exile” and quite looked forward to this sequel/spin-off… however, I haven’t completed watching it, got stuck somewhere around episode 13-14 and haven’t picked it back up since. I guess that in itself says enough on how it didn’t live up to the original for me. ^^;;

    Perhaps a large part is as you indicate that the three girls, their story and characters are too small for such a big tale. Especially Fam as a female lead fails to inspire, which goes to show how a lead character can often make or break a show to a significant extent.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, it’s not a masterpiece, especially when it is compared to its prequel. Last Exile is such a strong series that to have Fam not meet its expectations–even though Fam is a pretty decent series if standalone–is unfortunate. I’m not too surprised that you’re stalled at the halfway point. The latter half of Fam drags a bit and has quite a dull vibe.

      Agreed too that the neither Fam nor Millia inspires. Alex Row was so much more of an impact. Claus as well.

  3. Overlord-G says:

    I suppose your rage truly does mean feminism’s dead. Ah well, yet another show I seem to have enjoyed more than you did. I wonder if this will become a trend?

  4. jreding says:

    Call me surprised, Yi! I would have thought you as a yuri lover would have liked this series more ;-) This may be an example of how much one’s perception of a show is colored by expectations.
    I haven’t watched the original L.E. so I had no expectations besides knowing that it was a much praised series involving flying ships and steampunk. Thus I couldn’t be disappointed in this respect. I’m looking forward to watching the original if Fam is so much inferior to it!

    Also, I tend not too care too much about the plot in all sorts of TV/ movie franchises depicting large-scale issues like wars, politics or economics. Mostly it’s just too oversimplified for my taste. L.E. wasn’t even that bad in this respect, e.g. I appreciated that neither side could truly be called the “good” or “right” one; e.g. the Turanians as I understood were basically the invaders in the first place and also sided w/ wicked Lilliana in ep. 10 w/o second thoughts. Lucinia’s schemings in the second half were just lost on me, though.

    The reason why this series turned out to be one of my favorites of fall 2011 was precisely for the aspect you criticize: The focus on the relations between the girls. Fam x Millia in ep. 4… shy and unhappy Giselle’s cute noises being utterly adorable in ep. 9 at 9:21… Dian joining Fam’s harem in the Soviet-style onzen episode 12… Dian’s sidekick blushing in ep. 17… Millia’s cool commander uniform in the last episodes… and not to forget the awesome vespa flying scenes where Fam and Giselle just became one w/ their flying gear and left all doubts and sorrows behind them – there was just so much that I loved!

    Also I didn’t mind Fam staying an immature girl. Why expect a preteen girl to have an adult’s judgement? Millia being forced to grow beyond her years was sufficient imo.

    Re anime becoming more feminine: I guess it’s pandering to the moe otaku audience which has become the industry’s dominant patron. Also, I think anime somewhat lost the grand topics like sci-fi visions of society or large-scale wars – the world as a whole has become too complex in the age of asynchronous warfare and societies are much less integrated in today’s smafo world than they were in anime’s golden age.

    • Cratex says:

      “Why expect a preteen girl to have an adult’s judgement?”
      Technically I agree with you, though I need to point out Fam was 15, not a pre-teen. However, my main gripe was that, as far as I could tell, she grew not at all. One somewhat expects the “heroes” to step up to the plate when the chips are down. She remained brave and loyal to the end, but in the end she seemed to me more a side character than a main character.

      • Yi says:

        We disagree a bit here. I appreciated that Fam acts her age, whereas Millia’s growth I found to be poorly done. It feels too forced, contrived. Though, based on the comments and feedback, I think most people agree with you, and disagree with me. ^ ^

        • Cratex says:

          Ah, no, not really. I recognize what Millia ‘became’ in the end was somewhat awkwardly done, I just decided that this had a strong ‘fairy tale’ element to it and tried not to think to hard about it.

        • jreding says:

          @ Cratex: Thanks for pointing out Fam’s correct age! My mistake speaks for itself, I guess… I also expected Fam somewhat saving the world w/ Giselle in the backseat. It’s also suggested she’s a princess herself. But indeed, she stayed more of a side character and didn’t grow.

          @ Yi: Yes, we happen to disagree here ;-) Just think of Millia establishing her mini souvereignty onboard the Silvius in ep. 5. It felt quite natural to me that a bright girl who grows up as a princess develops something like an instinct for politics and leadership which awakes once she has to fight for her position.

        • Yi says:

          @Cratex: Fair enough. Sigh… The fairy tale is a bit too fantastic for my needs in Last Exile. ^ ^

          @jreding: I’ll contend that the sovereignty aboard the ship is a really good episode in terms of progressing Millia’s character. But I found, since that episode, her maturity to stall since that point—which is still a bit of a naive, but cute symbolic maneuver—and then to suddenly jump to become leading commander of a fleet and a role player in war. I just didn’t buy it.

    • Yi says:

      @jreding: To be honest, I didn’t find there to be that much yuri subtext, although it is always nice to see girls become so intimate.

      The lack of steam punk in Fam is regretful I think. Even without the expectations, it just seems like such a missed opportunity not to really showcase steam punk elements. It is, after all, based on the gorgeous artworks of Range Murata. This is yet another angle where Last Exile is better. While I wouldn’t quite claim that the original is superior in every aspect, and I fully admit that I may be colored by my expectations, I think Last Exile is still a much better series than Fam, even if we consider both standalone series.

      “I appreciated that neither side could truly be called the “good” or “right” one”

      I also appreciated this as well, but I would like to see Fam expand on this more besides a few scenes of the plight of both sides. And on a similar note that I didn’t mention in the post, I found the ending really weak. I wanted to understand Luscinia’s motivations for starting war. The series fails to explain how he turns out so blood thirsty. Or, if it did, it did so unconvincingly.

      “the Turanians as I understood were basically the invaders in the first place”

      Just a quick note… The Turanians are invaders in a sense, but mostly in a historical sense. Think Caucasians in the Americas.

      Giselle is the best.

      “Also I didn’t mind Fam staying an immature girl. Why expect a preteen girl to have an adult’s judgement? Millia being forced to grow beyond her years was sufficient imo.”

      I never expected a preteen girl to have an adult’s judgment. That wasn’t the problem. In fact, I liked that Fam stays true to her age. The issue is she is out of place in the series. I minded having an immature girl in Last Exile playing a pivotal role in the politics, not the immature girl herself.

      “I guess it’s pandering to the moe otaku audience which has become the industry’s dominant patron.”

      This is the conclusion I was going to draw, but decided instead to leave it up to the readers to have their own interpretations, since not all will agree. ^ ^

      Thanks for the comment, jreding!

      • jreding says:

        “The series fails to explain how he turns out so blood thirsty.” That’s the good thing about not having watched the original LE: I just assumed it was explained in the first series and didn’t bother understanding!

        Re Range Murata: I just realize that Shangri-La was a Gonzo series w/ Range Murata design featuring a sort of pirate girl as main, as well. Did you happen to watch it? It had it’s flaws, as well, but the story was held together much better and the main actually mattered. My fave was a girl called Karin who had scrunchies in her hair which blinked indicating brain activity like the HDD light on a notebook.

        • Yi says:

          “I just assumed it was explained in the first series and didn’t bother understanding!”

          I don’t think he was around in the first series. ^ ^

          I love Range Murata’s style, and I feel like I should’ve watched Shangri-La, but alas, the moment has passed. I will be content with artbooks though~

  5. ajthefourth says:

    Your last sentence is fabulous. ^ ^

    • I agree. That and the wonderfully sarcastic comment :”Yes, that is very nice darling, and I am glad you have feelings, but adults are talking.” I loled hard. How true, how true. Although we’d like to believe that ‘love will find a way’ and ‘love conquers everything’, reality is not like that and this dream in anime has become redundant.

      I need to watch Last Exile. Or at least Neko should- he loves politics.

    • Yi says:

      @ajthefourth: Thanks! I have to give credit to @fencedude for the inspiration. ^ ^

  6. wieselhead says:

    Well, the first Last Exile was better, even though Dio was very cool in the new anime.

    It was interesting, that the show canceled a male main character role here. Well cute girls are more welcome and popular than another wimpy boy. We already had enough of them in the last few years. Giselle was enchanting in this anime, I very much agree with you.

    I enjoyed this show but it wasn’t Fam’s breadwinning, it was more because of the surrounding, the characters from the old LE and the battles. Unfortunately the setting became too large for it’s main characters, I can’t remember another anime where that ever happened. Especially near the end three girls became bystanders next to the audience, it is not the way the main characters should be portrayed. On a realistic standpoint it is obvious that three cute girls can’t save the world, but when I watch anime I want to see the things that seem impossible.

    No bad anime, but the more or less useless main character is certainly leaving a bad aftertaste.

    • Yi says:

      Dio is one of the few things that Fam does better than Last Exile. I really didn’t like Dio in the former, but loved him in the latter.

      I loved Giselle in this, even though she didn’t take a big role. She’s so cute. ^ ^ And yes, I’d take cute girls over wimpy boys any day. ^ ^

      Very keen note on the ending. The three girls essentially becomes sidelines to the plot. I had very little idea what their roles are per se, yet the series seems to insist on their relevance. It feels contrived.

      “On a realistic standpoint it is obvious that three cute girls can’t save the world, but when I watch anime I want to see the things that seem impossible.”

      I do as well, but what I want more is to see the impossible seem realistic and believable.

      Fam isn’t a bad anime, and I’d say it’s just above mediocre. Still, there is that bad taste (not to mention the poor ending). Anyways, thanks for the comment, doll. ^ ^

  7. necrocosmos says:

    I stoped watching it after there was an episode when Fan Fan went to take back important momento for Millia, for me it looked like out of picture, seriously how can u be concerned about some momento when your nation is on verge of destruction. IT felt so unreasonable that i regretted starting watching it, i doubt i will ever be able to watch Last Exile after that:D. It kinda feel like lack of comprehension^^.

    • Cratex says:

      “seriously how can u be concerned about some momento when your nation is on verge of destruction”
      Because, Fam and Millia are 15 year old kids, not adults. Millia at that point in the story was still very much the sheltered little princess and she was far more concerned with the personal things she had lost (her family and her most treasured possessions). Fam never had a country to be concerned with and what she latched onto was Millia.

      • necrocosmos says:

        In medieval times i think girls taht were 15 years old had much responsibilities, and i doubt that they would just cry over 1 momento, unless they were pumped 2 much. And whats more she is princess! That put some strain on her. I cant imagine a human who see people dieing, more then that the people who should be protected by her dieing, and then being concerned over one pointless momento, its bestiality, and such excuse like she is 15 years don’t apply.

        • Cratex says:

          I don’t agree with you. Let’s just leave it at that.

        • Yi says:

          She is not quite in Medieval times though. Even if she is, should we hold fifteen-year-olds to this level of responsibility just because history has done so before?

          Further I disagree with this logic.

          I imagine child soldiers today, even with all the things they’ve seen and done, would care about “pointless” toys when they sleep at night. Adults care about “pointless” sentiments just as much.

          Emotions are there regardless of what responsibilities you hold. And I do not fault her for that.

    • Yi says:

      That–getting back her sister’s things–was actually one of the few moments where I found Millia’s character genuine. And perhaps it is because of that, I found her mature side contrived. The growth from teenage girl who cares about trinkets to the leader who understands the sacrifices and realities of war and conflicted nationality/territories is nice, but not particularly fascinatingly done I thought.

  8. dyananyad says:

    When I discovered Last Exile, I watched it whole – straight through, every episode. That’s how much it engaged me; but Fam – I’m not sure if I made it to the 4th or 5th episodes ( sorry, Giselle ). To me anime must be superb on at least one level, usually visual, but that may not be enough if the story is monotonous & the characters become irritating ( ie. loud ).
    How much of the directorship of mainstream anime is still mostly male, and how do you think that is determining the interperetation of ” feminine” ?

    • Cratex says:

      “When I discovered Last Exile, I watched it whole – straight through, every episode.”
      Same here :)

    • Yi says:

      Last Exile was an incredible experience, and I still remember it fondly. As for Fam, I got fairly far before I became seriously frustrated with the lead cast, around episode 20-ish. It’s a bit unfortunate.

      “How much of the directorship of mainstream anime is still mostly male, and how do you think that is determining the interperetation of ” feminine” ?”

      This is a good question, and I don’t have the research to answer that. I should note too the interpretation of feminine prevalent in today’s anime is a fascinating topic in and of itself. There is a prevalence of traditional gender roles, especially in the popular shonen series, but at the same time, also marked independence of female characters.

  9. Kieran says:

    I enjoyed Fam, but not as much as Last Exile. Have you seen/reviewed Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere? I’ve just finished watching it and felt it had a lot in common with Last Exile – airship, lost past and war – and I’m interested to hear what your thoughts are.

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