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.
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.
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.  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.
I have talked about sizes of stories before, and it is worth noting again.  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.
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.
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.
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.  Unfortunately, anime has not moved past the overly-idealistic, self-righteous, whining lead, who is just as frustrating regardless of gender.
- Range Murata’s works have an uniquely attractive, fascinating aesthetics. Giselle, in particular, is stunning.
- A good example of a story that is both small and large: Shingeki no Kyojin.
- 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.
More anime and manga reviews