Steampunk in Animation Pt. 2: The Last Exile

LastExileI’ve talked before about how many of my favourite examples of steampunk are animated and about my eagerness to dive further into steampunk animation, especially steampunk anime(Japanese animation). The Last Exile is one of the most highly recommended steampunk anime, so it seemed like a natural place to start my journey before diving into the obscure reaches of the anime world.

I’m not so great at the summary thing so I’ll start by sharing what’s on the Funimation page:

It’s the dawn of the Golden Age of Aviation on planet Prester, and retro-futuristic sky vehicles known as vanships dominate the horizon. Claus Valca – a flyboy born with the right stuff – and his fiery navigator Lavie are fearless racers obsessed with becoming the first sky couriers to cross the Grand Stream in a vanship. But when the high-flying duo encounters a mysterious girl named Alvis, they are thrust into the middle of an endless battle between Anatoray and Disith – two countries systematically destroying each other according to the code of chivalric warfare. Lives will be lost and legacies determined as Claus and Lavie attempt to bring peace to their world by solving the riddle of its chaotic core.

Like many of the best anime, The Last Exile is a short, self contained series with only 26 half hour episodes–but you will be amazed at just how much story these animators manage to fit into a short period of time. I am honestly still reeling from everything that happened in just the second half of this anime and I’m already excited to watch it again to pick up on all the nuances.

Right away I adored Lavie–the extremely talented and quirky girl mechanic is a fairly common anime trope but it’s one of my favourites–and by the end of the first episode I was already enthralled by the variety of airships roaming the skies of Prester.

At the beginning The Last Exile is a fun story that marries all the things you love about steampunk with some of the best anime tropes, but after the first five or six episodes the story takes a sharp turn onto a very dark path with a strange cult-like Guild at the center. Quirky, even outrageous characters and awkward romance scenes are skillfully used to keep it from being extremely heavy, but at its core this anime’s story is deeply disturbing.

I do kind of wish The Last Exile went on a little bit longer because a couple of the character arcs felt rushed, especially at the end. Everything did come to a satisfying conclusion, but there are a couple points where you can tell they’re really trying to jam a lot of story into the 26 episodes they were given.

I would recommend The Last Exile to anyone interested in exploring steampunk anime. The characters are truly likable and the story is fascinating, delving far deeper into the nature of humanity than you might expect, especially from something this short.

Does this anime sound awesome to you? Do you know an epic steampunk anime I should feature here? Let me know in the comments below!

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