On the world of Prester there are two nations. Anatoray: parched to the point where water is considered a delicacy, and Disith: a nation freezing to the point no one will survive. Between them is the Grand Stream, a perpetual nearlly nearly impassable storm. It also contains Exile, something powerful enough to control the world according to legend. Acting as a police force on Prester is the Guild. The guild have superior technology, but also control the units central to each airship allowing them to fly.
Planes known as vanships do various tasks on Prester. Claus and Lavie are pilot and navigator for a vanship used used to courier messages. After a chance encounter they get the most dangerous message yet; a little girl sought by the Guild. They deliver her to an airship named Silvana; unique because it's not under the control of the guild. It doesn't seem like two kids could make any meaningful contribution in the conflict, but they will play a key part in saving the world.
Last Exile has fantastic imaginative designs. Lots of super cool high end technology all themed with a retro streamline/art deco concept. Logos, airships, even uniforms all seem to be really well thought out. By merits of imagination alone, Last Exile is probably worth seeing.
If Last Exile has one shortcoming; it's the inconsistently paced story. There's too much filler in some places, and not enough details in others. The story begins focused on Claus and Lavie. Mid way the focus shifts to the overall conflict on Prestor, but does so in a way making the two are conspicuously left behind, although they re-emerge as main characters towards the end. The basis of the fighting between the two nations (and the guild) is not well explained, and there are many gaps in the story/history you'll have to fill in. It's not hard to figure out, but I would have preferred better explanations.
The cast is large, but the characters are generally strong. The central two are the focal point, but Claus and Lavie's relationship is pretty ambiguous. It took me a while to figure out they weren't even brother and sister, and even by the end I wasn't sure how far their partnership went beyond friendship or if it ever will. Other relationships go the same way, appearing to go somewhere but don't. That's an unusual stance in todays anime environment.
Then there's the ending. Early episodes drag, while others feel too compact. As the end loomed, I wondered if there would be enough time to tie everything up. By the end of episode 25 (of 26) most of the loose ends were still hanging! It didn't seem possible Last Exile could conclude in a satisfactory way. Then it did. Make no mistake Last Exile has the elite swat team of endings. It kicks down the doors, whoops ass, and gets the job done. Many weren't keen on how aggressive that was, but if Lord of the Rings taught me one thing, it's dragging out a conclusion can be torture in its own right - especially when you really have to pee.
While Last Exile has a level of imagination rarely seen in anime today. The theme of finding your path, while not forgetting who you are resonated well with me. Awesome designs, good animation, great characters; the only drawback is a story that stumbles in a few places, and key elements could have better explanations. Worth the watch.
Screen Caps: >