While I applaud the efforts of the continuity and consistency of Last Exile Fam in regards to the original, especially considering eight years and a near collapse of Gonzo have occurred between the two series, there are some pieces of this anime that just don’t feel right. None is more evident than the discrepancy among vanships, airships, and other aerial machines that are the trademarks of this franchise. For such an established and central aspect to be so different between the two anime, it should be nothing short of a surprise.
Probably the most noticeable difference between the aircraft of the two anime is their physics. This Last Exile has some pretty sharp but idealistic physics while the first anime had a more realistic approach. The best example to explain this point is through the turns of the vanships. In the original series, vanships felt more like airplanes by requiring banked turns where the angle of the aircraft is changed to produce a turn (imagine a plane dipping its wing to change its incline). The Fam version seems to work more like automobiles, where a turn of the joystick produces an immediate turn without changing the angle of the aircraft too drastically. These two turns are very different. Additionally, the turns in the new Last Exile are much smaller and sharper than before, another attribute to the way these vehicles turn. This was the most obvious in the first episode when Fam and Giselle flew in front of the airship they were capturing, producing a quick turn without any consequences. And a bit more on that scene, the girls flew backwards, in parallel with the giant airship without much effort. And in this episode, when the balloons were floating past Fam and Millia, they were able to stop in midair and hover there, like it was commonplace for vanships to do that in this world. That would’ve been impossible considering the physics and technology of the first series. The vanships then ran in only one direction which was always forward and even if they could run backwards, they would’ve never been able to match the speed of a battleship like that or stop in mid-air and float there like a space-age vehicle. It felt like the first anime spent more time detailing the physics to make the vanships feel like bulky, authentic aircraft while this one takes that fact for granted. To summarize, the vanships and airships in Last Exile felt mechanical, while the ones in Last Exile Fam feel more magical.
Another apparent, perhaps more visible change between the two anime is the shapes and sizes of the aircrafts. Vanships seemed to be standardized among the entire world with similar body designs. Likewise, the engines seemed to be similar, too, but that’s subjective since the most indepth we saw of the engines were a few scenes at the Horizon Cave and aboard the Silvana. In the Fam version, airships come in a diverse variety of shapes and sizes and the model that Fam and Giselle use, the Vespa model, is a perfect illustration of this change, both in shape and size. The original series would never have made vanships like this possible, especially with its emphasis on the mechanical and technical details of these vehicles. But the new version for this anime works well, providing a pleasant contrast its predecessor. The smaller aircraft brings the pilot and navigator closer together and without a barrier separating the two an aspect that may yield to some symbolism when examining the relationship between the two. Additionally, these are pirates who are using these ships and they seem more compliant to their lifestyle, likely requiring more speed and maneuverability than the typical vanships from the first season. And obviously the technology must be different for an engine of this size (much smaller) and shape (behind the passengers rather than in front) to work, too. And no, this doesn’t excuse the physics argument because these factors alone do not justify the major difference in the physics between the two anime. If you think it does, then I’ll just bring up that flying pogo-stick that Giselle’s little brother was using to defeat that argument.
Taking a step back from the science and engineering behind the vanships, the people who pilot the vanships are different. That is to say, the personalities of the vanships are dissimilar between the two anime. Claus, Lavie, and all the others from the initial series were all selfless, piloting on dangerous and deadly missions to deliver letters, packages, or whatever to people without adequate accessibility. They also had a collective sense of pride between other vanship pilots and navigators. I specifically remember a scene when Claus talked to the two aged men who delivered a message to the Silvana. The pilot showed respect and gratification for his profession and all the other vanship pilots out there who risked their lives for what they love, a scene which sent a powerful message to Claus and the audience. It felt like they had their own community, too, with the various races and the people coming together to protect their lands. The new series, as you can guess, is somewhat different. While Fam and Giselle do go on dangerous and deadly missions, their purpose is out of selfishness, taking over these airships for their own direct benefit. That’s not to say Fam and Giselle are greedy and unwilling to help others (they went above and beyond for Millia) but their job as a pirate is to do what needs to be done for themselves and not to help others. The pride among vanships pilots is still there but it has slightly changed. In the first episode when watching Dio perform an acrobatic aerial performance, Giselle was awe-struck but Fam remarked how it was nothing and that she could do it, too. It’s the same pride as was in the elderly pilot from the first series but his was directed at having it with all the other vanship pilots while Fam was feeling pride in herself. They are the same emotion but they are focusing on two different subjects. At this point, it seems like the personalities of the vanships from the first anime were selfless and focused on others while the current anime has more of a emphasis on self.
Lastly, the culture around the aircraft is also changed. In the original anime, vanships were hardly used in warfare or fought in aerial battles. Aside from Tatiana, no one else really flew in the middle of active combat until Claus and Lavie tried to help Mad-thane and his skirmish with Disth forces. Towards the end of the series vanships were used more but it was a long, gradual change. And for Claus and Lavie, an unwelcome one at that, completely contradicting the reason they loved to fly. In this anime, Fam and the pirates rely solely on vanships for their livelihood which is attacking and stealing from airships. They require their vanships to fly into combat or similar every time they do their jobs and had no problems flying directly into an aerial battle between two powerful nations. The two cultures are wildly different between the two shows. Similarly, the love for the vanships is different. There were always heartwarming scenes of Claus and Lavie working together on their vanship, pouring all that sweat and labor into something they loved so dearly. They never saw their work as something tedious or annoying but as something they wanted to do. Unlike those two, I’ve never seen Fam or Giselle spend any time dedicated to repairing, maintaining, or enhancing their vanships. In fact, I’d question how much they love their vanship, never showing any deep emotions toward it and only using it to satisfy their current objectives. There are sure to be other clashes between the two cultures regarding the vanships between the series but these two are the most apparent this far in the young series.
So what accounts for these substantial differences which lead to a massive dissimilarity between the two anime? Well, according to my understanding, this story takes place two years in the future after the end of the first anime and on a completely different world. These factors do help indicate a change in the appearance, personality, and culture of the airship but provides no explanation to the physics. And even if you did use it to explain those differences, it’s strange to still see them in an anime where so many other factors are quite similar or even the same. The fact that the show revolves around vanships still would suggest that the attributes behind them would be the same but there are some expected differences, especially in the personality of the pilots. But these are some pretty significant and numerous changes in regards to such a principal characteristic of the series. There must be some out there who prefer these changes and appreciate what this new anime has done to the vanships. However, I am mildly disapproving of these changes since I found them to be so enjoyable and comprehensive in the original that I was hoping they’d be unchanged. It hasn’t been detrimental to the series but it’s something that I take to notice whenever something goes different than what I’ve come to expect from the first season. And who knows, maybe in the end these changes are necessary for the story to get its message across or essential for the storytelling in later episodes. If that’s the case then my opinion will likely change to a more positive one.
HOLY SHIT THERE WAS A GOAT DOLL ON THE FLOOR OF THE FAMILY ROOM!!! OMIGOD I AM SOOOOOOOOO HAPPY!!! I absolutely love that doll and am so delighted and thrilled to see it in this anime. The doll, however, was merely a background prop and never a focus in a shot like it was used repeatedly in the first anime. The doll was also off color, too, which is a bit of a disappointment, especially considering the one in the opening credits is the proper color. It’s also a shame it was never played with or moved since hearing that ‘baaah’ing sound is music to my ears. I hope the original doll makes more appearances since it was a favorite of mine in the first season. It would be indeed heavenly to see it play an even bigger role in this anime than the first but I doubt Fam, Giselle, or Millia would carry it around like Al and sometimes Lavie would. Although there is someone else now who can hold and carry that cherished and beloved doll with a justifiable reason. Just need to get it to her somehow…