Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 11

I really should start calling these ‘Late Exile’ rather than Last Exile since they always come out well after the episode aired.  Well, it’s more of the same from me this week but a number of curious surprises and praiseworthy developments coming from Last Exile which has the anime treading upward.  But instead of examining the ascending trend and the reasons behind this surge, there’s a theme that has been persistently reiterated in episodes like this that I just can’t ignore anymore and needs some much deserved notice.

Last Exile Fam follows the adventures and travels of sky pirate Fam Fan Fan and her trusted yet timid navigator Giselle.  But the story of Last Exile Fam revolves around nations waging global wars, the terrifying and shady presence of the Guild, and the enigmatic Exiles floating above in the heavens.  These major plot points intertwine with each other to the point of being inseparable and have driven the story for the entire anime.  But these plot points aren’t really directly relevant to Fam or Giselle.  Rather, the entire plot of Last Exile Fam follows Millia and her struggles to revive her fallen nation amidst the abduction of her dependable sister, death of her charismatic father, and desertion of her cherished people.  Though not the main character of Last Exile, Millia is without a doubt, the protagonist of this anime.

So what does it mean if Fam is the main character and Millia is the protagonist?  For one, we see the world through Fam, she is our window through which we can see and experience the world of Last Exile.  But the plot of the anime, that of the war, the guild, and the Exiles, does not really fit in well through Fam’s viewpoint.  Should we try to experience these events, the anime usually goes through Millia first before we’re able to see how these developments affect Fam.  For Millia, it’s the same but just flipped.  The story goes through Millia before anyone else on the ‘good guys’ side because it really is her story or at least more than anyone else aboard the Silvius or within the sky pirate guild.  We’re not as lucky to follow Millia around, to experience the story firsthand, but we’ve been given some opportunities lately and the anime has made the best of them when given this limited chance.  However, all these chances are primarily to advance the plot rather than examining Millia’s character or feeling the world through her eyes.  Most anime and other forms of storytelling don’t split the roles of main character and protagonist but Last Exile does between Fam and Millia.

But now a question arises: what would Last Exile Fam be like if the roles weren’t split between the two?  What if Fam had all the perspective and the story or what about Millia?  How would the anime be different?  Well, that’s the point I wanted to explore in this post.  Since it’s easier to change perspectives from Fam to Millia than altering the story from Millia to Fam (if that’s even possible), we’ll go with this example.

If Last Exile Fam followed the adventures and travels of Turan Princess Millia, then the anime would be like most others with the main character and protagonist roles united.  And that would probably improve the anime, perhaps even greatly.  By following Millia first and foremost, we’d be able to see the world through her eyes and understand what drives her so.  Not only would the conflict and tension that relentlessly pressures her throughout the anime be more transparent but we would also see how she prevents her mind and spirit from breaking down from the unyielding hardships.  I’d love to see the emotion of the anime flow through Millia than Fam, especially since I believe Millia feels more human than Fam (who tends to be more anime-ish which isn’t the best of descriptions but you know what I mean).  Furthermore, the exploration of Last Exile would be more fascinating since Millia had never been in the skies before on a vanship, let alone fly pilot or navigator.  From this perspective, we could rediscover the charming technologies again and find more significant behind their influence.  We might even see Millia develop a passion for the skies after seeing her fearful in her first few flights.  In my eyes, Millia makes perfect sense to be both the protagonist and the main character.

Now, don’t get me wrong and judge me to believe that Fam is the bad at being the main character but I do believe she is the wrong choice.  Fam really has had a minimal impact on the story.  Besides rescuing Millia from the bombarded Lasas, the flagship of Turan from the first few episodes, and then taxiing Millia from place to place, Fam has had zero impact on the story beyond emotional support.  All those battleships she stole (another problem I have with the anime but not appropriate to bring up now) haven’t done anything to affect the story besides eat up valuable time and detract from other meaningful plot points.  The airships were actually used in this episode, their first time in the anime, but they proved to be completely ineffective in altering the story.  If you completely removed them from the scene or even the entire anime nothing will change.  And that’s all Fam has done for the story.  Her emotional support really hasn’t affected the story either but it has done some worth helping expose sides of Millia’s character we wouldn’t otherwise learn about.  Fam’s strengths lie in her liveliness, personality, and compassion which help keep the energy of the series high whenever she’s on screen.  It keeps otherwise boring scenes and lackluster characters from affecting our moods because Fam always jolts us like a defibrillator.  Fam is not a regretful main character by any means but she isn’t the best in the anime.

Unless the anime changes significantly and Fam’s role in the story becomes involved and obvious, I’m going to keep the idea that Millia would be a better main character than Fam due to her role as the protagonist.  Of course, the example used was simple and ignored the serious ramifications of such a change but it would be for the best regardless.  The biggest downgrade would be Fam’s determination and enthusiasm taking a backseat to Millia’s indecisiveness and doubts (Fam could come off the bench and supplying those emotions which might be worthwhile).  The more I see of Fam, the more I think how much better she’d be as a minor character with her energy and silliness as her primary characteristics.  I’d imagine her still as the pilot and chauffer for Millia but to be featured less and assuming more of a support role.

I’d like Millia to assume the role of main character but I know it won’t happen.  Fam is the main character of this anime and it won’t be changing to Millia anytime soon, if ever.  There’s a reason we’re following Fam and I hope it becomes obvious soon.  The whole split of main character and protagonist is constantly evident in these plot heavy episodes and I can’t help but think about it virtually every time.  And every time I am reminded about it, I think to myself that this is one area where the anime could improve, in my eyes, if it just made this change.  I imagine with the plot finally accelerating and heading in a positive direction that these thoughts won’t go away anytime soon.  Maybe you, too, notice the split between roles and can use the upcoming plot heavy episodes as examples and see if you feel the same way I do.  Might be a fun game to play if you’re into this sorta thing (and I’m guessing if you made it to this point, you are into this sorta thing).

Poot Beep.  Just say that our loud, Poot Beep.  Poot Beep.  Would you drink something called “Poot Beep”?   Yeah, it’s read as “Root Beer” in Fam-land but I almost spit out my drink when I paused on the label and read it in plain English.  Would be even more ironic if I spit out root beer when I read that in my mind.  I did get up and check to see if I had any root beer left but alas, I’m fresh out, and went back to drinking cola.  Still, I got quite the laugh out of that bottle and that label.

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  1. #1 by Marina on December 29, 2011 - 4:19 AM

    More Poot Beep, please!

    But yes, your views have been on my mind for a while, since I first made a joke early on that the show should really be named after Millia. You do a good job guessing what the story would be like with Millia as the lead and Fam as a side, and that’s really what I wish this show had chosen to do. But I guess GONZO is to enamored with the idea of the pilot/navigator duo leads, following the first season’s choice. I love your idea of having Millia grow from her fear of flying to really appreciate it, perhaps even learn to do it herself throughout the show. The season is certainly long enough for that to work.

    Oh, and about the numbering of the episode: it’s weird, but I believe this episode is actually 10 since the recap episode should be 9.5. Although the subber I follow numbered it the same way as you, sources like ANN, MAL, and Wiki call this one 10 and set the previous aside as either 9.5 or, as MAL does, has it separated entirely into its own category of recap episodes.

    • #2 by avvesione on December 29, 2011 - 5:22 PM

      Thanks for the clarification on the numbering of the episodes. It’d make more sense to call that recap episode 9.5 but it never occurred to me to do that until I saw your post. Oh well.

      Yeah, your post kinda inspired me to write this one and it’s been a topic repeated by the series since those first few episodes. I’ve been talking about it a lot with my friend who has also been following Last Exile and figured that this episode was the best chance to flesh out the subject, especially since this episode felt like the rebirth of the series (showing scenes similar to the first episode, reintroducing the plot, and bringing back lovable characters like Al and Vincent. I really like the direction the anime is taking now and I’m excited to see Glacies and their cultures in the next episode. Should be great!

  2. #3 by Zammael on December 30, 2011 - 12:35 PM

    You raised an interesting point, Avvy. While I think the protagonist is also the main character, the definition of protagonist is not fixed. It used to mean the leader of the chorus in ancient Greek dramas. Then it denoted the lead character who appeared first. Eventually it became the main character as we understand the term today.

    However it remains ambiguous especially in classic works like Othello. Is Iago the protagonist? He certainly was at the epicenter of the story. But was he the lead character? Or is that Othello? You’ve noted the same ambiguity in Last Exile, whether Fam or Milla is the true protagonist. My money is with Milla cuz she is a three dimensional character who has room for growth or change, and we identify with her easier than the classic heroic Fam.

    The ambiguity of the protagonist is what leads to multiple interpretations of a story.

    • #4 by avvesione on December 30, 2011 - 7:24 PM

      I was thinking the “main character” is the character we follow more than anyone else and use as our eyes to see the world. The “protagonist” on the other hand is the most important character in the plot and who is affected by the plot more than anyone else. Couldn’t find the proper terminology to make this post work but it’s kinda what I wanted to use with this post.

      An example that comes to mind is Super Mario 64: Millia = Mario, Fam = Lakitu camera guy.

      • #5 by zammael on December 30, 2011 - 8:00 PM

        Yes, the protagonist is not necessarily the hero or heroine. Milla is the protagonist while Fam is the heroine. The protagonist is where the story really revolves around, while the heroine is the lead character that does the right thing, and serves as the ideal for the audience to aspire to, while they identify with the weaker, but more human protagonist.

        That would serve as the more accurate term for the distinction you’re going for here, at least according to literary theory these days.

        • #6 by avvesione on December 31, 2011 - 2:37 AM

          oooo I do like the term hero/heroine for what Fam is. I’ll try to use that more now.

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