Continuing along with my senseless nomenclature for this anime, this week’s episode is hereby dubbed ‘Lost Exile’ which appropriately describes how Millia, Fam, and Giselle were marooned in the barren tundra of Glacies. The whole episode revolves around our trio of heroes interacting with Rocket Fighter pilot and native to Glacies, Dian, and repairing their wrecked vanship before departing to the home base, the Silvus. But before going from point A to point B, the episode exposed a vast schism in cultures, customs, and philosophies between Glacies and the rest of nations neighboring the Grand Lake. Thought the episode did minimal to advance the plot, its exposition on world building was exceptional and it enriched the setting in a way I admire: thought character action rather than narration or guesstimation.
What continues to impress me through each episode of Last Exile is the diligence of the elaborate setting, not only through its tireless details in every scene but through the way the characters use the setting to tell themselves and tell the story. This episode was all about the setting and specifically on a subsection we knew little about and seen ever less of. We knew Glacies was a faraway landscape eternally blanketed in snow, below unhappy gray skies, and home to spiffy-looking airships that would patrol their boarders like an attentive guard dog housed in junkyard. Oh, and they speak Russian, so there are subtitles translating their tongue into something the subbers understand. But that was it. They always felt like a foreboding and intimidating country that the characters dreaded. We were even reminded of this soon after the episode began when Fam likened Dian to some sort of ogre that would club them and eat their bones. But in reality, we saw something completely different.
Dian is our ambassador to Glacies, representing her entire nation’s cultures, traditions, and beliefs throughout the episode. That’s not to say Dian is the embodiment of Glacies through and through, she does have some individual qualities that separate her from the rest of the Rocket Fighters and elevates her to this role, but for the purpose of the episode Dian is a living, breathing representative of Glacies to our heroic trinity and to us, the audience. Through Dian’s interactions with Millia and the others, we can begin to learn about the last relevant nation in the world.
Aside from the language barrier which was the most obvious dissimilarity, perhaps the most significant between the two were their airships and their philosophies about flying in the skies. The airships of Glacies completely encapsulate the pilots in their cockpits and show various screens brimming with data and information. Because of this engineering design, Dian has never felt the wind until she piloted Fam’s vanship after it finished being repaired. Just imagine how this new sensation and new perspective influenced her view of flying, feeling the freezing air against her face and seeing the world through her own eyes rather than various computerized screens. Must’ve been something else for her. Probably gave Dian something else to think about when she criticized Fam and Giselle’s flying philosophies earlier in the episode. Dian had trouble understanding why someone would fly without weapons and assist others in the sky when all she is familiar with, and the isolated nation of Glacies too, is patrolling her boarders, protecting her people, and killing those who threaten her sovereignty. Certainly flying in Fam’s vanship helped give her some idea on why Fam does what she does and loves what she loves.
And for Millia, Fam, and Giselle, they were able to experience Glacies, meet its people, and survive through their efforts. Through Dian and the others that helped them during their stay, they began to realize that Glacies was not as intimidating and threatening as they first imagined, despite the image from all the patrols and battles they must see or hear about. And Fam’s fear of imprisonment and death were quickly dispelled when Dian showed them her compassion and warmth. Likewise with Dian’s philosophy of flying disturbed by Fam’s line of thinking, the others were exposed to a side of flying without love for others or itself, that it was special but not special. While it doesn’t seem like much was gained for the story or the characters themselves though these exchanges, it did create a new and comprehensive image of Glacies for us.
What really impressed me with this episode was not what Glacies was developed into but how we saw the development of the setting take place. That is, we saw it though Dian’s actions instead of through a myriad of other, lesser options. The two languages really created a divide among the cast as they attempted to work together to repair the vanship and was effective, not only in creating hardships to overcome, but to show how different Glacies and the rest of the world is. It’s not often you see something like this done in anime. Usually the two different cultures will speak Japanese and rely on lesser devices to show the difference in culture (clothes, food, body language), so showing us the two languages and the characters finding difficulties communicating made the difference in cultures much more effective and significant. Seeing the two sides learn about each other’s aircrafts through dialogue and later, thorough experience, really drove home the fact that these two nations have vastly different approaches to aviation and the purpose behind flying. Had the two just discussed it back and forth (not questioning each other) it simply would not have been enough. By doing it the way they did it, we were able to visualize the differences and see the reactions of Dian and Fam to the new knowledge. Through these and other actions, we were able to understand the world of Last Exile even further and experience this new knowledge along with the characters of these lands. The setting has always been a favorite aspect of mine in Last Exile largely due to its appeal but through developments like these, I appreciate it that much further and enjoy it that much more.
Since when did the Ades Military branch join up with the Department of Infinite Money to build all those airships? At one point, I counted around 240 on screen during one shot this episode. That’s absolutely absurd and unbelievable. Seriously, these airships all must cost a fortune, not only to construct, outfit and maintain, but to pay for the crew that operates them, the military onboard, the food and supplies for everyone, and ultimately upgrade. And they have thousands of these. This war must be incredibly costly for the people of Ades and for what gain? They’re not doing much with the ruins of Turan now after decimating the capital to rubble. But it doesn’t appear they know or care what’s going on, they just cheer wildly because someone somewhere established a link of this war to Augusta and, like the blind and uneducated masses they are, they go wild and give it their full support. I don’t understand how this war is finaced or how its backed by its people but whatever, I could make this argument in any anime and still get the same answer every time: shrugged shoulders.