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Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing – “Over Step” Recap

by on November 27, 2011

In the hope of capturing their next battleship, Fam and company visit
Eldorado, an amusement center where underground Vanship races are held.

Having gotten nearly halfway to their mandate of capturing fifteen battleships, Fam and Giselle take a different approach at capturing their next prize. This time they make a high stakes wager with Lady Roshanak Babar, a Federation baroness, over the outcome of a vanship race. What could they offer the noblewoman in exchange for a warship? None other than a disguised Millia, dressed up like a boy to play to the baroness’ apparent fetish for surrounding herself with young male servants. Fam is confident since she considers the race “low-level stuff”, but the group is alarmed when it’s revealed that Lady Babar’s racer is Yashbal: an elite pilot and a one-time finalist in the grand race years ago. Can our heroine beat the odds in this all-or-nothing gamble?

Unsurprisingly the answer is yes, although I’m rather surprised that neither side even briefly considers double-crossing the other should the worst case scenario happen. Fam is fortunately kept well away from Mary Sue status since the race is a challenge and Yashbal leads most of the way; Fam manages a victory only because she risks dumping her fuel to build speed and pulls off a difficult turn to win at the last possible moment. This stuff is classic Last Exile to be sure (the original put its hero Claus through similar trails), although honestly the most exciting and dynamic racing of this sort that I’ve seen happened in 2006’s Oban Star Racers. The series is yet young, though!

The show takes a shot at being profound by staging a small war of words between Millia and the baroness during the race. There’s a rather heavy implication that the baroness knew Millia for who she was and humored her gamble, but she remarks that she and her female attendants were all former nobles that submitted to the Ades Federation and accepted trophy titles, if you will, to live comfortable lives and ensure the security of their home countries. In contrast to that Lady Babar scoffs at Turan’s meager rebellion, feeling that it’s better to swallow pride and abdicate responsibility than to resist and foster bloodshed. Millia holds her ground though, saying she’d prefer fighting to the death to living without “pride and meaning”. Left unsaid, of course, is the fact that a leader risks more than him or herself in the process. Still, as a portrayal of Millia’s resolve and an admirable rejection of the path of least resistance, the moment works as I believe it was meant to. 

Speaking of bloodshed, for better or worse the complementing plot in “Over Step” pulls the Ades Federation into the territory of wretched villainy again. It seems clear to me now that it’s fated to be portrayed as not too far off from that “sky Nazi” first impression, that stereotypical image of an evil empire. We certainly learned the extent to which it will rule and assert its power through fear and intimidation. While Sara Augusta continues governing in the belief that she’s carrying on her late mother’s work, Premier Hafez arranges a huge gathering of nobles from countries Fam and the other pirates have been stealing ships from. He produces a royal decree mandating their execution, on the preposterous grounds that they were all secretly aiding and abetting Turan’s rebellion without exception. It’s debatable whether Hafez managed to convince himself of this, but I take the view of the gossipers in court: Hafez is a bloodthirsty, ruthless man completely at peace with expanding the war, which he gets away with since the Federation has a child for a ruler.

I’m not sure which prospect is more troubling, honestly: that Sara Augusta is so incredibly ignorant of what’s being done in her name, or that she’s aware but incapable of truly comprehending it — or worse, that she condones it since she’s been made to believe it’s what her mother would have wanted. It’s an interesting angle and there’s certainly room for further development and internal political intrigue on the Federation side, particularly where Vasant is concerned – she plays the role of a diplomat in this episode and we learn she was a leading resistance fighter for her own country before she was brought into the fold herself. It remains to be seen whether she’s conscience-free or as tamed as the baroness and those other ladies were.

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