an airborne landscape

I’m almost halfway through the series. I recall Shamus has blogged about Last Exile a while back and found the ending disappointing. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Still, I’m in now, and committed to see what happens.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about the series thus far, which Shamus and others have also mentioned, is how cool the aerial combat scenes are. In fact, it goes beyond that – Last Exile combines Podracing (a la Star Wars Episode One), 3D dogfighting (a la Star Wars X-Wings vs Ties) and capital ship combat (a la Star Trek II).

I mentioned in my last post that the world made little sense thus far, but given the events in the last episode I just watched, I think I can make some speculations. Below the fold, of course…

The mystery “Claudia” units that keep everything aloft are refered to as being based in some kind of magnetism. The basic idea is that there are these naturally occurring crystals which have inherent magnetic properties. Of course, they glow eerie blue. Also, we see a lot of huge rocky promontories up in the sky, like the Dragon’s Fangs, but such vast structures clearly have no base connecting them to the earth, because when Claus and Tatiana crash to the desert below, there is no sign of the vast mountain range needed to support such colossal structures penetrating the clouds above. Here are some screenshots.

Dragon’s Fangs:


Desert below:


(incidentally, I had suspected that the “ground” was a desert, given how precious and scarce water seems to be).

In the first episode we also get a view of Claus and Lavie’s village. From far away, their home village is in a vast crater the top of another huge mountain range peeking above the clouds:


However as we zoom in we can see that the village is built on levels, with topmost level being farmland, and below that the residential. Vast structures support the entire village above some deeper substrate we can’t quite see.


and there’s also a mysterious Grand Stream that apparently exists above everything else. Here is a shot of the Silvana descending out of it, note that it’s essentially invisible from below. There are ripples above the Silvana indicating where it just exited.


So, given all the evidence, I think we have a (deliberate) homage to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Instead of a single flying isle of Laputa, we have a landscape dotted with them, all floating across a vast desert below. The isles stay aloft via a magnetic force generated by the Claudia crystals, which occur naturally and which are extracted for use in powering the vanships and major vessels. The perpetual cloud layer that envelops the floating islands seems to be a side effect of the magnetic field. I’ve no explanation for the “Grand Stream” but as I progress further I am sure we will get a better look at it.

4 thoughts on “an airborne landscape”

  1. Well… since you touched on it, the only flaw I really saw with Last Exile is the ending. It was like the animators thought there were going to be another episode or two when the started it. I can see it now…. “wait, what? THIS is the last episode, crap we got a lot to do…” Other than that, Last Exile remains on my top 5 list (actually top 6 list since you started me watching Mushi-shi… damn-it.) The series is very easy to get wrapped up in and watch a second or third time through.

    I also liked that the technology wasn’t beaten to death. Being somewhat coherent and an engineer to boot, there is nothing I hate more these days then techno-babble. I like seeing new toys and technologies… I hate when shows try to use pseudo-science to explain them.

    As far as the world construction… you’re off a little bit. There are some better hints to how the world is constructed in the latter episodes… nothing real crisp, clear and definite, but there are some better hints coming…

  2. I guess it was about a year ago when I first watched this and expressed my views. I think Brickmuppet said it best in a comment he dropped – “This was one of the very few series that would have benefited from a few more episodes, rather than less.”

    Rare for a 26 ep series – usually they are stretched and there is a lot of fluff that could be trimmed. He was right on, though, and so was Bear above. I think the ending caught them by surprise, almost like they were expecting a third season to finish it off.

    Despite my frustrations, I still rate it as an excellent series and recommend it. It is cool you are watching it now – once you finish I have a few points I never satisfactorily answered that I’d like to discuss.

    Of course, lately I haven’t even had time to update my own site, much less keep up with anybody else’s. I’ll try to check in once you’ve finished – there are always good discussions here, and I always wanted to figure out some things about LE.

  3. Bear, I can tell I was wrong about the Grand Stream already. seems it is just a barrier between the two main empires rather than a “layer”. Then again, they have to go “up” to get to it… I wonder if I am putting more thought into this than the writers did.

    Astro, is it just me or did I get a very Serenity-vibe from this series? (done far more poorly of course. Alex Row is a one-note compared to Mal.)

    I’m getting to the end pretty soon. hopefully today 🙂

  4. I didn’t see the Serenity parallel. Alex Rowe seemed more emo than cowboy, IMO. Claus and Lavie probably would have fit in, though.

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