Even after the intense events of episodes 1 and 2, Last Exile manages to pull off a “breather episode,” imbuing it with meaning and emotion, while at the same time, develop a number of characters into higher statuses of likeability; Teddy has become a competent servant, Millia has become a sympathetic, responsible heir-apparent, and Fam has easily become my favourite Aki Toyosaki character, and perhaps my favourite female character this year.
Luscinia reports the Ades Federation’s progress to Augusta, the young empress of the indigenous faction. Millia emotionally reacts to the stripping of the Turan flagship Lasa, and reaches a breaking point when one of her sister’s memorabilia, a drinking glass, is sold to a sky pirate. She attempts to hijack a vanship to chase the new owner, but Fam offers to fly the plane for her. They get the drinking glass back, and return in time to observe Okuribi, a ritual that pays respect to the lives lost in the previous battle. Millia vows to Fam that she will change for the better. The next morning, Dio informs Fam of the location of a mysterious ship Silvius; Fam tells the others of her intentions to steal it.
There’s something remarkable about how wonderful a show can be if it handles events in a realistic manner. War is an inevitable concept for many stories, but few manage to truly depict the effects of it. At the end of the day, Fam and the others at the Sky Pirate town ofKortoffel, are still amidst a gruesome invasion from a legitimately powerful threat, but still find time to mourn. It shows a togetherness of a community that I as a viewer can truly rally behind as a faction.
But this episode is much, much more than just the community and the Okuribi ritual that humanizes everyone in it. Individual characters are shown to change in the face of such devastation. Millia, in particular, was handled in the most meticulous and effective way possible. Here we have a princess who, in a span of only two episodes, lost her city, her father, and her sister. And all she has left are a bunch of pirates who, upon first impression in this episode, have sold the parts to the flagship of her people, and sold her sister’s possessions as if they were nothing but mere trade goods.
In a really weird exception, her crybaby reaction here is rather justified, and I can’t help but actually sympathize for her to a certain extent. Her breaking point occurs when she tries to commandeer a vanship, even though she has absolutely no knowledge of how to fly. The desperation in her voice is utterly staggering; I can feel the weight of her dangling on a rope whose final threads are about to snap.
And yet, despite how rotten she may have acted at first, especially before the war began, she is given a lifeline by Fam, who has truly come into her own in this episode. As a protagonist, she is full of hope, full of ambition, and a backstory that would seem tragically cliché, but she shrugs off because she realistically was too young to actually remember and react to. Her most positive trait as a character in fiction is that she is a girl of action. Everything she does has a motivation behind it, and that drive enables her to make unexpected and daring moves.
Instead of reprimanding the crybaby Millia, Fam offers to drive her to the Sky Pirate herself, even if it means spending all day trying to find someone who Millia can’t remember. The reason why she does this is simple; people are supposed to help others in times of need. Fam’s selflessness is noble to a tee, and her gesture is strong enough to incite change in Millia after they manage to get her sister’s keepsake back.
The reason why this philosophy isn’t preachy is because it’s set against the spiritual backdrop of the Okiribi ritual. The ritual itself is full of meaning and symbolism; candles are tied to balloons and are let loose into the starry sky, joining the celestials in heaven. It takes the Buddhist ritual of Ullambana, originally involving floating lanterns down a river, and adapts it to a stratospheric culture, creating something incredibly unique and foreign, yet maintaining the familiarity of spiritual reverence. The haunting words, Orakai, Dottekai doesn’t have any known translation, yet doesn’t need it; the emotional meaning behind it trumps the lingual one. Like how Red comments on the opera singers in The Shawshank Redemption, I don’t even want to know what Orakai, Dottekai means: “I’d like to think they were [saying] something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it.”
Silver Wing knows the value of the fleeting moment. From one scene comes another in almost seamless fashion, and after having realized her own selflessness, Millia vows to improve herself, and take affirmative action on her own life and situation, much like Fam. On top of telling us this, she shows us this with the haircut scene. Not only am I such a sucker for this trope, but it comes with some other amazing character changes, such as her improved relationship with Teddy when she praises his expert tea arrangement, which was displayed in previous scenes. The two characters that I called into question in previous posts have come full circle into a pair that I genuinely like. Bravo, Last Exile. With a simple scene, you have made something that seemed impossible possible. Can someone tell me why this show is so good?
Next episode is Dubious Move. In chess, a dubious move is one that appears to be strategically weak, but can lead towards an advantageous trap. This sets up an interesting episode where Fam attempts to capture the mysterious airship Sylvius. It is worth noting that in the original Last Exile, the main characters piloted a renegade, yet notorious aircraft known as the Sylvana. They both have similar names, but whether or not there is a connection remains to be seen. After three episodes, Fam, The Silver Wing is already a front-runner for my favourite show of the year. Let’s just hope this supposed “dubious move” leads to an exciting development.