Many moons ago an anime studio existed calling itself GONZO.
Then another company was born and then it merged with GONZO and more companies were born and again merged with the merged GONZO, now calling itself GDH. GONZO, the animation studio, then existed as a subsidiary of GDH. But poor GDH started having money troubles and couldn’t maintain all the companies it owned. Soon, it needed to shed some of its weight to maintain profitability (rather, not go broke.) It abolished some of its subsidiaries but most notably it cut a chunk of GONZO’s animation staff to rely almost wholly on outsourcing animation. Even after all this GDH realized its name recognition was next to none while GONZO was still a widely acknowledged company. So, GDH did what any sensible man would do. It swallowed GONZO whole, name and all. Merging with its subsidiary and closing down other costly ventures, GDH now bacame GONZO. Basically, we’ve turned a full circle. Apparently this was not good enough for GDH’s investors and soon GDH was delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, ouch. After all this, it was 2009. GONZO was not having the best year of its life, perhaps worst year of its history.
GONZO was still then a famed anime production studio producing well known fan hits like Rosario+Vampire series (of Nana Mizuki fame,) Strike Witches, Tower of Druaga series, and Welcome to the NHK, just to name a few. But reality was pretty harsh for GONZO in 2009. GONZO after its restructuring took two major blows to the face: rights to Strike Witches 2nd season was handed over to AIC (another well-known anime production studio) and DVD sales of the much anticipated Shangri-La tanked. I was not to hear from GONZO again… that is until now.
Along with its many works in animation based on manga/novels/etc. GONZO had produced an original gem called Last Exile back in 2003. It turned out to be quite an epic. Last Exile was a steampunk-esque romanticism engorged with high-paced airship combat in a soup of blue and white while on the ground it was full of drama, betrayal, and love. It was just too bad the show ended with a very finite ending… or did it?
What better way to return from an exile than to release an anime called “Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing” (ラストエグザイル ~銀翼のファム~,) GONZO sure outdid itself there.
GONZO didn’t die. They were just being fairly quiet by not producing any full season anime in the past 2 years. In 2011, they released a 12-episode short called Nyanpire, what looks to be a Flash-based 5 minute anime skit about a cat that’s also a vampire. Other than that apparently they have been preparing for their grand re-entrance.
For those of you who were not able to watch the original Last Exile, go watch it now. For those of us that have, you’re in for a treat. The first episode seems promising in that it remains faithful to the original as well as having that fresh car smell. For the time being, it is still questionable whether if this is a direct sequel or a side story or another universe-type deal. Yet, 2 of the characters from the original will be reappearing.
One being a former antagonist Dio Eraclea pictured above and another being Alvis E. Hamilton who did not appear in the first episode. Also, just like in the original, the English episode titles will be read by Yukana (C.C. from Code Geass,) along with the return of director Koichi Chigura, composer Hitomi Kuroishi, and character designer Osamu Horiuchi from the original Last Exile. In addition to the the cameos other things you will find is that, just as before, airships serve as a key part of the setting. I call them airships but these are actually giant flying battleships with lots of cannons and decks for smaller vanships, world equivalent for airplanes.
In keeping with the times of moe-boom, the new cast of characters have become somewhat younger looking despite their ages being not that different. For instance, Claus, the lead protagonist from the original Last Exile, and Fam, the new lead protagonist, are both supposed to be 15. And to lead these new moe characters, Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing includes an impressive cast. Aki Toyosaki (Yui from K-ON!) plays the lead Fam and Aoi Yuuki (Madoka from Madoka Magica) plays Fam’s co-pilot Giselle. Other cast includes Miyuki Sawashiro (is in everything,) Ai Kayano (Index from A Certain Magical Index,) Chiwa Saitou (Hitagi from Bakemonogatari also lead protagonist Lavie from the first Last Exile,) and Kana Hanazawa (Mayuri from Steins;Gate.) The mentioned appear to be the more prominent characters in the show. It also appears that Maaya Sakamoto (Alphard from Canaan) and Megumi Nakajima (Ranka from Macross Frontier) will have minor roles. There are more, of course, but to list them would be redundant. You can check out all of confirmed cast from here or in English here.
I always thought if both Aki Toyosaki and Aoi Yuuki were in the same room, the world would explode with moe but so far, the combination is working out well for the show. The flow of action and events is significantly more exciting than it was for the original Last Exile as well. As for the music, Maaya Sakamoto sings the opening “Buddy” and Hitomi Kuroishi does the ending theme “Starboard.” The show starts off with Maaya Sakamoto’s notably powerful voice then ending with the sorrowful Hotomi Kuroishi’s choral piece. For those of you not in the know, Hitomi Kuroishi (often credited as Hitomi for singing roles) is responsible all of the choral-like songs in Code Geass, Shangri-La, and the original Last Exile. She is also responsible for those shows’ soundtrack.
Enough about the Last Exile as this is not a review.
It appears that success of this particular show will make or break GONZO. Though they’ve been through worse, GONZO has been waning in the anime industry and they almost deserve a successful hit by now. Just from a glimpse of the first episode, the show looks to be promising and definitely raised the bar of anticipation even higher. Now the question is whether they can sell those blu-rays like hotcakes… Stay tuned.