「Connected passed pawn」

With episode 9 of “Fam”, it’s another case of taking the good with the bad. That’s pretty much become the norm with the series, so it doesn’t come as a surprise so much as a bit of a letdown.

I’ve been pulling my punches for a while, and really trying to see if the aspects of this series that seem sub-par to me were just a case of growing pains. But I see the same thing now that I’ve seen with many episodes so far – the writing for “Fam” simply isn’t very good. The concept is fine – you’ve got the spine of a story that hold together well. But in the details – the dialogue, the character interaction, pretty much anything having to do with the human side of the equation – it’s frankly a pretty amateurish endeavor so far. And that’s really too bad, because there’s a lot of potential here that I fear is going to be unrealized due to poor execution.

Case in point for me is the whole situation with Giselle, who is certainly the more interesting character in the nominal main pairing. To begin with, while last week’s ep was a pretty good one on the whole, the aspect that dealt with her breakdown and split with Fam never made much sense. It was never given proper build-up and never really explained – it sort of got tossed at the audience like a pie in the face. To compound the mistake, the resolution this week was even worse. It was clumsy and awkward, and still didn’t really make much sense. Rather than explore the problem, time and time again the writing falls back on creative crutches – flashbacks (which are way, way overused in this show), pan-outs to everyone grinning, birthdays – and when the characters actually do talk about it, it’s an avalanche of clichés and platitudes. Worst of all, for me, is that Gisey seems to really get the shaft in all this. Just why everyone is falling all over themselves worrying about Fam being upset when she was the one being insensitive to her partner’s needs isn’t quite clear to me, but the message here seems to be that Giselle was pretty much making a big deal out of nothing and it was poor Fam who suffered. That’s not how I saw it, but at least everything gets a big reset button because of a pickup hockey game.

All this points up what for me is an essential dilemma with “Fam”. I noted a few weeks ago that the show needed to slow down and spend more time exploring the characters and their relationships and putting the conflicts of the show in context, because it burst out of the gate with huge action sequences and global politics like nobody’s business. But it’s becoming clear that the series just doesn’t do character very well. “Fam” seems strong at the staff level in most areas, and it’s able to execute those big battles and take a long view of a fascinating global puzzle quite well. But the writing is the weak link, and every time the show tries to dig deeper or inject humor it comes across as clumsy and stiff. At least for me – YMMV, of course, and I’m sure in many cases it will. But for me, of all the faults a show can have, poor writing is one of the hardest to overcome. And right now that writing is an anchor weighing this show down and limiting my expectations of where it can go from here.

In terms of good, I’ll admit it’s not that easy for me to find much of it this week. But there is one big bright spot, and that’s the return of Vincent Alzey (Gouda Hozumi). Vincent is quite unlike any of the other central characters in the “Fam” cast (and I don’t mean just in the obvious way). I’m hoping he’ll bring a much-needed urbane and brooding quality to the show, something it desperately needs. Vincent is a lover of life (especially coffee), that’s for sure, but he’s got an appealing darkness to him that too few of the characters in “Fam” seem to possess. He announces himself at Fam’s birthday party as “Supreme Commander of the United Kingdom of Anatoray-Disith’s Vanguard” – and there’s certainly plenty to chew on in that introduction – not least of which that it lends great credence to the notion that this is a brewing battle between “natives” and off-worlders. It’s been strongly hinted that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” would be a political staple of this series, and Vincent’s intro seems to confirm that. Vincent is returning from a diplomatic mission to Glacies, so it’ll be very interesting to see what light he sheds on that mysterious land of strange (but to us, familiar-looking) technology and bishoujo pilots.

No preview again this week, so once again the question is begged – is Gonzo hiding something they don’t want us to see? Alvis is the other shoe we all know is going to drop sooner or later, but I still suspect there are even bigger surprises in store – but probably not for a while yet. We’ll see.




    1. Why did you have to mention his name?! I’m crying all over again. (;_;)ALEX ROW! WHY?!?!? Why did you have to die!?
      I guess…
      People that are too GAR don’t belong in this world, rather they belong beyond the HEAVENS!

      Jack Vojack
  1. Vincent’s entrance was all sorts of cool. I had a slight thought/wish in the during his intro. What if Anatoray still has control of their Exile and they can freely traverse between Earth and Prester? The ending of Last Exile kind of had the feeling of a one-way trip, but it would be cool if it was not. That way we can see some recurrence of the characters that stayed behind. Alas, that’s probably not how it is. Also, the Prester Exile seems very different in design from the one Ades called down too. Mmm…one can hope.

    1. Definitely not a one-way trip, as you have at least two confirmed trips to Earth by Prester’s Exile – the first being the one that took Claus & co. to Earth two years ago, and the one that Dio saw again at the beginning of the series.

  2. This honestly wasn’t that bad for me, but then again I’m not really expecting much from the characters/writing side of things anymore. Though if you look at the bright side, at least it’s not as bad as a certain other mecha anime this season…

    What’s keeping me hooked atm remains the overarching plot, and I sure hope they get back to it soon.

  3. I like how Vincent just kinda popped up out of nowhere right at the end there, without making a flashy entrance. He’s badass like that; no fanfare, no unfurled silken banners or anything. He just kinda peeks in and then zips right into the middle of things.

      1. Popping in unannounced at someone else’s birthday party isn’t flashy.

        Landing on the deck of the Silvius in a heavy vanship accompanied by an armed guard that take up formation on either side of you and roll out a literal red carpet wherever you walk would be flashy.

  4. Similarly disappointed with the show so far, especially in terms of developing the main characters. I don’t find myself caring about the main characters. The side/supporting characters are more interesting, what more for the characters returning from the original series. I’ll only continue to watch for the big picture and the returning characters. At least, it isn’t a complete write-off =/

  5. Well, what Gonzo is trying to hide? You never asked yourself, why there is Guild members on Earth? Well, sure they are the from the other Exile Ships. But why they need the Guild in the first place? To keep the Peace on the Exiles? You know what the Guild made with the Exile on the Previous Anime. They started to play God and got Insane

    So, why are the Guild Beyond Human? Are they the Top “race” on Earth and still Surveillance the others?

  6. Biggest complaint about this episode would have to be how the animation quality was… questionable in the second half, particularly the nonsensical hockey scene. When the faces of the characters the focus is being put on look almost as herpaderp as the ones in the background, you know things have taken a dive.

  7. The newest ep is, no doubt, a letdown -_-

    This sequel is a disservice to the old series. Although the disservice this series did is not as bad as the disservice Satellite’s Kiddy Girl-and did to Gonzo’s Kiddy Grade.

  8. Hockey in my Last Exile? Win.

    As for the writing not being that great, I agree with the emotional fallout between Fam and Giselle being clumsy, but it’s still nowhere near as “difficult to appreciate” as say… Guilty Crown. (Oh shit, did I just say that out loud?)

  9. Aside from the other complaints, I was taken aback by the fact that it only took a recovery team of four people to secure that Ades flagship after it went down. A skeleton crew maybe, with the understanding that the ship’s functions wouldn’t work, but with four people it really makes the Ades look all the more incompetent for not sending some sort of team to take a look as well.

    After Dio’s comments regarding Luciola, I’m beginning to wonder if Clause and Lavie share the only heterosexual relationship in the entire LE-verse. If that’s the case, then maybe Glacies is just a natural evolution for Last Exile society.

    Didn’t like this episode much at all, but maybe now that the weak little character arc that’s been slowing things down for the past few weeks is over this show can get back to the political maneuvering and ships blowing up.

    1. Maybe they’re too scared of attracing Glacies’ attention to send a recovery team in? They did a flyby of the Silvius team without taking action, but if it was an Ades team on the ground, they might have strafed them.

      1. Fair enough, but seeing as Ades pulled off a sneak attack on Turan during what was supposed to be a peace conference, I’d expect them to be covert enough to consider ditching their uniforms and flying unmarked vehicles to retrieve a downed flagship. The ease with which the Sylvius team got things running again means that the Ades do adhere to some code of honor/stupidity or (as some people theorized in comments on the last episode) their war machine churns out so many battleships that they could really care less about one capital ship.

  10. @GE I read your post on Mashiro iro no symphony on LiA and the twist that appears stunned me since I thought it would be like any other eroge adaptation. Because of that I started to watch the show and can say I enjoy it. If it is possible may’be you could write a special post for it on RC so those who only commute for their ani-blogging here could enjoy it as well.

    1. Thanks for the plug – I do like that show an awful lot! I don’t think Divine (and I agree) feels like “special posts” for a series make sense – a series is either covered here or it’s not. But if anyone wants to check out my Mashifoni posts they certainly can here.

  11. Ok, I really like the potential this series has to offer; I wish I hadn’t seen this episode.
    But, I believe the real problem the writers are having with this is episode was that they
    wanted to show that the conflict surrounding Fam, Gisey, and Millia is much bigger than
    anyone’s personal tragedy. They tried to illustrate this with our three-some.

    They failed miserably. And, to top it, the outsider was the only one who remembered Fam’s birthday!

    I think the emotional build up was okay, but the path to the resolution was terrible and cliché.
    A impromptu hockey game would have been a wonderful backdrop tension release for the crew, but I do
    not see the value in Fam always at the centre of everything. They should have given their audience
    this wonderful opportunity to reveal what drives Fam – to provide some much needed depth and complexity
    to her character and that of the other two central characters. I agree with Enzo in this.

    I want to think of this episode as a fan-sub episode gone horribly wrong…

  12. I just recently watched The Idolm@ster ep 8. It was one cliche piled onto another cliche wrapped in cliches with a cliched bow. But they pulled it off. After all of the insane build up of the Mistaken Identity Run-a-way Bride, even the typical “Oh, the unseen groom is a hunk, I think I’ll marry him” end point was well received. The writers took the cliches and made them their own. They pulled it off.
    Sigh. LE: Fam just isn’t doing this is it? The whole ‘third member enters and spoils the friend/sister act’ is forced from the beginning, and its making them act in un-even ways.

    I have my own silly alternative character observation to keep me going; Yui traded in Gitah for a Vespa and is off having an adventure. But I would not expect anyone else to share that.

    Stuck in a rut, and not even out of the first cour. Oh well, I think Vincent will get some asses kicked into gear soon.

  13. something i felt you should have also mentioned is that Dio is–surprise,surprise–captain of the (fighter) vanship squadron. which is very interesting, and i’m actually quite eager to see more of how the relationship (ship captain to squadron captain, past to present) between him and Tatiana (and by extension, Alister) is like.

  14. Now hold on a minute… that series is supposed to be 26- or 27-episode long, right ? If so, then there is stil PLENTY of time to go into character development, since we’re only at episode 9.

    If it’s supposed to be 13-episode long, however… then yes, it’s a bit late for development at this point…

      1. Oh ok, I see… but still, we might get “these” episodes around 12 or 13. Personally, I was expecting that there would be 15 episodes dedicated to capturing the 15 airships… but that got shortened to a few episodes. I don’t know really what to expect, but I doubt that Gonzo would screw up that badly if they were trying to make a sequel to Last Exile.

    1. I think the concern over character development is based heavily on memories of the first series, which dedicated almost every episode to character development in some way, shape, or form. By this point in the first series, a solid supporting cast had already been established and legitimate, well-handled issues were being explored between both them and the main characters. Since very little of that nature seems to have happened yet, it’s very much a cause for concern amongst fans of the first series.

      1. Actene, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying about the original series. But I think “Fam” suffers in this area irrespective of that – it’s simply not a very well-written show in any light, LE or not. That should be a concern for any viewer, whether they’re a fan of the old show or not.

      2. I think I worded that response a little poorly; I’m in full agreement that the writing for the main characters and a good portion of the the supporting cast has ranged from mediocre to flat out bad since the series began. I’ll at least give it points for creating interesting villains, but since they haven’t had a genuine role since Lucinia’s purge the only characters I’m liking so far are the ones from the original series, and that’s only based on prior biases from the original.

        I just keep wondering how and why the serious character development from the first series was ditched in favor of more forced and weak attempts at making things heartwarming.

  15. This episode simply pissed me off. Why should everything come down to trying to cheer Fam up, Fam is cause of all this, she doesn’t really deserve any sympathy. I can understand Fam having a personality that people are attracted to, but it does a disservice to all the other characters if they are always focused on her feelings. Gisey deserves better than Fam in the end it seems like.

  16. Good Episode! Fam finally gets the problem, what’s with the hint Giselle gave with “a navi like Millia rather than me…”

    What I don’t get is why Giselle should feel sorry. Even though Fam is suffering from the Dulcinea Effect ever since she’s a kid and Giselle knows it, that still gives Fam no reason to suddenly take their friendship for granted.

    In anycase this episode treats us to a game of hockey as the three “Kiss and Make Up”. Then a birthday party.

    Then finally: the moment no one expects but looks forward to: wild Vincent appears…. and as cool and GAR as ever.

    Will the trio take a trip to Anatoray? Or will they head to negotiate with Glacies: Ades’ next target? Next week seems a review of the events from episode 1 to 9, so maybe the week after that will tell…

    The Moondoggie
  17. united kingdoms of anatoray-disith…. i like the sound of it. i really wonder who else from season 1 would make an appearance.

    plus it was surprising that dio’s the squadron leader. thought he was just floating around and just having fun but his recollection of luciola was touching

  18. Holy crap terrible episode. One thing that strikes me odd throughout the series is how Fam managed to secure the other ships. A ship needs a lot of people to command. Also, where the heck did the crew of the ships went off to? Its not like the captain and only a few of his guards are commanding the dam ship. There’s people in maintenance, engine, kitchen, etc. WHERE DID THOSE PEOPLE GO?

    1. They were probably killed or sent off in some small vessel or left on some mountain peak. It actually only needs a handful of people to basically operate a ship.

      Tatiana is cruel…

      The one in the last episode got abandoned because the crew though it’s going to crash land. Not much damage though.

      The Moondoggie
  19. This aired a long time ago but I will say it: WORST EPISODE EVER.

    I already hated Fam but after this episode, I am not sure if im going to continue watching this. I mean, Fam was the one that ignored Giselle’s feelings but, suddenly, Fam was all sad and everyone was trying to cheer HER up?

    Screw you Fam, worst MC ever.


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