This week, I’m rolling out a new format for my DVD box set reviews. Instead of tackling the whole thing all at once like I did with most of my previous acquisitions (e.g. Haibane Renmei), I will now cover each set in installments: first, an initial write-up on the contents of the box set, then individual reviews of each volume. Certain elements shared by more than one episode (e.g., standard opening/ending sequences, character design) will be discussed in either the initial write-up or the review of the first volume, while volume-specific features (e.g., variant opening/ending sequences, jacket art, episode summaries) will be covered in the individual reviews. With these new arrangements in place, my box set reviews should start to look a lot more like the series of articles I wrote about Kadokawa/Bandai’s Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu R1 DVD release, the multi-post format of which was born out of necessity (since I acquired the four volumes individually rather than as a group).
UPDATE (31 December 2007): Change of plans. Individual volume reviews require a lot of time and energy to prepare, and I’m sorry to report that both of those will be in extremely short supply over the next few months. I might re-adopt the format described in the previous paragraph once my schedule clears up, but in the meantime it’s back to the single-review standard for DVD box sets. As for Last Exile, I’ve already released a review of the first volume so I’ll probably lump the remaining volumes into one or two posts.
The DVDs are packed in a sturdy cardboard slipcase with illustrations on two sides. In a nod to the show’s steampunk theme, the slipcase is made to look as if it were fashioned out of battered steel plates riveted together at the seams. The back panel of the case bears the series title in white text set against the metallic-grey field of the covering material, with a silhouette (in red) of Claus’ Vanship directly underneath.
One side panel (shown above) features Last Exile‘s main characters, Claus and Lavie. The other panel (shown below) depicts another major character, Al, sitting on what appears to be the lower launch deck of the warship Silvana.
The overall design is quite appealing, although I think the back panel – which is the side I normally show in my DVD bookcase – is a little too plain for display purposes. In a departure from my usual practice, I’ve decided to store the slipcase with the open side facing out and the individual DVD cases visible.
DVD PACKAGING AND CONTENTS
Detailed descriptions of each DVD case will be published in the individual volume reviews, but for now let’s have a quick look at those jacket illustrations.
The cover art is wonderfully detailed. I particularly like the illustrations used for Volumes 1 (above – left), 2 (above – middle left), and 5 (below – left).
The jackets are printed on glossy paper with a silvery iridescent base that gives off a nice “rainbow” effect when the cases are tilted this way and that.
Each DVD case contains an insert that folds out to reveal a highly detailed spec sheet setting out the vital stats of the ships featured in the series.
There are twenty-six episodes in all – four in each of the first five volumes and three each in the last two. Set-up options are as follows:
The set includes a miniature Alvis Hamilton figurine that comes with a bright red cloak attachment and a disassembled display stand. Like MaxFac’s Nagato, Alvis is designed to come apart so that the cloak can be slipped on.
While not outstanding, the production quality looks pretty impressive for a figure of this size. And since I didn’t factor the item into my pre-purchase deliberations – as far as I’m concerned I only paid for the DVDs – Al’s presence as a freebie is highly appreciated.
The other extra item is more mundane: a small mouse pad featuring the fine Murata Renji artwork that was also used for one of the slipcase side panels and for the DVD insert of Volume 1.
Invoice price: US$89.99
Postage costs: US$33.98 (U.S.-Philippines via DHL Express)
Import duties and processing fees: US$57.49 (dollar equivalent given; originally paid in Philippine pesos)
Total acquisition cost: US$181.46
This is one pretty incredible DVD collection. For all its flaws – mainly to do with that depressingly bland back panel – the sturdy slipcase is great to look at and should give adequate protection to the seven precious DVDs within. The Al figurine and the Claus/Lavie mousepad are nice extras that add real value to the box set. (Not a lot of value, perhaps, but probably enough to tip some people’s scales in the product’s favour.) All in all, the production quality looks quite solid.
I’m also impressed by the acquisition costs – but for all the wrong reasons. As Tsuruya-san might say, this is one megassa expensive DVD box set. The invoice price alone (which is all you fortunate U.S. residents have to pay) is quite hefty, but the real back-breakers are the postage costs and the state-sanctioned extortion costs (read: import duties). One might ease the burden somewhat by choosing an alternative shipping method (I always select the fastest and safest route, which is by priority international courier), but unless you have some useful connexions in the Bureau of Customs there’s simply no getting around those taxes.
So is it all worth the inflated price tag? Up to this point, I certainly think so (NB: I’m done with the first two volumes and I’m aiming to finish the third today). Last Exile is one mind-blowingly awesome series (at least, it has been so far), and the physical product is sufficiently attractive to warrant a price premium. I only hope that nothing in the later episodes will change my current opinion.