Binge or Purge?: LastMan
While the seeds have been planted for an interesting series, LastMan might get choked out behind a paywall before it gets to blossom.
Remember my time trying to watch things on CrunchyRoll? I do. It was a pain. But it did lead me to VRV, a service that aggregates a slew of streaming services and let’s you pay one price to watch everything under the umbrella. One of those providers is Mondo, which showcases animation from all over the world. Today we are heading to France to watch LastMan, a mature series about “fighting, gangsters, and paranormal activity”. Hey, they said it, not me.
Richard Aldana is an asshole. The title of the first episode proudly proclaims this. A drifter as well as a grifter, Aldana survives by bumming around his friend Dave, the owner of a boxing gym. Aldana may be a jerk, but he’s knows his way around a fight, and Dave hopes to hone his brawling buddy into a champion. Aldana’s plans are… a little less ambitious. Both plans, large and small, are thrown into chaos when a shadowy organization starts hunting around for Dave’s daughter Siri. These guys, as well as a lot of other people, are about to learn that Richard Aldana is the last man you want to cross.
LastMan is the passion project of Everybody on Deck, a French company that was told that a mature anime-style show wouldn’t work in France. I don’t know who the hell told them this, as mature anime is a very healthily established thing in France. Neil and I got our very first copies of Battle Angel/Gunnm in French. But I digress. EoD didn’t believe the naysayers, and went to kickstarter to get funded. They were seeking enough to get 26 episodes completed; as of now they made enough to do a 12 episode first season. You can check out their kickstarter here.
Episode 1: You’re an Asshole, Aldana.
We are introduced to our protagonists in Paxtown, a fictional city. Richard Aldana is in trouble with the mob, and he’s brought that trouble to the doorstep of his friend Dave. When Dave is abducted, Aldana assumes it’s the mob, but things take a turn for the worse when it turns out to be some supernatural organization looking for Dave’s secluded daughter, Siri.
The animation in LastMan is top notch. If you liked Cowboy Bebop or The Venture Brothers, you’re going to love the art. You will probably be right at home thematically as well. Aldana is definitely a rogue in the mold of Spike Speigel or Brock Samson. I also got vibes of Technotise, the Serbian animation I watched. Place and culture permeates LastMan.
The only gripe I had with the episode was the sound work: while the soundtrack is good, it’s mixed too loudly, and it was difficult at times to hear the dialogue.
Episode 2: You’re Just Saying That ‘Cause I Have a Grenade!
As Aldana makes his way to Siri, he has a run in with a couple having a very heated debate. The world-building continues in this episode, adding some dark comedy and action. While it mostly worked, having a non-story subplot opened up so quickly into the series was a little iffy. It adds to the frenetic, chaotic vibe of the show; but it might have dulled the hook the show needs to grab viewers with.
Episode 3: I Have a Thing For Mustaches.
This is the “heart” episode of the trio. We have moments between Aldana and Siri that flesh out Richard’s connection to Dave, and how deep their bond was. It starts to sandpaper over Aldana’s rough edges ever so slightly. We also get another example (Aldana’s troubles with the Mob were over a strip club owner hitting a stripper) that while Aldana might be a jerk, but he has a moral compass. We also get toilet humor to remind us how irreverent this world is.
Hit and Run
The first few episodes of LastMan hint at an interesting world. The characterization is strong, even though it is largely cliché. While Aldana is a pretty standard anti-hero, he’s got good enough writing behind him to make empathy possible. The episodes also come fast and furious, full of jokes and action, and they always end on an almost Batman ’66-esque cliffhanger. At a brisk 13 minutes per episode, it makes binging possible.
While possible, the question remains as to whether you’d want to binge LastMan. Three episodes in, I’m not sure I have enough incentive to pay to see the rest of the show. And pay you must, as the rest of the first season is behind a paywall for either VRV or Mondo.
The frenetic nature can be a little disorienting, especially when the dialogue is easy to lose (I watched LastMan on three separate venues: Xbox One, the VRV website, and the VRV mobile app; I’m confident the sound issue is endemic to the show). The characters are just good enough to want more, but this show isn’t reinventing the wheel. The supernatural plotline (which might set the show apart) was still nascent, what with all the subplots and funny/violent asides.
Binge or Purge?
At the end of the day, I give LastMan a tentative Binge. If you already have VRV or Mondo, it’s a no-brainer. If you don’t, I’d recommend giving the first 3 episodes a view to see if the style grabs you. I’m going to be checking out a few more VRV offerings in the near future, so stay tuned to see if the service is worth the price of admission. Maybe while you wait, rewatch Cowboy Bebop. Until next time…