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Exaella should be finely considered more than just an anime; it should be considered instead a rare gem of a narrative filled with ambiance, subtlety, and beautiful, delicate storytelling.
There is something hauntingly beautiful with Andrew Oudot's creation. So rare is it to see narratives these days in which the storyteller is able to rely on pure subtleties that continuously whisper to viewers' minds. In this case of Exaella, what the anime gives us in terms of subtle whispers are suspense, question, and wonderment.
Exaella is slow-paced and magically crafted, set inside a world of dark, soulless machinery. Oudot-who is the director, writer, as well as sound director and composer-delivers us no cheap gimmicks, and allows instead for the darkness to speak for itself. Viewers are utterly immersed in the ambiance of the world, and everything from careful footsteps, to a drop of water, and even to an unanswered whisper, is absolutely magnificent. In fact, it is this sense of darkness that plays almost like a second character: the darkness is alive with subtleties and quietness, forlorn in nature, and filled with the utmost discontent. The darkness just seems to breathe in each of the beautifully crafted scenes, and one is always reminded of its enigmatic presence and unlimited power. Oudot has masterfully designed the layout of Xonasu so that viewers are trapped in an eternal labyrinth of cold monochrome machinery: the sides are cluttered with pipes and metal, the corridors empty, the doors threadbare and rusted, the elevators broken, the metal floorboards untrustworthy-one is reminded of James Cameron's "Aliens" in a way, but with subtler tones and quieter events. At times, the darkness inside the Xonasu complex acts like a true character put on stage, going through mood swings of hate and rage before fully collapsing into moments of sorrow and remorse. This is seen when the Xonasu complex begins to reactive, restarting all of its defense drones and firing at random enemies, stilling itself to breathe after it has finished, as if out of breath. Once the darkness reemerges-and the quiet resettles-viewers are left in wonderment at the alien world that is Xonasu. All these formless shapes and shadows, these dead husks of machinery, and the hollow sounds of resonating metal, make it so that the darkness is a cold untrustworthy friend to characters Exaella, Piku, and Ken. Praise should be given to Mr. Oudot for being able to craft such an ambient environment and turn it into a superb character.
There is also something extremely poignant about Exaella: its unspoken quality of darkness and willed sense of hope resonates deep with the human heart. In a world so cold, mysterious, and filled with lifeless metal, it's the characters Exaella, Pikau, and even Ken, that viewers rely on to retain their sense of humanity. It's this quality of lifelessness that the creator does so well that brings about such joyous life between all three characters, even if the characters speak so very little. With such damp, dark, and decadent worlds around them, the characters become the last hope for the viewer, instilling a surprising sense of emotional attachment. The interaction between Exaella and Pikau are subtle but lovely, enduring throughout the anime as cherished moments worth remembering. Because human faces are so rare, and because emotions have been suppressed by the mechanical shape of behemoth machinery, seeing the cute round face of Piku, or noticing the concerned look in Exaella's eyes, is absolutely wonderful, akin to the lovingly embraces of a friend. The movements of the characters are subtle and calm, never like the exaggerated facial expressions (or loud, overly-obnoxious voices) of other anime characters. For this, the director should be praised, as it's so rare to see characters being able to express themselves with such quietness. Not one action is wasted in Exaella, and every character is as valuable as the last.
Praise should also be delivered to Oudot's skill as a musical composer, as the majority of the sounds in the anime was a product of Mr. Oudot's incredible skills. It's no wonder then that Oudot is also responsible for the impressive soundtrack for Exaella.
With the ending of Exaella, I felt a great sadness in my heart that yearned for more storytelling, more Pikau, more Exaella, and just more everything. There is still so much left unanswered, and still so much left to explain: what is Xonasu, truly, and how was it built? What is Ken's status at the end of the anime, and who are his comrades? What will happen to Piku? And, more importantly, what has happened to Exaella? While it's unfortunate that many have overlooked Exaella, I personally hope Mr. Oudot continues with this project, and hope that others will eventually recognize the wonderful and intriguing world of Exaella.
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