Full Metal Panic!

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VivisQueen's avatar By VivisQueen on Apr 2, 2008

Story

Looking for a hilarious comedy with a gripping political plot and a fantastic new angle on the mecha genre? Then stay away from Full Metal Panic. This anime is chock-a-block with familiar ideas, which should make it accessible to a broad spectrum of mainstream viewers; but on the whole these ideas aren't combined very well and FMP succeeds only at being totally average.

FMP's story begins with ultra-serious overtones; a tense escape-cum-rescue plays out in the snowy night, leaving you hanging nicely to the edge of your seat. The inclusion of the mercenary-style defenders of justice idea is promising, and in general, the setup seems to foreshadow an epic with powerful plotting, intrigue, exotic locations, explosions, tragedy and heroism. However, all of this posturing quickly dissipates into a fart of mediocrity as each new concept and plot point turns out to be generic, underdeveloped, or both.

So where exactly did FMP go wrong? Personally, I blame the storytelling approach, which is to tackle the plot from as many contrasting angles as possible. For example, while the strong military and political elements drive the action, most of the character development is presented through insipid romantic comedy subplots; the result is that I have no idea whether to take any of this seriously and engage or passively sit back and laugh at the silliness.

Examples of this messy storytelling are plentiful: one episode opens with humdrum comedic scenes and then switches quickly to Sousuke's tough life in a Middle Eastern desert without much explanation of how the two worlds tie in meaningfully with each other or with the rest of the anime. And soon after having survived a rather epic ordeal, Tessa turns her attention quicker than I can say ‘amnesia' to wanting an awkward romance with Sousuke. Even deciding to interpret FMP primarily as a comedy does not guarantee full enjoyment since many of the gags - especially the ones based on the Chidori-Sousuke dynamic - become repetitive and predictable.

Perhaps I do FMP an injustice, for it has quite a few high points to speak of. For instance, at one point, Chidori and Tessa are kidnapped by an interesting sibling duo, and the subsequent rescue mission culminates in a tragic mecha battle. Upon reaching this part of the story, FMP seems not only more emotionally accessible but also to have more of a purpose. Furthermore, some of the comedic moments in the first few episodes, although nothing new, are effective means of establishing the characters; Chidori and Sousuke settle easily into their roles as female abuser and male abused.

Regardless of these high points, I find myself in the following position: I have not laughed once, I cannot remember much of what I've just seen, and the one thing I find interesting - the idea of a girl with mysterious powers - has been left unexplained and underused. Even watching the final battle is a bit like having an out of body experience; although vaguely aware that I should care, I have become so disengaged, that I really couldn't give a damn even if the worst were to happen.


Animation

FMP has the kind of animation that, although highly suitable and decent for its time, has aged quickly over the years. Just like shows such as Kaze no Stigma, FMP has enough of a budget to look presentable without being technically clever. All of the action sequences are enjoyable, and the quality of animation throughout is good, but, in comparison, there are also a million anime, both old and new, with better-looking stunts, more visually delightful world concepts, and less bland, less cliché character designs.


Sound

If there are two things FMP does well, it is the opening and ending themes, both of which are catchy and melodic and capture a mood that the episodes themselves fail to match up to. Apart from that, don't expect much from the synthesised jazz, rock, and pop score as it is both repetitive and forgettable.

The voice acting is good throughout, albeit typical; the men deliver unremarkable masculine vocals while the girls have high-pitched voices ranging from ear-splitting to barely audible. When the sound is at its most interesting, it actually drops out completely during action scenes, which is both unexpected and highly effective as a means of adding intensity.


Characters

Character-wise, FMP really takes a nosedive. Many of the characters are parodies on some level, but good parodies involve pushing the cliché of choice in a new inventive direction, which the show never really bothers to do. Confounding the problem is the fact that none of the characters have any detailed backgrounds on which to build their personalities, which means they never quite stop being caricatures.

Firstly, there is Sousuke Sagara's monosyllabic personality, which must be a joke if ever I saw one; he takes stoicism to a mindless new extreme. If Heero Yui from Gundam Wing were a cyborg, he would be positively verbose in comparison to Sousuke Sagara. At times, such as with Sousuke's amusing introduction to his classmates in the beginning, there are glimpses into what might be a soul; but all in all, he just tries too hard to be one-dimensional, if that even makes sense.

At least Sousuke is not as irritating as the female protagonists. Kaname Chidori is of the blue hair persuasion, which usually means one of two things: either ‘I am a meek, personality-less drone', or, ‘I am an overbearing woman with more tits and mouth than brains'. Chidori is of the latter kind, screaming and pouting and beating up her companions as a means of communication. Contrived as this is, she is hardly the worst screamer in the world and actually remains mildly interesting because of her mysterious powers. Sadly, as she does not really control her powers, she's passive as a protagonist and thus only of value when the plot says so.

Lest viewers be offended by the witless Chidori, the show presents Teresa Testarossa, the child genius and Captain of the Mithril team. In true FMP style, the idea of a teenage girl as a highly respected military leader sounds more exciting than it actually is; Tessa is soft-spoken, feeble-bodied and, outside of the Captain's chair, about as invigorating as beige emulsion. When I think of her, the phrase ‘doujinshi fodder' springs to mind.

Once you add to all the above Kurz Weber, the pointless womaniser of the team, and Gauln, an antagonist with indiscernible motivations, engaging emotionally just seems like too much effort.

6.5/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
5.5/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
Akawoa's avatar By Akawoa on Apr 17, 2010

Full Metal Panic season one was originally released way back in 2002 by Gonzo animation. Now when this anime originally aired, the transition from cell to computer animation was taking place. Fortunately for us, Gonzo did an animation job that would rival that of other anime to be released years later. Full Metal Panic's animation style was considered revolutionary and groundbreaking when it originally aired, and this still holds true today, the style is fantastic and manages to stand up to the trials of the cruel mistress of time.

Now I could go on all day about how pleasant it is to look at, but then I'd be skirting the meat of the issue. Probably of greater concern, is it entertaining to watch? Ladies and gentlemen, all signs point to yes! I found the story pleasantly balanced between a myriad, a veritable cornucopia of subjects and genres. The plot is centered on two integral characters, Sergeant Sousuke Sagara of the Mithril Mercenary Corporation. Mithril is a mercenary organization that acts as a sort of international peacekeeping division, ensuring through the use of technology that someone is available to keep larger countries from bloating and war mongering. Sousuke is tasked with guarding Kaname Chidori, a Japanese schoolgirl. Kaname is thought to be one of the "whispered", a sort of person that holds key information received at birth locked within their minds. Previous "whispered" had pioneered technology previously thought impossible, like mechs for example. The key for the plot is that it shifts between the two realms. School is used for humorous interactions, tsundere romantic moments (with blushing and awkward yet cute moments galore), and even everyday slice of life. The second common area, mercenary missions and terrorist situations, are used to progress the plot and to even further character development. This is the meat of the action portions of the show; also these parts tend to focus on heavier dialog occasionally tossing in more serious romantic conversations to stir up the ol' emotional response. Despite including such varied content, the show never suffers from poor pacing. It manages to keep the viewer firmly planted within the situation at hand, yet leaves you excited for the next "school" or "mission" portion (I don't care for school anime too much either, but I thoroughly enjoyed the school interactions in this series, they were done right).

Audio for Full Metal Panic is top notch. No crazy sound effects or terrible voice actors here! Kaname Chidori is played by Luci Christian, who does a magnificent job of conveying the strong-willed girl, but then effectively can immediately morph into the blushing, "vulnerable" romantic at will. Chris Patton does an absolutely stellar job of playing Sousuke Sagara, the blunt and ever-serious military man with a no-shenanigans attitude. The voice acting for the entire series was hands down stellar work, and it only seemed to get better and better the further into the series you get (especially in "FMP: The Second Raid", which managed to grab many a tear from me for the situations the protagonists were forced to endure). General sounds were excellent as well, with every different weapon in the series sounding different. Each gun had “oomph” to it when it was fired and sounded unique, I could tell that sound weren't recycled, instead the team chose to really go full boar and do it right, which is a testament to the devotion they had when making the series. Conversation always felt natural (naturally awkward in some cases, which was a VERY good thing from an entertainment perspective) and all of the actors sounded genuine. It may be interesting to point out, Gauron, the villain of the series sounds an awful lot like Jack Nicholson the way his voice actor played him, I just found that sort of neat.

Ideally, one would do as I did and watch the whole series in a straight couple of days, but I'm realistic enough to know that can be quite a tall order, considering that the series has three seasons currently with a total of about 49 episodes split between them. As of the time this review was posted, there are three seasons: Full Metal Panic!, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, and Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid. Do yourselves a favor and watch them in the order I listed, as that's the chronological release and plot order. Full Metal Panic! and The Second Raid are part of the "main plot" whereas Fumoffu is a humor side series. Fumoffu captures the epic of the school portions, kicks the comedy up times ten and takes out the mechs so that it ends up being a very refreshing experience. The Second Raid is considerably more emotional than the first season and Fumoffu combined, I don't cry easily but it made me do so quite a few times towards the end =O (manly tears of course).

Naturally, we've reached the critical point of the review. By now you may be wondering, "Akawoa, how would you quantify your overall opinion of Full Metal Panic as a series? Well, I'm quite pleased you're curious, as I think it has earned the right to be placed among the pantheon of anime. Full Metal Panic creeps into my top five at number five, with a 10... Out of 10

Full Metal Panic as well as Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu were both dubbed and distributed by ADV and can be found on rightstuf.com. Full Metal Panic the Second Raid is available from Funimation (still dubbed by ADV with voice actors preserved, happened as ADV was going under) in DVD and Blu-Ray formats and can also be found at rightstuf.com.

Give this series a serious look, as I'm sure it contains a special something for all sorts, whether you like science fiction and action or you prefer slice of life and romance, you'll most certainly put me into a panic, if you don't enjoy FMP ^_-!

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
Hajime's avatar By Hajime on Sep 24, 2010

The 1st instalment of this series really offers both fun, laughter and a side of seriousness, it’s a good smile worthy series. Showing a military officer forced to lay watch over a school girl with powers of understanding techinqual codes. To be perfectly blunt, if ya want to laugh, watch it, don't watch it for a serious series

9/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
Itochan60's avatar By Itochan60 on Jan 26, 2012

Story: 6/10

Let me first off say that I enjoyed the Full Metal Panic manga a lot when I read it however many years ago. But it seems like the sole purpose of this anime was to take a good manga and turn it in to a mediocre anime...and they succeeded.

I am not going to bother with a synopsis, A-P has one that does the job. There just isn't anything overly impressive about the story. There are 4 main "arcs" in the show, the rest of the episodes serve and mostly filler to link them together. The filler is mostly Sosuke's military antics in high school, which get old pretty fast.

The main "arcs" aren't too bad, it's just that they don't feel real. I never sensed real danger in an of it...and that's a big problem imo. If I am not actual afraid for a characters life (i.e. I know they aren't going to be killed off) it takes so much of the danger out of it, and it just isn't as engaging as it should be. Perhaps this feeling is hampered a bit by already reading the manga, but I still think it is a problem.

Perhaps my favorite of the "arcs" is the one without Kanami. Sosuke is put together with another military unit (I believe from the US) to capture a warhead in a desert country. The lack of the "save the girl" plot in this arc just made it more enjoyable to me.

Overall, there was enough in the story to keep me watching, but I don't think I ever moved toward the edge of my seat.

Animation: 6/10

I am judging a 2002 anime's animation in 2012...Maybe it was more impressive 10 years ago, it comes off as average today. There were, however, some parts where they used CG which where actual kind of cool, enough to gain 1 more point in this category.

Sound: 5/10

Opening and Ending were blah, but that is par of the course for me.

The sound effects served there purpose, there wasn't anything that real caught me off guard as being wrong. That said, nothing mind blowing, but a job well done here.

The voicing is another thing, however. I know this is blasphemy for a lot of anime fans, but I watched this in English. It was on netflix instant streaming (with only English), it was convenient, and sometimes it is really nice to not have to read subtitles. I think my problem with the voicing is half with the acting and half with the script. There are just some moments where the show ends up being cheesier than it should, either because poor vocal delivery or poor script translation choice. I am not going to be to hard on the voice actors here, I think overall they did a good job...but sometimes the voice just didn't fit the character (I am thinking mainly Sosuke here). Guess that is what you get most of the time with English dubs...oh well

Characters: 7/10

Sosuke - Military dude

Kaname - Tsundere

Tessa - Clumsy smart chick

Enter love triangle lol. Yeah, I'm lazy, that's all I am writing for this section lol

Overall: 6/10

If it wasn't obvious from everything I have written so far, I find this anime pretty average. Not bad by any means, and worth a watch if you are bored, but don't expect much. I would honestly recommend sticking to the manga.

6/10 story
6/10 animation
5/10 sound
7/10 characters
6/10 overall
RabidMonk's avatar By RabidMonk on Oct 7, 2009

Full Metal Panic! is a rather mixed bag.  There's a lot to like here mixed in with a good dosage of comedy, but then you also have to endure some junk that isn't nearly as exciting...so...

Positives: For a mecha show I quite enjoyed FMP!  While the later season is much stronger, this initial one offers a compelling, albeit kind of silly, story about a boy who is a military prodigy who ends up in a humorous, fish out of water situation.  It's always great for comedy when this sort of thing happens and as is par for the course a romance is developed which also seems to work rather well.

While my leanings are normally anti-mecha the pieces in here seem to work well including the whole Mithril organization which is in itself an interesting concept piece.  It's funny to watch the American's as viewed through the eyes of the show as well.

You're going to see a lot of great production values and the humor works in most cases so even if you're like me and don't care too much for the mecha bits you'll probably have enough going on to keep you happy.

Negatives: For some reason there feels like there could be so much more done with this story.  Sousuke as a protagonist has so many interesting facets that could be explored but you're going to have to really wait for FMP! Second Raid to really delve into them.  I suppose this is ok, as it's just a launching point, but I think with a bit more work the script could have been a lot tighter including both improvements in the comedy and storyline as a whole.

Not a whole lot otherwise to be upset about.  There are a few slower spots in the story, but at days end I enjoyed myself enough to pick up the other two seasons.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
7/10 overall