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Full Metal Panic! Review

April 2, 2008

story 6.5/10

Full Metal Panic! screenshot

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 7/10

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 7/10

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 5.5/10

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.

overall 6.5/10

What begins as a captivating military mecha anime, despite some interesting moments, falls far short of greatness because of the inane characters and ambitionless plot. Chances are, if you're in the mood for something a lot like every other mecha anime, or if you happen to be a young teenager, then FMP will do the job just fine. Otherwise FMP is just another addition to the mass-produced, middle-of-the-range anime on the market.

Anime Info

Gonzo does it again with this action-packed mecha comedy. She's an ordinary high school girl. He's a counterterror agent assigned to protect her from those who would steal the information locked in her mind. OK, so she's not so normal after all. Armored Slave battles and lovers' spats abound as Sousuke and his comrades try to track down the mysterious Gauln before it's too late.


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About the Author

VivisQueen's avatar

VivisQueen

I'll review anything as long as there are words in the dictionary to describe it. Disagree with me? Want to leave feedback? Please do, but take a look at my personal rating scale first.

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comments

theSentinel avatar theSentinel
Oct 1, 2013

Thanks for the Review after the first 11 episodes im starting to feel like your review matches my feelings perfectly.

Archemetes avatar Archemetes
Feb 26, 2013

After watching FMP - not once - but twice! ( to ensure that i'd given it a fair trial )I can wholeheartedly say that this ranks pretty high on my list of least favorite anime. I agree with most of the points VivisQueen made, though i think he/she was trying to be generous to avoid pissing too many people off. Ive seen a lot of anime that lose their charm after a few episodes, but FMP takes the cake. Ignoring the audio and animation ( as neither were remarkable ), The characters were ALL one-sided, formulaic trash. They were not engaging, well developed, or well justified. If i had been watching this episode-by-episode, week-by-week as a kid, i may have abandoned anime altogether.  

I really struggled trying to figure out when the author was being serious, and when it was supposed to be a comedy. To be honest, i had a gnawing feeling in my gut that told me i was being insulted. Luckily, I took a break and watched some older, more childish animes (namely DBZ, Pokemon, and Digimon), and realized that the show was meant for preteens. Which means that i wasnt being insulted; kids were just being fed a stereotypical, money-making mound of garbage. I can respect that. 

I wont get into the plot. It was meandering, and mostly inconsequential. You couldve cut the whole thing down to a handful of episodes and still absorbed the majority of it. 

Something tells me that this isnt averaging 4.25 stars because it has droves of prepubescent followers, though. Its hard to believe it has such a large fanbase. Id have reviewed it at 4.5/10 myself - and that's only because 1.) it was easy to find working videos and 2.) it gave me a new baseline with which to compare animes that i dislike. 

Malakai0 avatar Malakai0
Nov 3, 2011

I thought it was great. You need to consider that it was really just the beginning of the story, the story contionues on in the novels and the ongoing Full Metal Panic! Sigma manga. The story that follows in TSR and then FMP Sigma manga is really very good.

Who are the whispered, where does the knowledge of black technology come from, and so on, are answered in the material that follows the anime, so if you liked it, continue on.

But even on its own I enjoyed FMP, Fumoffu, and TSR a lot. I felt that the 3 main characters (sousuke, chidori, tessa) were all very well done and had a great dynamic together. PS I <3 Tessa!!

Tolle avatar Tolle
Jul 29, 2011

Lol. I'm beginning to like reading VivisQueen's reviews xD Not because they seem to be spot-on regarding the anime, but because the responding comments always contain at least one or two people who seem to strongly disagree :p

aoineko avatar aoineko
Jun 24, 2011

Personally I agree with your review. I know there are people who have seen this series and really liked it. But for me it had so many elements that I've seen in other anime and have seen done better. Maybe if someone hasn't seen a lot of anime they might like this more. I just could not get into it. I didn't care if the two main characters hooked up or not and could not find anything that hooked me. It felt like there were two different anime in one show and they did not mesh for me.

Well, can't like them all.

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