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 ^_-!