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Full Metal Panic! Review

Genres: Action Comedy Mecha Drama All
Series' Year of Release: 2002
Number of Episodes: 24
Review Date: 8-7-2008
Review Language: Dub
Review DVD Region: R4 Available in Australia
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

Full Metal Panic! is an action comedy that combines semi realistic mecha action with slap stick comedy. You wouldn’t think those two elements would work together but FMP! handles them remarkably well. FMP! is a 24 episode series based on a successful novels. The FMP! anime series also spawned two other shows: The Second Raid (a continuation) and Fumoffo (a comedy spinoff). Most of the 24 episodes are used to tell something of an over arching story with only the occasional filler or back story episode. The story mainly revolves around Mithril, terrorists and the Whispered. The latter are people who possess knowledge of black technology which is well beyond current technological levels. Though it gets somewhat forgotten as the episodes roll on with only a partial explanation of their existence. Chief among the black technology is the Lambda Driver but I won’t go into that in detail. Mithril is an organization equipped with cutting edge technology that fights terrorists and the like.

The two main characters of FMP are Sousake Sagara, a member of Mithril assigned to protect Kaname Chidori who is a high school student and a Whispered. Sousake Sagara is military nut who has spent basically his entire life fighting all over the world. And Kaname Chidori is known as Miss Perfect though she has penchant for smacking Sousake over the head with a fan any time he does something over the top. FMP! also has a large cast of regular characters: Teletha Testorosa, Kurz Webber and Melisa Moa, and Kyoko Tokiwa are just are few of them. Teletha or Tessa as she’s know is the captain of the Mithril submarine, Tuatha de Danaan, where Sousake is normally stationed. Melisa and Kurz are Sousake’s squad mates while Kyoko is Kaname’s friend.

As I mentioned before Full Metal Panic! has both comedy and action as well as drama elements. Unlike other shows (such as say The Tower of Druaga) it manages to combine them in such a way that they don’t interfere with each other. I put this down to the comedy moments being genuinely funny, the action/drama moments having room to breath and being powerful enough to punch through. It’s something that the brilliant El Hazard: Magnificent World does so well. However not every episode is so finely balanced with some episodes considerably more serious than others. The Wind Blows at Home being a good example which is incidentally the best set of episodes in the entire series. I actually felt like the rest of the show should have been like them. The creators themselves seem to recognize this when they created The Second Raid which is angst and drama while Fumoffu is all comedy.

One of the highlights of FMP! is the realistic design of its mechs. They give it a grounded feel and combined with the links to real word places (or illusions to) add to the quality of the series. However I felt that the black technology, in particular the Lambda Driver, take away from that with its physics defying power. I don’t think it needs mentioning that both Sousake and the show’s main bad guy pilot mechs with a Lambda Driver. I know it’s done so they can focus on the hero/villain characters but honestly there’s better ways of doing it, ways which wouldn’t throw away the effort they went to. Such as simply having the characters better skilled the other pilots etc. Another positive aspect of this show is the characters are well developed with more information being revealed as the series progresses.

By far the most annoying aspect of Full Metal Panic! for me is the show’s main villain. It’s the fact that no matter how many guys he guys he shoots, how badly he gets beaten, or how many times his mech is destroyed he simply returns. He’s like the preverbal cat with nine lives. The show would have been better served introducing him near the end of the show instead of continually dragging him back in. It does pay off in the end though with a strong finishing arc of episodes. Speaking of the last episodes they do feature a fair bit of fan service (stylistically done in the main), more so than the show in general.

One other fault with FMP! is the forced love triangle. I say forced because it just doesn’t come off as believable. Avoiding too many details it seemed like the character hardly knew Sousake, spent part of an episode with him, and then declares their love at the end. Maybe more happened between the characters before the show started but I can’t judge things on what might have occurred. Which leads me to another point I noticed. In the ending credits there’s a slide show of photos depicting Kaname growing up. I guess they were trying to give her a better back story but they actually raise more questions than they answer. For instance what happened to Kaname’s parents and who is the girl standing with her in some of the photos? Neither The Second Raid or Fumoffo answer these questions though I can’t speak for the novels.

FMP!’s animation is very slick for it’s era with a healthy dose of CG. The Tuatha de Danaan is entirely CG and looks pretty decent. As is often the case with good shows the music is also excellent. Songs like “Cool Running” and “Tatakau M9” provide some intense action music while “Kaname No Kitchen” and like provide extremely relaxed sounds. The OP song “Tomorrow” by Mikuni Shimokawa is upbeat and reasonably good. The ED song “Karenai Hana” also by Mikuni Shimokawa is considerably more downbeat but still fairly good.

Full Metal Panic! is a great show that successfully combines comedy, action and drama. It features well developed characters and well thought out realistic mech designs. However the latter is hampered to a degree by the inclusion of black technology. And the show in general is brought down by an annoying villain and a few minor issues. None of which stop Full Metal Panic! from earning: