Full Metal Panic! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Full Metal Panic!

 

Related: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (side-story)

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (sequel)

Similar: Code Geass

Black Lagoon

Gundam 00

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Mecha Comedy Romance

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Sagara.
  • Sagara and Chidori’s chemistry with that excellent Japanese acting.
  • Balances action and comedy.
  • Awesome mechs and action.
  • So funny.
  • Engaging premise that delivers.

Negatives:

  • Could do with more romance.
  • Some poorly timed ecchi.

Full Metal Panic is one of the reasons I love anime. Sagara, a military sergeant with mercenary organisation MITHRIL, goes undercover as a high school student to protect a ‘Whispered’ girl with powerful technological secrets in her head. Only anime would take that premise, add mechs, play it with straight-faced humour, and have unrestrained action.

Full Metal Panic’s greatest strength is in Sagara, an utterly unique character. As a child soldier from the Middle East, he never learnt about culture or social edicts outside of the military, which makes it hilarious that he has to pass for a Japanese high school student. A joke? A JOKE?! No idea what that is. Social boundaries? Never heard of them. Pop culture? Is that a type of infection? He will go to any lengths to complete the mission, even if that means interrogating a student at gunpoint in the bathroom. All of this would fail if not for the delivery, and thankfully, Seki’s performance is one of the best in anime. He delivers every line seriously, no matter how funny the scene – it reminds me of Rowan Atkinson’s delivery as Black Adder. Watching Sagara play a dating-sim to learn about relationships nearly killed me. I agree with his logic, but it just doesn’t work with a real girlfriend.

Acting as a foil to Sagara is Chidori, the girl he must protect. She sees him as a stalker and doesn’t buy his excuse that it’s a coincidence he always happens to be there when she turns around. She has a love-hate relationship with him, reprimanding him for his antics while never admitting that she enjoys the excitement he brings. I usually hate her character type, the tsundere; however, Chidori has two key differences. One, she isn’t aggressive for no reason, it is part of her core personality and she carries her own weight, rather than an idiot whose sole purpose is to hit the protagonist. Second, she isn’t aggressive during the romance, avoiding a trait that I see as the height of stupidity in a character. One of the biggest errors I see with tsundere characters is making them immature underneath the aggressive façade – writers think that’s cute, for some reason. This results in ultimately empty characters. With Chidori, she is actually strong as a person to the core.

FMP starts with a comedy focus until terrorists led by Gauron, a ruthless mercenary from Sagara’s past, plot to kidnap Chidori. Sagara’s team consists of Kurtz, a womanising German sniper, and Melissa, a chain-smoking, beer-chugging mech pilot from China. Mechs are the focus in combat, interesting in design and with touches of sci-fi from Whispered technology. I particularly liked Gauron’s sleek, vicious mech, Venom.

What impressed me most about FMP’s narrative is the seamless blend of comedy and action, neither overpowering the other. One episode, I am dying of laughter, the next, I am struck by tense, dramatic action that shows the contrast between Sagara’s high school life and the harshness of his job as a mercenary.

Underlying the comedy and action is a layer of romance, FMP’s lightest aspect. While I love the chemistry between Sagara and Chidori, their relationship sees little progress in the second half of the series – their relationship status, so to speak, still feels undetermined by the end, teetering on the edge of becoming serious. It’s obvious to us, the audience, but the writing didn’t let it step forward.

Another complaint, a minor one, is with the timing of the few ecchi instances. In the second episode, when Chidori makes her first personal connection towards Sagara, panty shot! Why…? It only detracts from the scene. Ironically, ecchi barely appears in comedy scenes, where it could actually work. Minor problem, however.

Full Metal Panic has stayed with me since I first watched it at release and I like to revisit it every few years. Sagara is one of the best fictional characters ever created and it’s always a riot hanging out with him on screen.

Art – High

A great example of art looking typically anime, yet has style to be recognisable. The character design is spot on and matches personalities without resorting to over-exaggerated traits. Some of the best mech designs. Action scenes look awesome with an attention to detail in battle damage and recoil. Superb editing and camerawork to keep the narrative paced and comedy snappy.

Sound – Very High

Good voice work in English, but the Japanese acting is so bloody phenomenal that the English is overshadowed. Tomokazu Seki does what few others can as Sagara, straight-faced in delivery and yet so hilarious. Paired with Satsuki Yukino as Chidori and a tight script, they create flawless chemistry. The music draws inspiration from The A-Team and other military types – brass and drums.

Story – High

Full Metal Panic is an excellent blend of action, comedy, and touches of romance. The characters are excellent and memorable. My one wish is for romance that is more concrete.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must watch. I have finished Full Metal Panic a half dozen times now and it still engages me through and through. Sagara is such a fantastic character.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid AnimationHilariousRiveting ActionStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None

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