Tag Archives: Full Metal Panic

Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory

 

Related: Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (prequel)

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Mecha Action

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Fight choreography.
  • Sagara’s emotional arc.

Negatives:

  • Main villain still hasn’t done anything.
  • Dull second act.
  • CG scenes are noticeable.

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The original Full Metal Panic concluded without need for a sequel, followed by the pure comedy spin-off Fumoffu, until Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid reopened the story a few years later with the introduction of new villain Leonard, brother to Tessa, young captain of the anti-terrorist Mithril organisation. TSR took a darker tone as it pushed Sargent Sagara of Mithril to the edge in a satisfying conflict. However, Leonard evaded capture and it seemed the franchise would stop there, leaving us in limbo for 13 years.

Full Metal Panic is a franchise I never expected to see more of (please, Twelve Kingdoms, please come back). After a few years of silence, the finality of the situation sets in and there’s no point wasting hope anymore.

So, it’s back! And what a letdown it is.

Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory isn’t bad – in fact, it’s rather decent, when seen from a distance. Sadly, we return to that old enemy of art, disappointment, the worst enemy, perhaps only second to that other evil called boring. As a continuation of the series, Invisible Victory brings so little to the table.

It picks up shortly after TSR, with Mithril in conflict against Amalgam, Leonard’s organisation, as it launches an attack on Mithril HQ. The start is strong with a series of high stakes conflicts and added tension by being much closer to home than usual. Sagara’s work has caught up with his personal life.

Leonard points out that Sagara has killed over 100 people so far, yet pretends to live life as though he isn’t a killer. Sagara’s reaction to this fact reflected against him is perfect. I love this wrinkle to his arc. It is ripe with conflict opportunities and consequences that could cost him everything. For instance, while dragging Chidori out of harm’s way from Amalgam, he uses a grenade to destroy a pursuing robot, but injures a passing student in the process. Sagara coldly abandons the kid against Chidori’s protests.

The problem with the story is what happens next.

A few episodes in after a devastating attack, we find Sagara on his own in a foreign land partaking in mech pit fights. For two episodes, we have no idea what he’s doing and it takes too long to get to the point, unengaging all the while. Furthermore, it introduces us to an entirely new cast of characters, none of which are memorable and at the expense of the core cast, who don’t do much this series. FMP did this before in season one with the four-part arc in Helmajistan, Sagara’s home country, to stop the sale of a nuke. The difference there was three fold. One: it didn’t waste our time wondering why he was there, away from the regular team. Two: the new characters were interesting for their short stay. Three: it was four episodes and not the focus of the season. To see that scenario imitated in Invisible Victory and done without excitement is disappointing. Some may argue that I shouldn’t compare it so much to the old, that this should be judged on its own. That’s not how direct sequels work, especially if one were to watch all seasons in succession now without the 13-year gap.

The most irritating fact of IV is how little it matters by the end. Leonard, who was the only incomplete thread from TSR, is still at large after having done little to nothing yet again. We are on the hook yet again to wait for another season, of which we have no confirmation.

One final aspect I must touch on is the use of CG for mechs and vehicles. It is undeniably rushed. FMP has used CG on occasion successfully – one of the few series to manage it. So to see Invisible Victory look worse than The Second Raid from thirteen years ago is baffling. It’s particularly noticeable when switching from a 2D close-up, detailed with battle wear, dents, and minor plays on light and shadow, to a CG long shot where the mechs no longer have detail. The models are too smooth, too clean. I understand why they resorted to CG. IV has a lot of mecha action, which would take time and effort to animate, and these fights have excellent choreography. The action is fast, fluid, and to the point. Sagara executes his opponents with the efficiency befitting his reputation. One skirmish in the suburbs between Sagara and several enemy mechs is particularly good.

I understand why. Yet, other series have managed to deliver a better product in similar situations – Studio Trigger regularly puts out great animation and Production I.G. often nails the CG used for vehicles in its titles. Full Metal Panic isn’t some small, untested franchise that can’t risk a larger budget. Why did this go to Xebec, a quick-and-cheap studio? It feels as though whoever was in charge didn’t care enough about the series, as if he had this forced upon him and just wanted it done, out of the way.

Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory is a wasted opportunity above all else. The good elements of Sagara’s emotional arc, the fight choreography, and moments of surprising grit pale under the weight of disappointment.

Art – Medium

Looks fine, outside of the CG during action scenes.

Sound – High

The voice acting and music is still strong. Go with the original Japanese like in past seasons.

Story – Medium

Sagara’s story continues as the enemy attacks and takes Chidori. With little progress made in the plot and a dull second act, Invisible Victory doesn’t carry the momentum of its predecessor.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Full Metal Panic fans only. You will feel lost if you haven’t seen the other series, though I highly recommend starting this franchise. Invisible Victory wasn’t worth the wait, however.

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Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid

 

Related: Full Metal Panic! (prequel)

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (side-story)

Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory (sequel)

Similar: Black Lagoon

Code Geass

Gundam 00

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Mecha Comedy Romance Drama

Length: 13 episodes + 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • A darker evolution on the first season.
  • Engaging battles against psychotic enemies.
  • Stellar voice work returns coupled with the series’ best music yet.
  • Several great new jokes.

Negatives:

  • An unfinished side plot with no sequel available.

Mithril is back, this time facing their most psychotic and depraved enemy. The conflict centres on Hong Kong, where weapons-dealing organisation Amalgam has set up camp with their Whispered Technology. Across the river in Japan, Sagara still protects Chidori from capture; however, his ability to balance work as a bodyguard, student, and mercenary piloting the ace mech comes under question by the top.

After Fumoffu’s sidesplitting hilarity, The Second Raid may come as a shock with how dark its narrative goes. It begins familiar with Mithril intervening in a takeover by a military dictator, followed by a couple of episodes with excellent comedy. I could relate to Sagara’s fear of allowing someone so close with scissors for a haircut – No, the shampoo isn’t poisonous, he tells himself. Then Sagara’s story descends into darkness when his competence is disputed.

I love this direction in the franchise. It shows a progression to the story, a maturing of the show alongside the audience, and more importantly, Sagara. His work and Chidori are all he has. His work is his life and when he feels like a failure, his whole world collapses under that weight. I didn’t believe the writer had the courage to push his characters this far when I started this series back in season one.

The villains received similar treatment. Gates, the weapons dealer, brings a mix of humour and craziness, as he executes his henchmen on a whim when offended or for a mere joke. But the truly twisted aspect is the twin girls working under him. They have this creepy sexuality to them that speaks of a psychologically tortured past, probably isolated from birth. I got the impression that they were a ‘what if’ scenario to Sagara. What if he hadn’t found a mentor that gave him direction in life? He might have ended up as damaged as these two girls. I wish to see more of their backstories.

Lastly, the action, already great in the past, has improved, more strategic than before. Equipped with technology to rival Mithril, the stakes are high on the streets of Hong Kong.

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid is an excellent continuation to the franchise. I loved the darker direction, yet still with enough signature humour, and the limits to which Sagara is pushed.

Art – High

The Second Raid sports an upgrade in visual quality from the original, particularly in the action department. A darker aesthetic to match the tone and greater detail make for a nice anime. The new mechs look vicious, evolved forms of Venom.

Sound – Very High

The same great actors return alongside a couple of new faces (Naruto’s Ero-sensei as the villain is hilarious) – I still recommend Japanese despite the good English track. With the Hong Kong setting, we hear plenty of Chinese, which works in either version. Tense violin and a brass orchestra bring the best soundtrack Full Metal Panic has seen.

Story – High

The Second Raid takes Full Metal Panic into some dark corners to excellent effect. Still has some great comedy to offset the weight, most notably from the villain. Greatest flaw is the unfinished side plot with Tessa’s brother.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must watch for fans of Full Metal Panic! Now where is the final season?

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

Positive:

Fluid AnimationGreat MusicHilariousRiveting ActionStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

 

Related: Full Metal Panic! (main series)

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (main series sequel)

Similar: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Comedy Romance

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Funniest anime I have seen.
  • Bonta-kun: Best. Mascot. Ever.
  • Same phenomenal acting and chemistry between Sagara and Chidori.
  • Script doesn’t waste a moment.
  • Even when using anime staples, Fumoffu does something fresh.

Negatives:

  • If you wanted the serious action and dramatic elements from FMP, you may be disappointed. No problem otherwise.

Sagara is up to his old antics, still taking every little incident as a terrorist plot against Chidori. He sets landmines around the school for protection and perceives a love letter from a girl as a bomb threat – you know, the usual. Full Metal Panic Fumoffu spins off Full Metal Panic’s comedy into an insanity-fuelled adventure in Sagara and Chidori’s daily life. Fumoffu hits the ground running and never stops.

Sagara and Chidori’s chemistry is better than before, for she is involved in every debacle. Each episode introduces new characters to kick off a hilarious dilemma. I was in stitches during Sagara versus the gym teacher, who hates Sagara’s chaos and tries to sabotage his duties with the lunch stand – Sagara caused a panic by demanding to buy a bread roll at gunpoint (put some spirit into it, Chidori said) – but keeps falling into Sagara’s traps. Poison gas, electrocution – you know, the usual. Sagara sees the teacher’s aggression as the sign of a good instructor. Sagara’s literal view on the world is as brilliant as ever.

School’s rugby team never wins because they are too effeminate with a focus on tea making instead of practice? No problem, Sagara will put them through Hell Week.

Matters start hilarious, but reach even greater levels with the entrance of Bonta-kun, a once peaceful teddy bear mascot turned into fighting mech at the hands of Sagara, disguised to fight “terrorists.” It can only say ‘Fumoffu’ like a Pokémon, for some reason, and a psychotic policewoman is hell bent on catching that ‘yellow bastard.’

Even when using clichéd episodes such as the beach or hot spring types, Fumoffu brings something new and criminally hilarious to them. A covert military operation led by sniper Kurtz into the girls’ bath? I couldn’t breathe. Fumoffu manages all this without resorting to ‘random’ humour.

The secret to Fumoffu’s humour is the tight script, reminiscent of Hot Fuzz’s sharp writing. Not a wasted line. Often with pure comedy anime, I find that the writers don’t know how to carry a joke for the full twenty minutes. As a result, one grows tired of the joke before the episode ends. Here, every joke is succinct and witty, and the writers aren’t afraid to keep it brief, breaking some episodes into two mini episodes when necessary. Watching Fumoffu yet again for review, I caught several jokes I had missed before, so packed is this anime.

While not a complaint of mine, some may be disappointed by the lack of military action and romance from the original. There is plenty of violent physical humour and touches of romance between the two, though it never gets heavy.

Spin-offs rarely work. It’s even rarer if they aren’t complete rubbish. Full Metal Panic Fumoffu is not only excellent, but also surpasses the original in several aspects.

Art – High

Same quality as Full Metal Panic, just more energetic to match the heightened comedy. Master class in visual humour. Mechs replaced by Bonta-kuns!

Sound – Very High

As with the art, audio is the same quality as the prequel – phenomenal; Sagara and Chidori have even greater chemistry in Japanese, if that was somehow possible. Bloody hell this acting is good.

Story – Very High

Fumoffu takes the high school side of Full Metal Panic, dials the comedy up to a thousand and turns the action insane.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a must watch, though I do recommend watching the original series first for context. I could make a case for attempted murder with how many times this anime has slayed me with its jokes.

(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:

CharmEngaging DialogueHilariousStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None

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:

HilariousRiveting ActionStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None