Some thoughts on the latest installment of one of my favorite franchises.
The original Full Metal Panic has long been one of my favorite anime series. The show is based off of a series of light novels by Shoji Gatoh, who is also involved with the anime adaptation. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people reading this aren’t aware of the franchise, as it has been dormant for over a decade. Wikipedia’s synopsis of the series is far better than anything I could come up with, and is as follows:
“The series follows Sousuke Sagara, a member of a covert anti-terrorist private military organization known as Mithril, tasked with protecting Kaname Chidori, a spirited Japanese high school girl. He moves to Japan to study at Chidori’s school, Jindai High School, with assistance from his comrades Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao. Having never experienced social interactions, Sousuke is seen as a military maniac by his schoolmates as he interprets everyday situations from a combat perspective. He comes to relate with Chidori who realizes that Sousuke is protecting her, but he does not reveal the reasons due to orders as well as the fact that he does not know why Chidori is being targeted by different organizations.”
Full Metal Panic combines military action with Japanese style humor in an amazing way. That’s what makes the series so memorable. The first season is an awesome mix of this, and the second season, titled “Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu”, goes the full comedy route. It’s hilarious and so much fun. Conversely, the third season, “Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid”, takes a very dark turn. While it made for some great character development and nail biting moments, it was my least favorite of the series. The villain was just too evil. It felt out of place for a show that once had some amusement at its core.
[Caution: The rest of this review contains major spoilers. Scroll to the next bracketed text for the end of the spoilers and my summarized thoughts.]
Invisible Victory continues on with a fairly serious story, but not quite as cutthroat as Second Raid. The show starts pretty much immediately after the last installment, and things pick back up in a hurry. Basically, the terrorist group Amalgam has grown tired of the cat and mouse game they’ve been fighting with Mithril, and they go in for the kill. A new henchman, Kurama, wastes no time making the outskirts of Tokyo a warzone. While Sousuke tries to keep Chidori safe with the use of his ARX-7 Arm Slave, the mechs of the series, Mithril comes under simultaneous worldwide attack, basically eliminating them. Sagara is outmatched with no backup, his top of the line mech is taken out with ease, and Chidori is finally taken by Amalgam. This concludes what I call the first “arc” of episodes.
The second set of episodes focuses on Sousuke’s journey in Nam Sac, where he is trying to get into an illegal Arm Slave battle ring. Amalgam has connections to it and it’s his only lead. He befriends a girl named Nami and joins her mech fighting team. Also along for the ride is a photographer named Lemon, who will become more important later on. With Sousuke’s piloting skills they start to make a name for themselves, and eventually Sousuke finds his way into the illegal fights. It turns out to be an Amalgam trap and Nami is captured. Kurama uses her to bait out Sousuke, killing her in cold blood without even giving him a chance to surrender. A battle ensues and Sousuke manages to mortally wound Kurama, but suffered equal injury in the process. Lemon, who turns out to be with a French agency investigating Amalgam, runs towards a dying Sousuke as the second arc finishes.
The final Arc reunites us with the remaining members of Mithril, who stage a surprise trap on Amalgam in San Francisco in order to try and get information on their status. We also find out that Leonard is holding Chidori in Mexico, and Sousuke has just awoken from an eight week coma, barely escaping death. Amalgam’s plans give no one any time to breathe, and battle breaks out again. Mithril remnants are attempting to assemble the new ARX-8 mech with the AI from Sousuke’s previous machine, but it is captured by an Amalgam team led by Kalinin, an officer once thought loyal to Mithril and and important person to Sousuke. Sousuke and Lemon take refuge at a camp in Florida ran by one of Sousuke’s military contacts as he works on his recovery. Eventually he’s well enough to fight again, and finally goes to rescue Chidori. He reunites with his old team, and eventually the ARX-8. Ultimately, Amalgam barely get away, but after the two profess their love, Sousuke vows to save her. And as shows I’m super into love to do, the series ends on that cliffhanger.
[Spoilers are finished!]
Personally I found this series very enjoyable. While it doesn’t have the delightful mesh of action and humor that I’ve yearned for since the first season, the show does flow a lot better than The Second Raid. The first arc of episodes is easily my favorite as it feels most familiar. The arcs after are more than decent, though. The final one in particular shines with some really good character development. I’m also very fond of this series’ various landscapes. The world feels very much alive as we travel between various destinations and characters. It doesn’t just stay in one little bubble like most anime. I am a little annoyed with the major cliffhanger ending, especially since season 5 isn’t a guarantee. From what I can find online, the show did well but not exemplary in disc sales, so I’m hopeful that the show will see a proper conclusion. According to what I’ve read, there’s two more novels to adapt so one more season should be all the show needs.
I’d also like to mention how exciting it was to hear a majority of the English dub actors return, especially Chris Patton as Sousuke and Luci Christian as Chidori. Full Metal Panic has a fantastic English dub and I would highly recommend you give it a chance. Of course, the original Japanese is more than worthwhile as well, but the chemistry between these voice actors is pretty exemplary. Funimation did a great job keeping that going.
The only negatives to this show are the dips in animation quality in some episodes are very noticeable. It’s been reported that Xebec’s production schedule was pretty packed at the time this was being made, so it’s likely this show will be one that looks much better on Bluray than it did on TV. Also, this is a show with a high entry price. You really can’t get the most of it without seeing the previous shows. I highly recommend all of them. Even though the original series turns 16 years old on January 8th (excuse me for a moment while I feel old…) it’s still highly watchable and a lot of fun. And wait ’till you see Fumoffu/season 2. Oh man…
So yeah, this was a pretty good show, but I decided to give it a review because I really want to bring attention to the surprise return of this franchise. It’s a lot of fun.
Full Metal Panic is available on Bluray, DVD, and various streaming services.