Full Metal Panic! is a series that happens to stand out for quite a few reasons. This anime was produced long before Haruhi created the everlasting light novel craze (as represented by the number of adaptations per season). Additionally, FMP is quite famous for mixing and toying with genres, plot structure, and mood pretty haphazardly. In fact, these elements helped make this series reasonably popular among anime fans, as it has, at the very least, something for everyone. That haphazardness, however, only serves to lower the series’ quality: while it’s still a good show, being a sort of “hybrid” only hurts Full Metal Panic’s strengths and hold back its potential.
As Kaushik mentioned in his review, Sergeant Sousuke Sagara works for a mercenary group, Mithril. He pilots mechs and helps keep peace around the world. He was recently assigned to guard an average high school girl, Chidori Kaname, from possible terrorist plots. Sousuke must now juggle his mercenary life (action) with his strange school life (comedy). However, though Sousuke is a great soldier, he and normal society are always constantly at odds, as he’s pretty weird. This results in much of Full Metal Panic’s comedy. While this combination of action and comedy may seem like a novel idea at first, the two genres have trouble coexisting, as the comedy totally wrecks the plot’s pacing, and the immense amounts of plot is balanced by a lack of comedy. The story itself is pretty good, though it could have been better. For instance, I feel as if the handling of some events were lacking, in addition to arc resolutions. Additionally, as I’ve said before, though the comedy is good, it often feels like it plays second fiddle to the plot. In fact, the comedy only feels like it’s there to lighten the mood. Don’t get me wrong, Full Metal Panic still has some good humor. The season solely devoted to comedy, Fumoffu, was excellent (and I pretty much share Kaushik’s opinion regarding it), but I don’t appreciate the first season’s attempts to treat the comedy as filler. As I’ve again previously mentioned, the season follows an arc-based format, and the main plot isn’t entirely interconnected, as a result. For a series with a strong story, having arcs that feel disjointed doesn’t exactly win any points. Though, to Full Metal Panic’s credit, there is more of a central arc here than in many other light novel adaptations. Unfortunately, that’s not enough, as there isn’t much of a main plot to appreciate, even though each arc is entertaining.
The characters of Full Metal Panic, interestingly, follow this mixed nature accordingly. Many characters show up in both the serious and light-hearted segments, though they may call home to one of these two types. This is great, because we get to see many aspects of these characters. As a result, said characters are rather complex. Characters you’ll see in one type of segment will react to situations differently than they would in the other type, but at the same time, that difference range is still believable. At the same time, characters also happen to showcase and deal with their own shortcomings as individuals. It’s all good stuff, but Full Metal Panic doesn’t take some of what we see too far. For instance, there is some romantic tension between some of the characters, but these instances don’t show up too often to know if the tension is important enough to remember or not. It’s a bit disappointing when you’ve only scratched the surface with some characters. However, despite that, the characters are all really entertaining in several ways, and are definitely the highlight of the series.
The art is pretty standard. I rather like it, though, as everything’s pretty clean and detailed, at least. Additionally, the mecha designs are rather cool, as they happen to be a bit more realistic than most series (except for one particular element, though I won’t get into that in my review). Overall, while I’m gonna say “the art works” again, I really have not too many grievances with the art. The animation is, fortunately, pretty great (at least for a Gonzo title). While there is a decent amount of CG, it’s not really all that grating. The fights are rather exhilarating, too. Though it could be better, the animation isn’t half bad in this series.
In the sound department, the BGM is done pretty well, as it combines fun, light-hearted songs with action songs. One particular song is particularly memorable (it sounds like something out of the A-Team!), but other than that, none of the songs are as memorable. Hell, only a few of them are memorable, in general. Despite that, the BGM fits, so that’s good enough. The theme songs are pretty good, showcasing Mikuni Shimokawa’s talent (though nobody can agree on which one of the two is better). Sound effects are pretty good, and make the action and other assorted scenes more believable, as does the voice acting. The voice acting delivery is part of what makes the comedy great, too. One interesting thing about the voice acting is that both the Japanese and the English language tracks are great. Overall, the sound does a good job of complementing the series.
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