Mecha Monday: Full Metal Panic!

Quite the contrasting settings this show is running with.

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.

Plot

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.

Comedy (and yes, that's a real Glock)

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.

Mecha

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.

Rating Breakdown
Plotwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Full Metal Panic suffers from being a jack of all trades, master of none: the main plot isn't as strong as it could be, what with strange pacing, weak resolutions, and lacking plot twists, and the comedy feels more like filler. However, beyond these, the plot and comedy still happen to be entertaining, but people looking for a lot of substance might be disappointed.
Characterswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
While the show doesn't really explore characters in depth, what's shown through comedy, action, and drama gives us some pretty entertaining characters.
Artwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Though it could be better, with good character and mecha designs, it's hard to complain.
Animationwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
While there is a fair amount of CG in Full Metal Panic, the CG isn't terribly grating, and as a result, the animation does a pretty good job, sometimes even being exhilarating.
Musicwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The sound is pretty good in every department, doing a good job of complementing the other elements.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
While Full Metal Panic suffers from spreading itself too thin, with messed up pacing, sometimes weak plot twists and resolutions, infrequent comedy, and unexplored character depth, the series still happens to be pretty entertaining for its great characters, funny comedy, and interesting plot.
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A mad scientist who's so cool!

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