But Laevatein, it’s not Monday!
Yeah, I realize that, and I’m sorry; I’ve meant to get this article up yesterday, but I grossly underestimated what I needed to cover for the last three volumes. In fact, the next one is particularly dense, and my memory of the events of these novels isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. As a result, I’ll have to be a lot more succinct with this article, even though I can only really cover one novel this time.
We begin with a meeting of Amalgam’s executives. The highest ranking member, Mr. Ag, is apparently a Japanese politician who has good intentions, but gets killed by Kalinin for leading an attempt on Leonard’s life. He then calls out Mr. Hg, who is perhaps the only member who can be considered the leader, as Amalgam has a very loose structure (note the irony here). We cut to Mithril, in the process of defending a base in a desert country. Sousuke is still getting used to the Laevatein, and we’re also introduced to Kurz’s old mentor, Casper, who currently holds the world record for furthest practical sniping distance. Additionally, we learn that Kurz and Mao have entered a sexual relationship.
Somewhere in the Soviet Union, Wraith and Lemon are doing some investigation, but run into trouble with the Soviet intelligence agencies. However, luckily for Wraith, an old of friend of hers shows up to lend her and Lemon a hand. At this point, Tessa takes Sousuke and a select few Mithril operatives to Yamsk-11, the place where it all began, you could say; Yamsk-11 is where the waves that birthed the Whispered originated. On the way there, Sousuke meets Sarah Miller, the girl he saved in the very beginning of the series, who also worked on the Laevatein and the “Fairy’s Feather,” a design Kaname created while stuck in that villa (the very one she left for Sousuke to get), used to cancel any active Lambda Drivers in the surrounding area. Many things are revealed here: the nature of the Omni-Sphere brainwave experiments that created the Whispered in the first place, Leonard’s past as a child, abducted by Amalgam when he was young, and his goals for the future. AAs Amalgam is swarming all over Yamsk-11, however, it’s not an easy job for the Mithril operatives: Kurz winds up in a sniper duel with Casper, and gets shot after making a judgment call that failed. Meanwhile, inside the ruins, Sousuke and Leonard work together to clear some rubble after they get stuck in a room after a firefight. Leonard reveals that childhood to Sousuke, and also the full capabilities of the technology left here to rot. Due to the Whispered, the timeline here isn’t the “correct” one, and Leonard, not liking that, is planning to use the technology here to revert back to that correct timeline, where people who died are actually still alive, and vice versa. Leonard then leaves him with an ultimatum: join him, stand aside and stay alive, or oppose him and get killed.
After clearing the rubble, Leonard runs on ahead while Sousuke stays behind, stuck contemplating the effects of swapping timelines. Soon after, Kaname (who was brought there by Leonard), Tessa, and Sousuke meet up, as they reach the far depths of Yamsk-11, and come across a strange phenomenon: Sophia, a girl the Soviet scientists experimented on, eventually grinding down to dust. However, this dust also happens to be a Whisperer, and possesses Kaname (as per Leonard’s plan). At that point, Kaname takes Sousuke’s pistol and shoots both of them in the head, running off immediately afterwards, in shock. Fortunately for everyone, Tessa and Sousuke are actually unharmed, as that was only an image Sophia imparted upon the trio. Escaping, Sousuke and Tessa meet up with Mao and a few others, pinned down by elite Amalgam operatives led by Capser, who orders them to surrender, as they are very heavily outmatched. Kurz, actually still alive, radios Sousuke and asks him to get Casper out of his machine. Sousuke provokes Casper, who gets out, preparing to shoot the rest of them. Meanwhile, Kurz, bleeding out, lines up the shot and pulls the trigger, killing Casper, and setting the world record, but not before losing consciousness. Sousuke boards the Laevatein, destroys some enemy units, and comes across Leonard’s Belial. While the Laevatein still isn’t a match for the Belial, he is able to fight on even footing with Leonard when he activates the Fairy Feather. Leonard is forced to run away, as a result, and meet up with Kaname and his men on a fleeing helicopter. At this point, all the Mithril people leave, mourning Kurz all the while.
Now, this volume is a peculiar one, as it reveals most of the tricks Full Metal Panic! has been hiding for years. However, with all these revelations, I feel as if Approaching the Nick of Time is relatively weak: much of it is infodump, and with the nigh unreadable translations we have, I can’t even tell if they were all that correct, though I do know the translator did make it incredibly boring (though I can’t be sure the original wasn’t). However, it still keeps the new Full Metal Panic! style, with the incredible amounts of drama, shocking plot twists, and great character dynamics. Special attention must go to the main dynamic between Sousuke and Kaname, who were trying so desperately to find each other in this volume (as they knew the other person was there), but it’s amazing how the actions of one person (or dust, at this point) can so ruin their relation, as Sousuke and Tessa are filled with bewilderment, and Kaname is extremely shocked that she just killed her good friend and the man she loves. Additionally, the death of a major character seemed rather unprecedented (despite the mood-whiplash this series went through), what with Kurz being a fan favorite. Still, while reading it, I think it worked for excellent drama. What annoyed me, though, is that this volume obviously felt like it was setting up for the final volumes: while that’s not bad, per se, it’s certainly easy to argue that the author, needing to find a way to resolve the mysteries of the series, came up with an idea and implemented it way too quickly, which does lend to the infodump feel of this volume. That being said, I’m still confident that you’ll like Approaching the Nick of Time if you enjoyed the previous volumes.
I hope you check in next week, as I’ll be covering the very last Full Metal Panic! story novel!