Full Metal Panic! Complete Collection (Remastered) (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2010
In order to protect a highly important high school student, a powerful secret organization sends their best man who is unfortunately completely socially clueless.
What They Say
Kaname Chidori's one of the most popular girls at her high school - unfortunately, it's her growing popularity off campus she should be worrying about. Unbeknownst to Kaname, terrorists are plotting her abduction, believing she possesses the rare and coveted abilities of "the Whispered."
That's where Sousuke Sagara enters the picture. He's a hotshot soldier from the clandestine counter-terrorist organization known as Mithril - and he's going undercover at Kaname's school to try and keep her safe. He may be an ace in the cockpit of an Arm Slave mech, but there's no training in the world that could prepare him for the warzone of high school.
Contains episodes 1-24.
Using the same audio as the previous editions yet in losslesss form, this release makes out pretty good but is showing the age and original intent of the materials. The original Japanese track gets a good if unexceptional stereo mix through Dolby TrueHD and it covers the bases well with a bit of directionality and some impact in the big action sequences. The English mix, which is the dub track from the ADV Films release, is much the same overall even in its 5.1 Dolby TrueHD format simply because there isn't a lot of material sent to the rear channels. The forward soundstage is like a lot of the 5.1 mixes from this time in that it's more focused on slightly louder levels and crisper placement and directionality across the forward soundstage. It's well done and there is a difference, but it's minor overall. Both tracks are good though and are essentially problem free.
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series has twenty-four episodes spread across three discs, eight episodes each, using dual layered discs. The series was one that was decent on its original release but hadn't aged well and this edition uses the remastered materials from the recent Japanese release. The end result is a show that looks very, very good. Backgrounds come across in a very strong and solid way that allows it to look richer than it has before. One of the problems a lot of shows from this time period have, Gonzo shows especially, is gradients with the style of animation. The gradients here are still present, but they're definitely smoothed over a bit and they don't cause blocking or other noise related issues. It's not a perfect release, there's a bit of noise to be had at certain points, but by and large it's a very strong release and one that's worth owning and enjoying compared to past releases.
No packaging was included with these review materials.
The menu system for this release is decent and goes a bit beyond what a lot of FUNimation's menus have been like. The left side takes up about a little less than a third of the screen for the menu as it has a large metallic piece where the navigation sits. The animation from the show plays through the rest of it, unlike past menus where the navigation is just a small bit of text along the top or bottom while the clips from the show play over the whole screen. This gives it a bit more definition and personality and avoids having to let the clips do all the selling. While I don't mind clip menus, the better ones mix in actual menu elements to it in order to make it flow better and not seem quite so simple and easy. Submenus load quickly, the pop-up menu utilizes the same menu as the top level and unfortunately it doesn't read our player presets as it defaults to English with sign/song subtitles.
Located on the third disc, all the extras here are things we've seen in prior releases. The big extra is the twenty-three minute interview/discussion segment with the creative staff as they talk about the show and what it is they wanted to put into it. It's a decent look at the process a bit and the view of the series from those who worked hard on it. In addition to that, we get the original twelve Japanese anti-piracy warnings, fully translated, that you can view separately or through a play all feature. Add in the clean opening and closing sequences and you've got everything that we've had on previous releases outside of the art galleries, which is unfortunate since it would have shown us the original single volume cover art pieces.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the series of light novels by Shoji Gatoh, which continued to be published up until this year, Full Metal Panic is a twenty-four episode series that hits all the right notes even eight years after its original release. When the series was first released, it was all the rage as Gonzo was riding high on several series that had been working on and those behind the character designs of it. The series is one that managed to find just the right blend of action, comedy and intrigue with likable characters, but I felt that as the series progressed, when watched in its original single disc form, that it didn't hold up well in the long run. Having not seen it since that original run, I was very keen to see how it's held up all these years later.
Taking place in an alternate present day world, circa turn of the century, Full Metal Panic gives us a world where decent sized mecha are part and parcel of military adventures now that are called Arm Slaves. The use of the AS machines adds a new element to such missions around the world, but by and large things are still relatively the same, just with the addition of a new mechanized unit. One thing that's very different in this world is that there is a secret military organization that claims UN ties but doesn't appear to actually be associated with them called Mithril. Mithril is a mercenary organization that's out there to do the right things that nobody else can do. That means getting involved in critical military missions to try and stave off more serious battles or toppling drug empires. They're a force for good, though not all involved really view themselves that way but as strictly mercenaries.
Mithril has themselves involved in a new mission that again has them crossing numerous national lines in order to accomplish it. A man named Gauron, long a mercenary himself who loves violence for the sake of it and enjoys watching the world and people burn, is hunting up information on a small group of people called Whispered. These people have information in them from birth about Black Technology that's practically magic in its own way and various organizations are trying to acquire them so they can ferret out that information. Mithril intends to protect the few they know about and to try and eliminate all leads made by other countries and organizations since what these Whispered people know could seriously upend the balance of power in the world.
That Whispered is a high school girl named Kaname Chidori in Japan and the captain of the main high tech submarine Mithril uses, Tessa, sends off her best operative of that age to serve as her bodyguard. Sousuke Sagara has quite the impressive history for his age as he was a guerrilla fighter in his home country from the age of eight and has spent the years since at war before becoming a part of Mithril. Sent to Japan to get close to Kaname and keep an eye out for her since they suspect Gauron will go for her, Sousuke does his best to blend in which is where the comedy often comes from. Because he's never lived a normal life, he has no idea how to really act. He sees everything as a threat to her and invariably comes across as very unusual. He's generally taken to be something of a military otaku and he kind of rolls with that as he does his best to protect her.
It takes a little bit before she learns the truth about him, and herself, as the show starts to move into various missions that Mithril gets involved in that Sousuke works on, starting with a hijacking of a plane that Kaname is on which puts her directly in Gauron's hands. Once she's aware of the reality, disbelieving a lot of it until the truth is really made clear, the real fun begins since she's in on the “joke” in a way and does her best to roll with it. She gives attitude to Sousuke pretty regularly, which he takes, and the two have a pretty good routine going with him playing the straight man. Or, more realistically, he's not playing the role, he really is the straight man. The relationship between the two naturally develops a little more, but because of his lack of social understanding, it doesn't really get far and instead we get something that's very tempered, fun and rather innocent.
Full Metal Panic works through a few arcs with some standalone tales in between that helps to highlight the various cast members of Mithril as well as putting Kaname and Sousuke in amusing positions. A lot of the fun comes from having Tessa more involved as she's a very young captain, for a very good reason, and she ends up getting close to Kaname, which makes it difficult for both of them since they both have an interest in Sousuke. The Mithril crew is pretty diverse and they make for some good characters overall as some have a bit of history that goes back a bit, especially with Gauron, which gives it a bit more tension as well. The only downside is that Kaname's classmates get the short end of the stick as the show moves further away from the school setting, but when they do interact, especially with Sousuke, it comes together well. Sosuke's time as the straight man in these situations are priceless and it really makes the series work because even as clueless as he is, you know he's capable. If he had nothing at all going on for him it'd be sad and pathetic, but here he's a classic fish out of water for good reason and seeing his interpretation of life in a peaceful setting where he sees everything as a threat is continually fun.
The action side of the series holds up pretty well over the years much as the characters do. Though it doesn't use a ton of flashy moments or really extensive choreography to show off a particular fight scene, it has a really good clean look to it that doesn't get bogged down in itself. The mecha action with the AS units is fun and they avoid making things too personalized, such as the really specialized one that Sosuke acquires which looks like most other ones. The bad guys tend to have slightly outdated ones while Gauron obviously gets some specialized equipment. The hand to hand and more personal action sequences tend to work better in my view since it has a bit more impact and Sosuke often ends up getting into a lot of trouble where he needs to dole out some physical abuse as well.
Eight years after its original airing, Full Metal Panic has held up really well. Watching it in complete form over a couple of days revealed a show that holds together better in this form with the story plots and individual arcs seeming more cohesive without the wait or delays. The charm of the primary pair of characters is still very strong and the addition of Tessa to the mix only made it more fun to watch. There's a good fun story to be had here with enjoyable characters, good animation, solid designs and a whole lot of charm attached to it. FUNimation's release of the complete series in this form adds to it with a really strong visual presentation and solid audio mix overall considering the original materials. What we get here at the end is a show that was hugely popular years ago, still has a good following and should still be having new seasons made to cover the other novels. It's a property I wish they had done more with and this set actually gets me wanting to go find the novels. Definitely recommended for new fans and old fans alike.
Japanese Dobly TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Interview, Japanese Piracy Warnings
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 600
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Full Metal Panic