Full Metal Panic Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2003
What They Say
They say vacations never go according to plan, and school trips are no exception. Instead of enjoying sunny skies in Okinawa, Sousuke and Kaname's classmates are under cloud cover in Siberia, playing the part of hostages. A vicious and unbalanced terrorist has kidnapped Kaname to donate her brain to science-with or without her consent! Will Sousuke and MITHRIL be able to scramble an ad-hoc rescue? Will they be able to get everyone out alive? Get ready as Full Metal Panic! launches into its second stunning volume!
After a rousing first volume with a good cliffhanger, the second volume escalates things nicely and provides some great entertainment and fun.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to the shows original language for our primary viewing session here, which is a solid sounding stereo mix. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and there are some excellent moments of directionality and depth to the sound effects. ADV has also included two English soundtracks; the first is a 5.1 mix that does a good job of providing a bit more clarity to the track, but don’t expect much out of the rear speakers, if anything. The second is a 2.0 track which lets people with older or poor players to avoid the problems of downmixing done by their equipment.
Originally airing back in 2001, this is a very slick looking transfer that almost feels glossy at times. Though the show is full frame, there are a number of sequences where it goes into a letterbox mode, such as the opening sequence and one or two other scenes. Colors look lush and vivid, very nicely saturated without any bleeding. Cross coloration is extremely minimal, showing in only a few scant areas and aliasing is much reducing, even during panning sequences. This was a very eye-pleasing print.
Done up in a clear keepcase, the front cover is a very dark gray image that has the image of the newest Arm Slave on it. Below it there is both the English logo and the Japanese logo as well as volume numbering, all three of which are also on the spine. The back cover continues the dark look in shades of blue-gray by providing a few shots from the show and a brief summary of the premise. The discs features and technical information is all nice and clearly listed. The insert is a mini-poster pullout with an image of a new character introduced in the last episode here, complete in her schoolgirl uniform. The reverse side of the poster provides a lot of details and information on the various Arm Slaves, secondary characters and props from the show, mixing conceptual sketch pieces with full color images and shots from the show itself. The back reverse side of the cover uses the character Japanese cover artwork and features a great image of Sousuke running with his gun. The back cover provides a rundown of each of the episodes, lots of artwork and only Japanese language information. This is essentially the R2 cover with only a few very minor tweaks, and now turned around on my copy to this.
The menu layout here goes for the metal aspect of the title with lots of interlocking pieces merging together to provide the main menu. Selections are nice and easy to get to, though there are some sections where you have to really focus for a minute to make sure you’re looking at it properly, such as the trailers in ensuring you’re selecting the right one. Access times are nice and fast and everything worked as expected.
The extras here pretty much mirror the first volume with only some small differences. The video art gallery, using some amusing incidental music to play along, runs just under two minutes and showcases the pieces found on the reverse side of the poster. The opening and ending sequences are provided again in a textless format and the Japanese versions of the piracy warnings are included, fully subtitled.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After thoroughly enjoying the first volume of the series and getting acquainted with the characters and the initial set up, we got the big tease at the end during the cliffhanger about the Whispered and just what that all might entail. This volume takes some elements from that and plays around with them while mixing in a number of great action sequences, comical moments and great animation.
Things pick up nicely where we left of with Kaname being held in captive by the mysterious enemy and performing research on her. Sousuke has made his way through various enemy elements since he snuck out of the plane and is closing in on the mobile lab where she’s being held. But Kaname isn’t exactly the kind to take everything laying down, so when she manages to break free from the visuals that the doctor keeps pumping into her, she uses that moment to try and escape.
She gets only so far, but Sousuke really plays the role of the hero well and without bravado by getting into the lab and taking control of the situation. It’s at this point, with the single female doctor now at gunpoint, do we start to learn about what’s in Kaname’s head with her being a Whispered. These people, mysteriously appearing throughout the world without any apparent rhyme or reason, have something implanted into their heads that they have a hell of a time trying to access. This information has been labeled as Black Technology, which the Arm Slaves are an element of.
Various groups continue to try to acquire the Whispered and extract all they can out of them so that they can build these fantastic machines. This is covered in some depth at one point with one of the Mithril leaders as he talks to Sousuke about how none of this kind of gear would have been possible in his lifetime if it wasn’t for this mysterious source, though it all seems quite natural to Sousuke’s generation. Things simply made a huge leap at one point due to the Whispered and it’s a deadly race to deal with it now since it’s made things like nuclear weapons seem irrelevant.
The bulk of these episodes are action oriented, but the information and exposition segments are perfectly placed and are there to justifiably move the story along smooth, such as when elements of the Black Technology information comes rushing out of Kaname’s head but she’s completely unaware of it afterwards, though it helped save them from certain doom. The action sequences for this series continue to impress me, especially during this particular arc of the storyline. With four episodes that take place at night in this storyline, the backgrounds add a really great feeling to the setting. With it being dark and using the green hues to provide illumination but also making all the trees and mountains pure black, the Arm Slaves stand out when they’re fighting, but the characters stand out even more when we focus on them.
There’s such a lushness to most of the action, as the AS’ leap back and forth in hand to hand combat or the troops rushing through searching for them, that it’s very easy to be drawn into things. There’s only a handful of shortcuts that break the illusion, such as a sequence where some rising smoke is basically one cell moving upwards and drifting, as opposed to the normal evolving smoke clouds. But this is offset by the rest of the explosions, the quiet moments as the trees move and the interactions of the camera with the backgrounds. The way all of this looks was just much more noticeable to me than most shows that it really sticks out in my mind.
One of the best things about this volume is the last episode when we’re back in the school setting. After all the various revelations and information that’s come about, it’s hilarious to see the new relationship evolving between Sousuke and Kaname. His dry deadpan manner interacting with the rest of the class and the way his humor doesn’t come across well, or serves to infuriate Kaname, is just beautifully played out. The all too brief sequence of him playing the dating sim game and trying to understand women or the way he was yelling at the movie when the soldiers did everything wrong, it provides some cringing character moments but you can’t help but laugh at it since it’s just played out so well. We laughed so much during this last episode that it was a real contrast to the previous three and the darkness there, but it really helps balance things out nicely.
Having been told that this series is just clichéd, dull and uninteresting by a number of people, I’m again wondering if we’re watching the same thing. Full Metal Panic has been an extremely enjoyable romp especially now that it’s past the initial awkwardness of starting off the series and we’re getting comfortable with the cast. I love the relationship between Sousuke and Kaname. I like the way it tries to balance the darkness of what Mithril is and their mission with the lightheartedness of the school sequences. I adore the buffoonishness of Sousuke as he tries to deal with school life by tossing grenades and threatening other students’ families.
This volume has definitely raised my expectations for the series compared to what the first volume offered.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Fold-out poster with in-depth background information printed on the reverse,Clean opening and closing animations,Production sketches,Japanese piracy warnings
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic DMR-E20 DVD Recorder, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic