Full Metal Panic Vol. #1 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Paul Jacques
Review Date: Friday, October 24, 2003
Release Date: Monday, October 20, 2003

What They Say
On the surface, Kaname Chidori appears to be a normal, popular high school student. The problem is, she doesn't realize just how popular she is. Unbeknownst to her, a group of terrorists believe she possesses the special powers of "the Whispered," and they're out to kidnap her. Enter Sousuke Sagara, a young, hotshot agent from the stealthy anti-terrorist organization Mithril. Will he be able to protect Kaname without her finding out what's really going on? Or will he just drive her crazy as he tries to fit in as her awkward, gung-ho, war-crazed classmate?

The Review!
Great, a new Mecha series to watch!

I listened in alternating languages and no problems were heard. Great audio with three choices, English 5.1, English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0. I have to say that the 5.1 is very good and carries a decent depth in the playback, so don’t feel obliged to stick with the stereo options.

Opening theme is called “Tomorrow”, closing theme tune is called “Never Dying Flower”, neither of which are very catchy, in fact they are kind of sedate.

Very good video, clean, sharp and plenty of colour. No problems were seen and the only thing could have improved this presentation would have been widescreen.

Excellent box (transparent), with reversible covers that are just great to read and look at. They contain a shot an AS, Kaname in pose mode, plus a précis of the episodes. Inside the box we have a foldout style poster insert that is just crammed with useful information e.g. the classmates physical appearance is based on the real Production Team. The disk itself is blue and printed with the menu graphic.

Menus are really cool looking, with sliding metal panels when you select an option. The opening menu links are Languages, Extras, Episode and Scene selection.

We get clean Open and Close animation, Production sketches (around 25) and an anti-piracy warning from the characters (OK, you don’t need to watch that, I know you’re honest).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Whoa, what a great opening scene; we have a car racing through forest attempting to evade a pursuing Soviet attack helicopter. The terrified occupants are blown off the road and about to be killed when a Mithril Arm Slave comes striding out of the dark to rescue them- a real knight in shining armour type scene. The hero of the encounter being one Sgt Sousuke Sagara.

Later we meet two more main characters who work for Mithril- Sgt Major Melissa Mao and Sgt Kurz Weber. All three will be assigned to the covert protection of Kaname Chidori (high school student), with Sousuke being the inside man (he is only 16). The rest of episode 1 is a meet the characters and environment exercise, but it’s done with plenty of humour. I particularly liked Sousuke explaining his hobbies and music tastes to his new class mates, as well as the locker room incident, which were all very funny.

Episode 2 has Sousuke continuing to read every situation, and I do mean every situation, as a potential life threatening situation against Kaname’s person- lots of embarrassing situations ensue.

We also get to learn a little more about Mithril’s aims and objectives, and they are all very laudable; destroy drug refineries; destroy terrorist training camps; protect nuclear weapon exports. It also transpires that the KGB, via a “Businessman”, are planning to kidnap Kaname to assist in “Whispered” experiments.

Meanwhile Kaname is beginning to think that not only is Sousuke a pervert (he cops a quick feel in the line of duty), but that he is very, very, strange, as he keeps following her around. She attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery, but Sousuke’s frank answers continue to perplex her.

Episode 3 sees Melissa and Kurtz take over watch duties, whilst Sousuke takes a day of rest. During this time we get to see the Mithril submarine (Tuatha de Danaan) in action, as it launches a Tomahawk strike against a drug refinery. Meanwhile a panty thief attempting a little late night collecting is intercepted by Sousuke on Kaname’s balcony. Of course Kaname finds them both in possession of her panties, so being nice girl she takes a base ball bat to them- so funny.

Episode 4 covers the next day, as the class takes a school trip to Okinawa (Naha), but their flight is hijacked by Gauron the “Businessman”. The plane is flown to a hostile country’s airbase, and Sousake is taken off under false pretences. Kaname stumbles onto a plan to blow the plane up thus hiding the fact that Kaname will not be amongst the dead. So Sousake now has to rescue the girl and defuse a bomb on the plane.

Within the airbase is a lab, where they start to experiment on Kaname in an attempt to asses her Whispered abilities. At the same time Mithril put a desperate plan of rescue into action. How will it all turn out? I’m not saying, because you’ll have get the next volume for the answers (damn, I hate cliff hanger endings).

In summary- This series has got off to an first-rate start, and I warmed to characters very quickly. But be warned, this isn’t Mecha fighting series, most of the action is at a low level, with the emphasis on the story. I look forward to volume two with much anticipation.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0 & 5.1,English Subtitles ,Reversible cover ,Fold-out poster with in-depth background information printed on the reverse ,Clean opening and closing animations ,Production sketches ,Japanese piracy warnings

Review Equipment
JVC 28" Pure Flat Wide Screen TV, Pioneer 454 Progressive Scan code free DVD player, Logitech Z-680 THX DD/DTS receiver & Speakers. Secondary equipment, 21” Sony Trinitron monitor, ATI 9700pro & PowerDVD v4, Creative Audigy 2 & headphones.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic