Full Metal Panic Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, January 06, 2004

What They Say
Things are steaming up! We open on a hot bath with three hot babes: Sergeant Major Mao, Captain Testarossa and Kaname. The lovely sergeant major exposes her past-and then some!-when she tells the story of how she first met Kurz and Sousuke. Funny how little has changed since then...

Meanwhile, the Tuatha de Danaan is racing full steam ahead to the Pacific island of Berildaobu. Terrorists have taken over a U.S. chemical weapons dismantling facility and taken the island residents hostage. Mithril's entire Special Response Team and the de Danaan are committed to the mission, but sudden shifts in the power structure threaten to tear the crew and the ship apart. With hidden agendas and splintering loyalties at work, can Mithril pull together and get the job done?

The Review!
As the series gets closer to the final episodes, the action picks up considerably after we get some good background time on Sousuke.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to the show in its original language of Japanese and in stereo. 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.

Continuing with the clear keepcases, the front cover is similar to past covers with the metal background but has most of it filled with a blue lined explosion and fog while the good looking image of the Venom AS in all its red glory is dead center and done as a full shot of its body. Below it there is 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 purple-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 a very cute shot of Tessa in her workout clothes with arms stretched out wide and one really nice smile. The reverse side of the poster provides a lot of details and information on some of the AS’s seen in this volume as well as talking about a number of characters. Each episode also gets a mini summary and some interesting side notes to them. The back reverse side of the cover uses the character Japanese cover artwork and features a sexy looking picture of Melissa Mao in her all black AS outfit set against a purple backdrop. The back cover provides a rundown of each of the episodes, lots of artwork and only Japanese production information. This is essentially the R2 cover with only a few very minor tweaks, and now turned around on my copy as the main cover.

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 continue to mirror the earlier volumes with only some small differences. The video art gallery, using some amusing incidental music to play along, runs about forty-five seconds and has a number of character pieces but is mostly filled with AS artwork and background designs. 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)
The series continues to move along at something of a slow pace from the last few episodes where we have Kaname joining the crew on their submarine, which has led to some quieter and more enjoyable moments as she gets to interact with the people Sousuke works and lives with. The chance for her to see what influences him as well as their having a chance to have some influence on her begins to work over the dynamic a bit more here.

Again with only three episodes, the show gets into gear at the worst time it seems as the adrenaline starts going and you really want to see what happens next, only to have to wait to the next volume. While a lot of series I find difficult to handle in larger doses, Full Metal Panic continues to be one that I find works well in marathon sessions.

One of the necessary episodes for this series is the one that gives us a bit more of Sousuke’s background from when he joined up with Mithril and found his way up the ranks to be where he is on the AS team. This tale gets told in one of the parts cleaning rooms that Tessa turns into something of a Japanese style bath area during off times. Tessa’s heard it before, but since Kaname hasn’t, she has fellow bath-mate Melissa tell the story of how she ended up finding the young recruit at one of the training camps and how he was working hard to not stand out. It also has the introduction of Kurz and how they all ended up forming a rather tight combat unit.

The story is fairly interesting, such as the mission that ends up bringing them to showing their actual abilities, but the real fun part of the episode is watching the way Kaname and Tessa continue to deal with the mutual interest in Sousuke. A lot of it is simple due to Kaname not really being sure she’s interested in him but feeling the potential for loss every time Tessa indicates her interest. I love the fact that she’s making it fairly blunt enough times that she’s not only interested but has every intention of competing for him with Kaname should she really step up to the plate. It’s like watching a spider play with its food…

All of this is a nice preamble to the actual mission itself, which has everyone heading for a small island that the US military uses for chemical storage that’s been hijacked by the group that’s currently employing Gauron. With all the recent data on Gauron and the fact that he’s using his newest shiny red AS unit that’s ahead of other units, the mission gets something of an unusual order attached to it. When Gauron shows up, everyone is supposed to fall back and offer support cover instead of trying to take him on – that particular task is assigned solely to Sousuke, who is still dealing with his last encounter with Gauron. The entire concept goes over poorly with most of the team who haven’t been involved with Gauron before, but Kurz and Melissa both know the why behind it.

The engagement is a solid exercise in the AS combat visual sense, though there’s enough moments where all the technical details they drill into you get swept away just for a cool move or two, but it’s still fun and very well animated for a TV series. There’s a number of twists as the action continues and it moves into the character side again, a lot of it coming from the obvious jokes and means available due to Sousuke’s fairly oblivious nature in dealing with women.

With only three more episodes to go, I can’t imagine this ending terribly well other than the immediate action storyline that’s running, leaving more of the Whispered details and the larger picture to the second season that’s bound to come over before too long. This set of episodes does a much better job in general since it’s brought Kaname into the mix, but I wouldn’t pass up the Helmajistan storyline since it forwarded so many other plot devices.

In Summary:
Full Metal Panic continues to be infuriating and fascinatingly fun at the same time. With the smaller episode count, each volume goes by far too quickly, but the content itself is addictive and fun. It’s the very definition of a guilty pleasure, but each volume only gives us pleasure so I can’t help but to sit back and enjoy it. This set of episodes is no different than the past couple of volumes and it only makes me want the next even more.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Fold-out poster,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animations,Japanese piracy warnings

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic