Full Metal Panic Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Paul Jacques
Review Date: Saturday, June 19, 2004
Release Date: Sunday, February 16, 2003



What They Say
A young boy flies into a psychotic rage passing through customs, and Mithril flies into action. Is he some sort of brainwashed terrorist? Or is he something even more dangerous and sinister? Hidden away in Mithril?s secret research facility, Captain Testarossa and Lieutenant Commander Kalinin attempt to find out. Has someone done experiments to fit the boy for the mysterious Lambda Driver?

Suddenly, their research grinds to a halt when an armed group attacks, reducing the facility to a burnt-out shell. With Kalinin injured and missing in action, Captain Testarossa turns to the only person who can help her: Sergeant Sousuke Sagara. Little do they know that waiting in the shadows is their biggest enemy yet ? and we?re talking really, really big! All-new enemies, all-new Mecha, and all your favorite heroes are all here in full force!

The Review!
This series has set a very high quality bar, can it continue to be as good as the previous volumes?

Audio:
I listened in 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. In fact my wife complained about the 5.1 explosions (reviewer smiles and pats the subwoofer). Also, is it just me, or does the incidental music sound a bit like the ?A-Team? theme?

Opening theme is called ?Tomorrow?, closing theme tune is called ?Never Dying Flower?. Ok, the opening theme is now getting my toe tapping, whereas the closing track still isn?t doing much for me.

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

Packaging:
Excellent box (transparent) with the A21 Behemoth Mech adorning the front. The reversible covers are very welcome and make for a great read. The foldout poster is once again full of information about characters and weapons contained in this volume. The other side of the poster has a full sized picture of bad girl Seina.

The disc itself is nicely printed with a graphic of the menu.

Menu:
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. I had no problems with the menu options, and all links worked quickly.

Extras:
We get clean Open and Close animation, Production sketches (around 20) and a collection of funny, but very serious anti-piracy warnings from the series characters.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Episode 9 starts with a young lad by the name of Takuma Kugatama passing through immigration, only he flips out and gets arrested. Due to the strange substances in his blood analysis Kalinin and Captain Testarossa are dispatched to investigate him out at a secret hospital. Only before they can get any real information the Hospital is attacked by the terrorist group A21, who are trying to recover the boy for their own nefarious reasons.

The terrorist insertion scenes are nicely interwoven with Sousuke getting his butt kicked by Kaname (he missed an appointment), not to mention some hilarious situations involving explosive jewelry. This, as we?ve come to expect, is the alternate humorous side to the FMP, and it always gets a chuckle out of me. Only this isn?t thrown in by chance, because as the story progresses the two sets of situation merge together to form a single story. The culmination of this episode is a really funny scene where Kaname discovers a naked Captain Testarossa (who is on the run with Takuma) in Sousuke apartment (wipes laughter tear from eye).

Meanwhile A21 have captured Kalinin, and by way of plot tool, his interrogation by Seina is used as a means of explaining what A21 are all about and why they do what they do (sympathy for the terrosist?).

Episode 10 opens with the very embarrassing situation, for Sousuke anyway, that the previous episode left us with. In this episode we see a side of Captain Testarossa we haven?t seen before- the playful side. The Captain has a little fun at Sousuke expense and this drops him in even more trouble with Kaname. Alas it?s not all high jinx and laughter, and eventually A21 discover where R heroes are hiding out, this allows the bad guys gain the upper hand from Sousuke and make a good getaway.

Episode 11 involves Sousuke, Kurz and Melissa chasing A21 down to the docks, whilst the police chase them. Meanwhile a little close detention allows Captain Testarossa and Kaname time to get to know each other, with a little bit of girl to girl chat. From this we discover why Kaname is such a bossy-boots.

In a tense scene, FMP displays it?s ability to run the dichotomy of it?s serious- humour approach in a single line, said by one of the interrogating guards expecting the prisoner to crack and give up the information, ?it?s not fun when a man whispers in my ear?. Both funny and serious at the same time. And I?m not sure if another reference to a big old tanker called ?George Clinton? is irony or satire- you decide.

In the final scenes we discover what the boy is really needed for- to pilot the mother of all Mechs, the Behemoth.

The last episode is just what we need, a full Mech on Mech battle between Sousuke (in the ARX-7) and Takuma (in the Behemoth), a real David and Goliath confrontation. Only David gets a little help from the ladies this time. Also in this last episode Captain Testarossa makes a declaration that no one was expecting, and I?m sure this new plot element will bear interesting fruit in future episodes. All-in-all and excellent final episode of action.

In summary-
FMP is without doubt one of the best Anime series to be released in 2003/ 2004. It combines humour, plot, interesting characters and big action scenes so well, that you don?t notice the time pass by. And all of this is presented in a flawless video style, with excellent use of surround sound. The standard of Anime in this series continues to be very high.

Features
English 5.1 Language ,Japanese 2.0 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

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