Full Metal Panic Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Paul Jacques
Review Date: Thursday, June 24, 2004
Release Date: Saturday, April 19, 2003



What They Say
Suit up! There's plenty of AS ("Arm Slave" - human-controlled armored suit) action in this newest installment of Full Metal Panic! When tempers flare between Sergeant Major Mao and Captain Testarossa, there's only one way to settle the score: an AS duel. The stakes are high, the price of failure a fate worse than death-a naked lap around the track on the Mithril base. Later, even high-schoolers Shinji and Kaname get a turn behind the controls of an AS!

But the summer fun grinds to a halt when Sousuke is called away for a top-secret mission at his old stomping grounds, where painful memories threaten to bury him alongside his fallen comrades. Will he make it out alive? Don't miss a minute of the non-stop action that charges forward with both barrels blazing!


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 an AS 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 an AS undergoing repair.

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)
The opening 13th episode is a bit of an oddball. It concerns the two friends Captain Testarossa and Sergeant Major Melissa Mao, who, for reasons not very well explained, challenge each other to a trial by combat in Arm Slaves- the looser to run nekkid around the base!

The Captain enlists the help of Sousake to teach her AS 101, whilst Melissa makes use of Kurz for her training. Although the situation is a little contrived, it does allow the writers to open up the characters a little, allowing us to learn a little more about what motivates R heroes. As to who gets to run nekkid, this reviewer’s lips are sealed.

Episode 14 opens with the regular characters (from high school) going to a military sporting event. The event is held on the military base where Shinji’s father is a secretary. This episode focuses on Shinji’s poor relationship with his father. With the help of Sousuke, it alls get resolved amicably with the help of an annual sports match between opposing sides of Mecha. Although this episode is a little cliché in it’s plotline – estrange father and son pull together to overcome great odds- it’s nice to see some of the minor characters let out to co-star in a story. There is a side story about Kaname being hit on by one of the boorish military personnel, but that strictly for laughs.

Episode 15 is altogether much darker. Sousuke is sent on a search and destroy mission- the target is Gauron. Sousuke is team-up with a crack combat squad, who take an instant dislike to him (he’s just a kid). The rest of the story concerns the squad tracking and engaging Gauron. In the battle that ensues their butts are seriously kicked by a well armed Gauron and they end up on the run, with a deadly cargo in tow. For some reason they go to a great deal of trouble to hide Gauron’s side-kick in this story (hmm?), so I expect a secret to be hidden there. As a counter point to this story the episode often cuts to an ignorant Kaname blissfully enjoying herself by the sea.

This last episode is a two-part story, thereby forcing us to get the next volume. This reviewer has a sizeable dislike of To Be Continue… stories (reviewer pokes plushie).

In summary-
This series continues to delivery exciting episodes and laughs aplenty. I like the counter points of showing a care-free Kaname against the deadly life style of Sousuke, and I think it’s supposed to hint at Sousuke’s thoughts wondering over to Kaname (is that love in the air?). The only fly in the ointment is the recurring Gauron character. They just better have a plausible excuse as to why he keeps dying and coming back to life.

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: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic