Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2007



What They Say
With a traitor in hiding, Mithril goes on the hunt. One crashed party and a high-speed gunfight later, the turncoat's information has the mercenary group abuzz. There's a new threat to world peace: Amalgam. An unknown element with advanced mech technology, this mysterious organization has been running things from behind the scenes.

As dissension spreads throughout the ranks of Mithril, Sousuke faces his own internal struggle. Spread thin between schoolwork and war, the powers that be have decided to lighten his load... beginning with Kaname! Even loyalty has its limits.

Contains episodes 5-7:
Beautiful Sicily
Edge of Heaven
Left Behind

The Review!
Taking care of a few loose ends, this set of episodes favors more character driven stories with a good helping of action to complement it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The audio side of this release is very nicely stacked as it includes two 5.1 soundtracks and two 2.0 soundtracks as well as a commentary track for each of the four episodes. We listened to the show in the 5.1 mix and it came across very sharp and well defined. There is an extra level of oomph and clarity to it in comparison to the stereo mix as dialogue is more precisely placed and the use of all the channels at one point or another gives it a good boost over the basic stereo mix. The English language track is essentially the same since dialogue is kept primarily to the forward soundstage. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of what we did listen to.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the video quality that we had seen in the previous season of the series, there were plenty of fears and questions about how this one would turn out. We took the disc to three separate players and three different kinds of displays and across all of them it looked fantastic. The transfer isn't problem free but what we did find are the kinds of things that are really just nitpicking at this stage. Occasionally a background would have some noise to it or some of the fine lines would show a bit of aliasing but that's about it. From start to finish, this is a very solid looking transfer that really shows off the great animation quality.

Packaging:
Similar to the first volume, this release has been given a cardboard slipcover that uses the silver/metallic method to give it a bit more shine. The slipcover, of which the keepcase matches, has a good shot of Mao in her pilot suit the AS is looming behind them. They also retained some of the Japanese text with the logo and have done a very slick job in doing something that really captures the original logo style, particularly for the subtitle. The back of the slipcover does match the keepcase back cover though and we've got yet another lengthwise design with a lot of empty space for a creatively designed background that mixes in shots from the show. The packaging does a great job of providing not only a brief but effective summary of the premise but a good clear list of the episode numbers and titles as well as the extras. The bottom is laid out in the usual format with lots of logos, production information and the technical grid but it doesn't feel as cramped as some other releases. That said, I'd hate to see these lengthwise covers become the norm.

The keepcase is clear for this release and the reverse side is done up nicely with a two panel spread that has the logo on the left side while the right side has some character and AS artwork to it. The insert is a small booklet which is listed as the "Mithril Report" which is something that I think is incredibly handy. With the series background covered in the first installment, this one focuses more on character backgrounds, some locations and some of the equipment used throughout the shot. Like the first one, it has a very solid quality to it and excellent paper stock.

Menu:
Keeping in theme and using the blue shading and background designs from the cover artwork, the menu layout is nicely done with the character artwork of Kaname and Sousuke alongside the series logo. The navigation design is simple but effective and it's all tied well with the somewhat mellow instrumental music that's playing along to it. Surprisingly though, the menus for this release are done in 4:3 while the show itself is 16:19. It's very rare to see menus authored this way when the main program is anamorphic " some older sets would have issues in switching how it would display the material. Menu access times are in good shape and navigation is quick and easy for the most part. We didn't bother with seeing if our players' presets would work due to multiple soundtracks and wanting to see the translated credits.

FUNimation continues to, in my opinion, author badly in terms of how they setup the user interface aspect of their discs when it comes to the technical. The inability to actually choose which credit scroll you want continues to bother me. The complete and utter lack of labeling of their subtitle tracks is beyond annoying. It's even worse when you have commentary tracks by Japanese and you're flipping through three or four subtitle tracks just trying to find the right one. I also really dislike the way they have all of their discs pause at their authoring credit screen at the end of each release instead of returning to a menu which provides general some amount of motion when it recycles. Their credit screen should be done just like everyone else in providing it as a separate page that I can access whenever I want " easily.

Extras:
Similar to the first volume there is once again a good selection of extras that help show what went into the series. The audio commentaries continue with this volume during all three episodes as the creative staff talk about some of the inside jokes and stories behind all of it. Some of it can remove the magic but getting to hear them talk about all of it can be quite fascinating. The location shoots make up the bulk of the extras here though as the second and third installments go through the motions. Also included and always welcome are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Second Raid hits up three more episodes in the franchise and overall has some very good character driven episodes that really strengthen the relationship between Kaname and Sousuke. Though this means that other characters tend to take a back seat, they do sneak in some rather fun action sequences worthy of most big budget action movies. Even better, they give us the lovely Melissa Mao in a slinky black dress playing the femme fatale.

With the way the series opened and the tunnel incident, it's little surprise that early on the entire Mithril organization is focused on bringing in the traitor that gave out the information. Kurz and Mao get to pull off a quasi-True Lies kind of gig only to have things change in their escape route which brings Sousuke in. Unfortunately for Sousuke, he's in the midst of studying for midterms so not only is he getting grief from Mao and Kurz about the operation he's also getting it from Kaname on the phone at the same time about his attendance record. It's light and comical but tied together with some fun action sequences that have a very serious overtone to them because of what the traitor has done.

One area of the show that's always been a bit murky to me, at least in the long term as I've likely forgotten things from the first season, is just how big Mithril is. Little is explained in show, left more to the novels and associated paperwork, but the first season always gave me the impression that the one main submarine was sort of the big fish of the group. As we get to see in this season though it's far larger than that and some of that inter-departmental fighting that goes on is happening. Every large organization like this has departments that protect their own territory so it's not surprising to see it happen here. Where it's happening is that after the traitor is hunted down before the Intelligence group could get into it, they want to have a bit of internal revenge and are set to use it with Kaname and her situation. There certainly seems to be more to it here but it wouldn't be the first time bureaucracy put someone in jeopardy.

Where this disc really shined for me, outside of Mao's legs in that dress, is when Sousuke gets back to Japan and settles into his school routine. The verbal interplay between him and Kaname is something that just works so well. Often you have a male lead that's just plain obtuse or completely alien and unsure of things, but Sousuke just hasn't had any kind of socialization until this assignment happened so it has a fun angle to it. We do see that there's more to his nervousness in general around situations that are new to him in this kind of setting and that makes you want to go back and re-evaluate a lot of the earlier scenes in a new context. The best material comes though when it is just the two of them together since Kaname has managed to get past his barriers and be someone that he can trust almost implicitly. Sousuke almost has much the same with Kaname now which only makes their slow but growing relationship all the more enjoyable to watch.

If I have any disappointment with this volume it comes in two areas. First, it's just over far too quickly. Three episode discs of a TV series are few and far between these days and for good reason. Watching these episodes was highly enjoyable but it really felt like it was over much too quickly. The other area that bothered me is with the dub in how they've punched up the language. The script in general is accurate but some of the scenes, notably the ones involving Gates, are thematically accurate but are filled with swearing. In watching both versions, I think a lot of the general evil presence of Gates is lessened in the English version because of the numerous swearing instances as it has him seeming more primal. When he's completely into killing this one guy, but doing it without the swearing, it just has a certain intensity to it. Translating that intensity into four letter words is all well and fine but I found it lessened the scene for me.

In Summary:
The Second Raid is every bit as enjoyable as the first volume though it does change things up with a bit more character development than action. The overall plot is given a few moments here and there to move it along, including letting the twin sisters have a really beautiful moment where they toy with a few soldiers, but a lot of the focus here is on Kaname and Sousuke as they continue to grow closer and closer together. Visually the show is still quite a treat and there's no drop in quality from the first installment. If there is anything to really say about this show, it will completely change your view of kittens.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Audio Commentaries for Episodes 005-007,Location Scouting in Hong Kong Part 2,Location Scouting in Hong Kong Part 3,
Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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: A-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Kadokawa Pictures USA
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic