Full Metal Panic Vol. #1 (also w/box) (Mania.com)

By:David Rehfeldt
Review Date: Friday, June 20, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003



The Review!
How can one show have so many cliches packed into it? Teenager with special powers, teenager with extrodinary abilities, mecha, high school, and even the forlorn girl in the school uniform walking amongst the cherry blossoms in the first episode... and yet Full Metal Panic! is a breath of fresh air amongst the newer anime series being released.

Audio:
Having seen the entire show in Japanese already, I checked out the English Language track to see how the dub stacked up. And let me say I was blown away by this one. All of the characters matched their Japanese counterparts masterfully and did a great job of fleshing out these unique characters right from the start. Chris Patton does a good job of keeping the serious nature of Sagara Sousuke while giving him a little lighter touch, Luci Christian sounds perfect for Kaname and she plays off Chris really well. Monica Rial is at her squeakiest here playing Kyoko, Kaname's friend. I was really amazed by Allison Keith's performance though. She plays two characters: Melissa Mao, Sagara's immediate commanding officer, and a smaller bit part as one of Sagara's classmates. I honestly didn't recognize her as Mao because she downplays the role very well compared to her normal perky voice (which we get to hear her use for her other character). Honestly, I hope she uses this style of voice for more characters because it s
In addition to having great acting, the dub provides a very accurate translation on the original dialogue without any localization of jokes (which would've been an easy cop out in some cases for this show). Having sat through a few other ADV dubs in recent weeks and always going back to the Japanese track, I fell in love with this one and believe it's remarkably well done.

On the technical side all three tracks sounded fine, no major dropouts or noticeable problems. The included English 5.1 track really isn't much to brag about though. Very little background music and even less dialogue or sound effects are thrown to the back speakers resulting in an enhanced stereo mix. Still I appreciate that ADV included it anyway.

Video:
Being a Gonzo show we're treated to digital animation with some well done CG thrown in here and there. As a result the transfer here looks amazing with vibrant colors and fluid animation. There are a few instances of shimmering and one or two questionable shots but all in all the video here is superb.

Packaging:
The front cover of the first volume is a darker image of one of the Arm Slaves, with the Japanese and English logos in the corner. The back cover is the standard basic information and screenshots. On the reverse side of the cover we get a wonderful shot of Kaname against a white background. This is the same as the Region 2 cover, with only the ADV logo inserted and back cover translated. The spine of the reverse cover even has the Japanese logo down it. Having been turned off by the original cover, I quickly switched mine.

Included with the disc is a small poster featuring another shot of an Arm Slave, with a plethora of information on the characters and other background info from the series on the back side. I was amazed at what small font they used to cram all of this, and it leads me to wonder what we'll be seeing in the next six releases.

The box that came with this version is very high quality as well. The reverse side of the opening (the back) features a great shot of the main characters set against an Arm Slave. Sagara and Gauron's Arm Slaves both get a respective side. The box is made out of very sturdy cardboard. This is probably one of the best looking boxes I've seen released so far.

Menus:
A fairly straight forward menu here that has some slick looking animation. Easy to navigate and keeps the theme of the show going.

Extras:
Right when you start up the disc you might be shocked to hear someone talking during the FBI warning. It's Kaname, or Lucy Christian her English VA, telling you to follow the rules or else! The reason for this is because there is a Japanese version of this where the Japanase VAs tell you to follow copyright rules (and don't use the disc as a weapon) as well.

Otherwise included are the clean opening and ending, and a set of production sketches. ADV chose to have these set in a slideshow format as compared to the normal menu scrolling, which I'm not to thriled with personally. Also the normal batch of ADV trailers are included as well.

With the box set release comes a very nice T-shirt sporting an image of the whole cast. I kinda wish it were black instead of white, but you can't complain at this price point.

Content:
Full Metal Panic! offers a little bit of everything, but no matter what it's doing it does it well. In the first four episodes we're introduced to the odd assortment of characters, a bit of the overshadowing plot, and then thrown right into the first arc before we even realize it.

The first episode starts off with two scenes taking place at once. Kaname Chidori is lying in bed asleep, mumbling various scientific formulas and names of weapons, while Sagara Souske, Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao, operatives for a secret mercenary peace-keeping force known as Mithril, are rescuing a young girl who appears to have been through a traumatic experience. Sagara's expert piloting of an Arm Slave, FMP!'s resident mecha, takes down a helicopter and quickly we see that he is a skilled pilot. From here the team is given a new assignment to follow Kaname Chidori as it is believed that she will be kidnapped next. Sagara attempts to blend into high school life but finds he has no real common sense or social skills outside of the military and some hilarity ensues.

As Sagara's way of protecting Kaname, he tends to always follow her around and jump in at the sign of any danger (or at any time for that matter). This leads to some embarassing situations and a lot of injuries on his part. Add to the fact that every time Kaname sees him he claims "it is a coincidence" and things just get out of hand. This continues through the second episode and into the third.

At the same time we see the Mithril forces working behind the scenes to take down the Russian KGB operation that is after Kaname and all of the "Whispered" candidates. On the other side, we see the mysterious Gauron deal with KGB and other operatives to get what he wants as well. Gauron is a great villian in that he holds no moral objective to evil deeds including killing people at point blank range without a thought. The fact that Full Metal Panic! portrays this violence very openly and early in the show (while not being excessive) bucks a trend of playing down villians that many other animes have followed.

The fourth episode begins the real first arc of the show as Kaname and Chidori's class head to Okinawa on their class trip. Gauron hijacks the plane in an attempt to kidnap Chidori and takes it to an obscure province of Russia. The end of the fourth episode leaves you on a cliffhanger just as Mithril forces are about to move in. Get used to this, it happens quite a bit in the future and can be very cruel.

If you couldn't tell already, Full Metal Panic! is one of my favorite new shows and I can't recommend it enough. ADV went all out on production here and did a fabulous job of bringing it over to America. Don't walk, RUN to your local anime store (or online retailer) and get this show today. You won't regret it.




Review Equipment
Sony DVP S560D DVD Player, Zenith 27" TV, Aiwa Mini-Home Theater System (with 5.1 sound), Generic AV Cables



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/44.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic