Who doesn’t like a little bit of mecha action thrown into their high-school romances?
What They Say Kaname Chidori's one of the most popular girls at her high school - unfortunately, it's her growing popularity off campus she should be worrying about. Unbeknownst to Kaname, terrorists are plotting her abduction, believing she possesses the rare and coveted abilities of "the Whispered." That's where Sousuke Sagara enters the picture. He's a hotshot soldier from the clandestine counter-terrorist organization known as Mithril - and he's going undercover at Kaname's school to try and keep her safe. He may be an ace in the cockpit of an Arm Slave mech, but there's no training in the world that could prepare him for the warzone of high school.
Contains episodes 1-24.
For this viewing, I listened to the English 5.1 dub. A Japanese 2.0 track is also available. Sounds were clean with no distortion or dropout in any of the channels. Though the dialogue stayed centered, the rest of the channels were well used for the sound effects, with plenty of left-right and front-back directionality. Just a well done piece.
In something I haven’t seen in a good long while with “new” anime, this is fullscreen 4:3 as opposed to widescreen. I put “new” in quotes, because this is new to me, but it actually came out in 2002 (which explains the fullscreen). For a bit of an older series, the animation is really topnotch, comparable to most post-digital conversion series. There are a few moments here and there of cross hatching, but nothing to write home about. The only flaw which stood out to me was that it was very obvious where they used computer graphics instead of traditional animation. Maybe I am just now used to anime being done all digitally now, but this really stood out to me and was a distraction at times.
Standard Funimation double thinpak, though it looks as if they have solved the problem with flimsy cases, as the clasps are far sturdier than previous. The front has a collage of the main cast with Sousuke’s Arm Slave in the background. The back of the box has screen shots, a series summary, and technical details. Each thinpak has an Arm Slave on the front, with some character art and episode lists on the back, and a background image can be seen on the interior, though the cover is not specifically designed to be reversible.
The menus are nice, though basic. The main menu has a white background with a static image of one of the characters striking a pose. The selections are offered in a clean layout in black, so they stand out well against the bright background; highlighted selections are easy to see too. The submenus all follow a similar sort of setup.
All of the extras for this release are on the fourth disc. There are clean versions of the opening and closing along with a couple of TV spots and a few trailers. But the bulk of the extras (about eight minutes worth) are a series of original Japanese piracy warnings done by Full Metal Panic’s Japanese voice artists in the style of their characters; these are fairly amusing because they follow the characters’ personalities, so Kaname’s warning is belligerent, Sousuke’s is efficiently militaristic, etc. Neat feature.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Full Metal Panic is a series that I have long heard about but never gotten around to watching. With Funimations recent rerelease of the first series, I am finally getting my chance. Not really knowing what to expect when I first put it on, I was pleased to find that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It is just a lot of fun from start to finish.
Kaname Chidori is the most popular girl in school. She is cute, intelligent, and more than a little self-sufficient as she has lived on her own since the death of her parents. She can also be abrasive as her outgoing personality has no patience for idiots; so while she is respected by all, she does not have many prospects as far as dating goes.
But she also has a secret, one so secretive that even she is not aware of it. She is one of a select few people around the world known as “The Whispered,” a group of individuals who have strange powers over technology, but whose roles are as yet undefined. And therefore she must be protected from those who would seek to manipulate her abilities.
Enter Sosuke Sagara, a sergeant in the mercenary organization Mythril despite being the precocious age of sixteen. Mythril is an organization dvoted to stamping out terrorism and has therefore taken it upon itself to protect The Whispered at all costs. A veteran of guerilla warfare in the Helmajistan region of Afghanistan, Sosuke has known nothing but warfare since his earliest days and is an expert in security situations, making him the ideal candidate to protect Kaname.
With orders from the Captain of Mythril, Sosuke travels to Japan and enrolls in Kaname’s high school with the intent to protect without her knowledge. Unfortunately, while he may be an expert in all things military, he is a novice in all things non-military, and his soldier’s bearing marks him an outcast in the school, as does his actions every time he overreacts to what he sees as a threat to Kaname’s life. These confusions lead him into many uncomfortable situations—situations that are made even more uncomfortable due to her vocal remonstrations of him—but he is determined to protect her, no matter what. And though he would never admit it even to himself, it quickly becomes clear that he is motivated by far more his duty.
As I said before, I did not know a whole lot about Full Metal Panic before I watched it other than hearing a lot of good things about it. And in the past few years, as the plethora of harem and other high school romantic comedies has turned into a veritable glut, I have found myself trying to avoid them them. Sure, occasionally a Kanon will come along and stir my interest, but in general I have become less a fan of a genre I used to find very entertaining.
Well, Full Metal Panic sucked me in immediately, and not just because of the great action sequences that help drive forward the plot. Sosuke’s over-military presence in a high school setting, all the while trying to act like a normal high school student, is just superbly pulled off here. Combine that with Kaname’s refusal to suffer fools, and they just have that magic “odd couple” combination of mismatched potential-lovers that works really well.
Even the old standby jokes—Sosuke finding himself in the girls’ changing room or hanging out on Kaname’s balcony with her panties accidentally in his hand—come off fresh because his character is so different from what we have come to expect in these situations. Typically, our protagonist in these situations finds himself having to pitifully protest his innocence and spend time in self-loathing doubt while he curses his existence. Sosuke instead just accepts his beatings as a consequence of the nature of his duty, while only pausing on occasion to ponder the inconsistencies of women. He is very robotic in this way, but it makes him very endearing.
And these parts were so well done that I was almost disappointed when the series shifts away from the high school and gets into the meat of the plot, because we also see a bit of a shift away from the comedy that marks the early episodes and settle into more serious matters. I say almost disappointed because these parts were equally as well done. The action sequences, whether mecha or not, are fantastic, and we get a fair amount of political intrigue as we unravel the mysteries of The Whispered and what certain nations and terrorist organizations of the world have in store for them.
It is also here that we define the relationship between Kaname and Sosuke. While their early days are rocky due to their vastly different personalities, a truce is called between them when Kaname learns who Sosuke is and why he is always following her around, giving us something similar to a “Princess and her Knight” dynamic. And though she still gets mad every time he screws something up, they quickly learn to rely on one another. Kaname learns to understand Sosuke better, and in turn she begins to humanize him. The results are sometimes disastrously hilarious, but at least he is trying.
I think their relationship is also helped by the fact that she is not completely helpless. Maybe it is just a bit of the feminist kick I have been on recently, but I really liked that fact the Kaname can take care of herself if the situation demands it. What is better is that even Sosuke understands it, even if he still does everything he can to protect her. There is a scene where Kaname and Mythril Commander Tessa Testarossa are taken captive, and the rules of hostage exchange suggest that Sosuke demand that Kaname be released first as she is a civilian. However, he demands the release of Tessa first as he feels that Kaname is more likely to be able to escape danger if things get tense. And since Tessa rose through the rank academically rather than militarily, he is likely right. It is Kaname’s abilities, and Sosuke’s observation and acceptance of them, that push the “Princess and her Knight” dynamic to a whole new level, one that was far more interesting to me than if Kaname had just been a stander-by.
Full Metal Panic was a series I had good, if vague, ideas about going in, and it surpassed all of them. It is a wonderful mix of comedy, action, intrigue, and romance that all come together perfectly for me. As is the often the case in these situations, it is the relationship of the two protagonists, Kaname and Sosuke, that drives this series, and their personalities are contrastingly eclectic enough to make even tired jokes and situations seem new again. I cannot recommend this one any higher.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080i, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System
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