Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Box Set - Mania.com



Blu-ray Review

Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 14 and Up
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 99.98
  • Running time: 320
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Full Metal Panic

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Box Set

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Anime Blu-ray Box Set Review

By Chris Beveridge     October 15, 2010
Release Date: August 11, 2009


Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Box Set
© FUNimation

Someone is gunning for our favorite Mithril mercenary group and they're using everything they can to taunt, torment and take them down.

What They Say
It's tough to keep your grades up without having to take off at a moment's notice to save the world.

For Sousuke Sagara, undercover high school student and member of the mercenary group Mithril, life in Tokyo seemed the same as always. But underneath the promising exterior spin the wheels of a conspiracy that threaten to destroy the peace. A new threat has arisen: 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! Life and death hang in the balance as the clash between good and evil scale new heights. When the smoke clears, Sousuke's path will be the one that he forges for himself.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!

Audio:
This edition of The Second Raid has a pair of decent Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks to it that deal with the material well but don't really stand out in a huge way. The show has a good forward soundstage design to it with some good directionality and placement to dialogue and some solid action scenes, but it lacks the overall punch and impact to really stand out with the full surround channel mix. Bass level didn't feel all that strong either, something that was more necessary with a show involving mecha running around and lots of explosions. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout though and we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
 
Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 upscaled to 1080p from standard definition material encoded with the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs in the somewhat standard nine/four format, though the second disc has a number of extras on it that take up a bit of space as well. The show is one of the weaker upscale from FUNimation as there are a fair number of gradients here that, while being a part of the source material, make out worse in this format as it shows more noise and break-up. Colors in general look good though, there's a lot of pop and vibrancy to them, but the show has a less than stellar feel because of the noise and background break-up that you can see in both bright and dark scenes.
 
Packaging:
The packaging for this release is a style that didn't last long for FUNimation when it comes to the Blu-ray releases. The two disc set is done up in two separate standard Blu-ray cases inside a thin cardboard slipcover. The slipcover looks good as it gives us the two main ladies in the foreground in full color while other key characters of the arc are in shaded colors behind them with only Sousuke breaking the mold. There's little in the way of a real background here so it's all about the characters and it certainly has its appeal here. The back of the slipcover has one of the villains of the show standing firm with an AS behind her which overall takes up a nice bit of space that helps it all from seeming too busy and packed. The summary does cover things well with the overall premise and this arc in particular and we get a good breakdown of the discs extras and production information. This release pre-dates when FUNimation began listing whether they were upscales or not but it definitely is. No show related inserts are included in the set.
 
Inside the slipcover the two individual cases are nicely done and the blues of them blends well with the artwork and design in general. The first cover has a good shot of Sousuke and Kaname together with the Arbalest behind him while the second has one of the villains to it with her mecha behind her. The back covers work in a similar manner by pairing up mecha and character artwork and reverse sides are essentially the same with the left side having just the series logo instead. The back covers have the additional element of listing the episode numbers and titles and any respective extras for them.
 
Menu:
The menu design for The Second Raid is rather good overall as it hews to the general themes of the shows technology with pieces that feel like monitors with graphics sliding over each other with a liquid feel. Lots of blues are used here with sharp angles thrown into the mix and some decent motion to give it a sense of being active and alive that works. The navigation strip comes up through the middle here with the standard FUNimation design to it of having the play all, episode selection and language submenus as well as an extras tab on the second disc. Everything is very quick and easy to navigate and the discs defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles. The problem here is the same as many of their Blu-ray releases is that particularly with the extras, the small font does not make for easy reading on larger screens at all.
 
Extras:
The extras for this release are good overall, though it lacks some things we had seen with the original releases in that there aren't any commentary tracks here, which isn't a surprise as I believe those were lost on the first DVD box set as well. The clean opening and closings are here and we get a good little video feature talking about the shows origins with the light novel itself and the way light novels had grown in importance back in 2005 as a good place for source material. One of the lengthier features is the seven part piece that shows what went into the location scouting for the show with the crew heading to Hong Kong to get lots of ideas to make it feel authentic. And importantly, we get the Episode 000 piece as well as the critically important and necessary ultra fanservice episodes in the special Tessa OVA that completely makes the whole show worthwhile.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the more popular franchise that came from the "light novel" genre, Full Metal Panic's third season is one that definitely plays out better in full than in the four DVDs we originally got. Coming into this show after finishing off the first series, but not with a re-watch of the Fumoffu season in betwee, The Second Raid is a show that hews pretty closely to what the first season was all about but with a more serious turn overall. It isn't a tightly plotted show since certain aspects of it, mostly when it comes to the actual villain revelations at the end and most anything dealing with Gate, but the character drama focused on Sousuke and Kaname with Tessa's involvement makes this a rather good and effective drama.

Taking place some three months after the events of the first season, it kicks off to great effect as we watch a mission that Sousuke and the others are on to deal with some third world country that's got its hands on some rather decent AS technology and weapons and is using it to beat down its own people. It's an action packed episode that doesn't have much of the trademark comedy or even much of Kaname, but it sets the standard for the series in terms of visual quality and animation. It's actually a bit more of an involved piece as we learn later in this volume when the apparent main villain of the show comes to collect his money for the weapons he's sold the crackpot dictator. The villain here, a man named Gates, is interesting since he's fairly unbalanced I'd say and has a penchant for killing his own followers if they say the wrong thing. But he almost seems like he's not aware of what he's doing in situations like that.

Even with a not so stellar mental state, Gates is a dangerous opponent for the simple fact that he has a venom AS and a number of rather skilled AS pilots working with him. While his reasoning is not yet clear, he's intent on getting a hold of Sousuke and his Lambda Drive AS and making it his. To do so, he's going to surprising lengths to lay a trap that's rather fun to watch. In kidnapping a number of officials that are involved in the North / South China Armistice Treaty negotiations, he's able to utilize an amusing tunnel that's actually more of a labyrinth maze and draw in Mithril so that he can work them down slowly. This is easy to do since he's got both a man on the inside and the Mithril folks end up with very little in the way of communications. This, along with a pair of gorgeous looking but very deadly sisters, provide much of the action in the show both in AS form and in hand to hand form.

Shifting the focus to finding the traitor after the fallout from the tunnel mission turns out to be more fun than I expected. 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 season really stands out best though is when it deals with Sousuke and Kaname and the way they really do trust each other without saying it clearly. 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.

Kaname herself has another really good subplot with this season. She held her own pretty well in the first season considering what she got caught up in and this time around she's even more practive. When Sousuke gets pulled off of guard duty for her without him being able to tell her, she starts to really handle it poor at a time when she knows that she's being tailed by someone else from Mithril. Everything around her seems like it might leap right into her and cause a problem which has made her incredibly jumpy. But what makes Kaname such an interesting character is that she's not a pushover or just accepts what's happen but rather is proactive on it. While her methods are certainly questionable when it comes to the idea that she may be bugged, her intentions are spot on for someone with no real training. Why she didn't buy some new clothes first before running around in a jacket and panties is beyond me but the visuals are just spot on.

When the show does get back to the focus of the larger storyline, it takes us to Kowloon where the mystery organization they've been tracking is going to be and the plan is to go in and box them. Unfortunately, Sousuke has abandoned his post and is wandering almost aimlessly through the city. Amusingly, he decides that the best way to handle his problems is to get drunk. Finding someone to sell something as the city is being evacuated though proves to be a problem for a bit but he's able to do it eventually. That ends up leading him towards something more sinister however as messages have been left all over the city to direct him towards his unknown goal. With the way Sousuke's mind works, even the hint of a clue will get him to work towards solving it even when he's as out of it and depressed as he is.

Bringing Gauron back into this and having him tied to the Xia sisters is something that really works well. While he wasn't the focus of the series nor someone that made creepy appearances throughout while Gates was doing his dirty work, his tangent to the overall storyline adds to a really interesting element to it. It brings us a tie to the original series while also exposing a bit more of Sousuke's origins. It also provides Sousuke with some critical moments in his life as he has to deal with him in the position that Gauron is in. It's these tense yet quiet moments when the two confront each other that help to make Full Metal Panic a show that stands out against the rest. The tough questions are asked and the challenge is faced without flinching and without typical manga-origin copouts.

Sousuke's challenges aren't just in dealing with Gauron but with his position in life in general. With the city erupting in flames as Yu Fan is running about trying to attract Gates' attention, the rest of the group Sousuke was working with catches up with him and tries to convince him to take to the battle in the Arbalest. While the confrontation between Sousuke and the couple of Mithril operatives he runs into is good, it kicks up several notches when the non-prostitute Kaname shows up to kick some sense into him. Their reunion is very well done for the most part but it hits some snags as it gets to the point where she has to make her revelations to him. Unlike the situation with Gauron, they defaulted to stringing it along a bit more which lessens the impact of these final scenes.

In Summary:
The series ends on a lot of high notes when it comes to the action and story resolution as it doesn't hold back from some of the brutality of battle. The character connections are solid and there is a flow to the interactions that just works really well. These are all characters that we're comfortable with yet do seem to grow and change. With the ending being as heavy as it is and played straight with very little humor, the bonus OVA is the perfect way to finish things out afterwards. A thirty minute romp on board the ship while it's in port, it runs through a series of encounters and gags as Tessa roams about the ship. It's heavy on the fanservice right from the start and sends you off with a smile overall. Looking at this season overall, I definitely came away from it happier than I did in the original run as everything connects in a much clearer fashion, the subplots make more sense and the character drama, particularly with Kaname and Sousuke and some of Tessa's key scenes really makes all of this shine beautifully. The release has its flaws, but the actual show content itself is definitely solid and makes you wish they had gotten on to another season to work off of the source material more.
 
Features
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Bonus Episode 000, Bonus OVA, Location Scouting in Hong Kong, Textless Songs

Review Equipment

 

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
 


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