Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Full Metal Panic

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     November 03, 2006
Release Date: November 14, 2006


Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Kadokawa Pictures USA


What They Say
To 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 threatens to destroy the peace.

Unrelated at first glance, a series of tactical assignments draws Mithril's Special Response Team into a tangled web, with the spider wearing a haunting face from the past! With inside help and technology to rival their own, this adversary is after the Arbalest no matter the cost. And don't forget that math test...

Contains episodes 1-4:
The End of Day by Day
The Scene Below the Water
Labyrinth and Dragon
Daylight

The Review!
Returning to the original novels, Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid easily recaptures what made the first season so great.

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:
In an effort to set this apart from other releases on the shelf, it's 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 Sousuke in his pilot suit standing next to Kaname while the AS is looking 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. If there's anything to not like about the grid, it's that the running time is a combined number of the show and the extras. Listing it solely as 175 minutes is misleading and FUNimation has done this better in the past by breaking it out.

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. While it provides some basics like character designs and background for a couple of the leads, the booklet is more intent on catching you up on the details of the franchise's first two seasons. This is important since the series really does just drop you into things and doesn't spend time explaining the past. If you're just starting on this franchise, the booklet is an ideal read to catch you up on things.

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. And just for good measure, I'll thrown in another grumble about how they lock their front loaded trailer to just the title button. Having just moved to a new universal remote (the Harmony 880), it's been interesting going through and seeing how many of them don't actually provide the title command as a default but rather something that has to be custom added.

Extras:
As proudly proclaimed on a burst sticker on the front of the slipcover, there's over 100 minutes of extras on here. Of course, just including the four episode commentaries with their running time would certainly qualify for that but the listing isn't deceptive; there's a good trove of extras to be had here. First up is the bonus Episode 000 which is a short piece that gets you into the mood of the series, an episode that was made to really show that they were getting back to their roots of something with the action and a touch of humor. It's not terribly long but it's well animated and it gets things flowing. Next, there are commentary tracks for each of the four episodes which are done by various Japanese staff/voice actors. As always with these, it's a real mix depending on who is talking and how much they can really impart, but there are plenty of little things to learn throughout them. A standard and welcome inclusion is the clean version of the opening and closing sequence.

Where the bulk of that 100 minute runtime comes in is with the making of pieces. One of them has some of the creative staff heading to a JSDF tour/event where they along with the public get to look close at a lot of military gear on a base. Another is a location scouting piece with them heading to Hong Kong and really hitting the town. The last one, and one that I found the most interesting, is the "Dawn of the Light Novel" feature which talks with the publisher behind the FMP novels and the origins of this particular subset of literature. The term "light novel" is fairly recent but it's being applied somewhat liberally at times but the feature is really interesting to see since it brings you inside the publisher and deals with the creator about the franchise.

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 returns for its third season. Even better, this season returns by going back to its original source material, the "main storyline," and regains what it had in its first season. One of the reasons to me why Full Metal Panic has been popular is because it managed to find that nearly perfect balance between action and comedy. Even more important, it found the right kind of comedy that felt like it was so close to being over the top but not quite, thereby not diluting the overall premise. The second season ejected the action side from the show and was more focused as a set of side stories that were comedy based. This had plenty of appeal based off of the comedy we had from the first season, but it left it as a weaker and more unfocused work.

The Second Raid is a very focused piece of work.

With this return to the original works and as more of a direct follow-up to the first season, The Second Raid isn't quite as accessible to new viewers as you'd imagine. While most shows when they kick off a new season do some sort of recap, there's none of that here. Even more surprising, there really isn't much of an explanation about who is who or what the make-up of the world is. While long time fans will slide right into place by seeing Sousuke, Kaname and Tessa all back in top form and enjoy the return of Mithril, it's easy to see how someone new will find it difficult to figure out what all is going on. Mithril isn't explained really nor why Sousuke is doing duty as Kaname's bodyguard. While I won't say that the Full Metal Panic world is incredibly complex, it does have a number of tweaks to it in comparison to the real world that are important to understand, especially in regards to Mithril.

The Second Raid 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.

The balance to all of this solid action is a good mix of character pieces and the comedy. We've seen this cast grow nicely in the first season and there's a bit of fun from the second season as well provided you still consider that really part of the continuity. The Second Raid balances it nicely like in the first and we get to see the comedy show mostly in the school related areas with Kaname and Sousuke. It's also where a lot of the fanservice tends to show up, something that the people behind this have fun with. With one episode opening by having Kaname fall out of bed in her pajamas, you just have to see how they film it to understand what kind of fanservice nuts the creative stuff must be. The lighter side of the show just clicks very well for me and is very appealing, especially in how they take something and push it close to the edge but don't go over it. Sousuke is an easy running gag with his overreactions to normal life, believing everything is potentially a threat, but I admit that I haven't tired of it and still enjoy it a lot.

Visually, this season is off to a very strong start. I don't think the first season was a slouch by any means but this one just has a real fluidity to it in some of the high action scenes. During the tunnel raid sequence, Mao ends up in some hand to hand combat with one of the sisters and there are some really great moments here as they bound all over the place. The AS action is just as solid as before as well, maybe even more so since I think we're getting a bit more variety in some of the designs. The show just has the feel of a very quality production and doesn't feel like it's trying to scrimp or cut corners anywhere. The money that it cost to make it looks like it's very much right there on the screen.

In Summary:
The first release by Kadokawa Pictures USA is essentially a winner. We've seen some pretty varied moves by different Japanese companies that set up shop here but if Kadokawa continues in this manner, ensuring fan happiness by having proper dub and translation continuity, and working to make sure that they have someone who can properly manage their distribution and marketing side of things, my level of concern over how their releases will turn out drops down significantly. What issues I do have with this release aren't with Kadokawa itself but in the way FUNimation handles certain things " and I'll easily admit that these things likely aren't a concern to the bulk of people who just pop a disc in and watch it. The Second Raid has done exactly what this franchise needed to do if they really want it to survive; they've gone back to the original source material and they secured some great animation from Kyoto Animation. Under supervision from the original writer, I don't see how this series can not please its fans.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Bonus Episode 000,Audio Commentaries for Episodes 001-004,Tour of Japanese Self-Defense Force,Location Scouting in Hong Kong Part 1,Dawn of Light Novel,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.

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