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



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • 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

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

By Chris Beveridge     June 06, 2003
Release Date: June 10, 2003


Full Metal Panic Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


What They Say
On the surface, Kaname Chidori appears to be a normal, popular high school student. The problem is, she doesn't realize just how popular she is. Unbeknownst to her, a group of terrorists believe she possesses the special powers of "the Whispered," and they're out to kidnap her. Enter Sousuke Sagara, a young, hotshot agent from the stealthy anti-terrorist organization Mithril. Will he be able to protect Kaname without her finding out what's really going on? Or will he just drive her crazy as he tries to fit in as her awkward, gung-ho, war-crazed classmate?

Also available in a box with first volume that includes:



The Review!
Full Metal Panic brings another very vivid looking series to the market, complete with many Gonzo trademarks.

Audio:
Due to a variety of issues, we listened to the shows original language for our primary viewing session here, which is a solid sounding stereo mix. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and there are some excellent moments of directionality and depth to the sound effects. ADV has also included two English soundtracks; the first is a 5.1 mix that does a good job of providing a bit more clarity to the track, but don’t expect much out of the rear speakers, if anything. The second is a 2.0 track which lets people with older or poor players to avoid the problems of downmixing done by their equipment.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2001, this is a very slick looking transfer that almost feels glossy at times. Though the show is full frame, there are a number of sequences where it goes into a letterbox mode, such as the opening sequence and one or two other scenes. Colors look lush and vivid, very nicely saturated without any bleeding. Cross coloration is extremely minimal, showing in only a few scant areas and aliasing is much reducing, even during panning sequences. This was a very eye-pleasing print.

Packaging:
Done up in a clear keepcase, the front cover is a very dark gray image that has one of the Arm Slaves on it. Below it there is both the English logo and the Japanese logo as well as volume numbering, all three of which are also on the spine. The back cover continues the dark look in shades of blue-gray by providing a few shots from the show and a brief summary of the premise. The discs features and technical information is all nice and clearly listed. The insert is a mini-poster pullout with a solid Arm Slave image on one side while the reverse has eleven breakdown boxes on characters, locales and gear, providing a sizeable amount of information. The back reverse side of the cover uses the character Japanese cover artwork and features a great image of Kaname. The back cover provides a rundown of each of the episodes, lots of artwork ad only Japanese language information. This is essentially the R2 cover with only a few very minor tweaks, and now turned around on my copy to this.

For those getting the box release, the material for this is a very solid one. The wraparound image, using some foil in well chosen places, continues the dark look of the keepcase covers with the grays, blues and blacks. The panel sides each feature a different Arm Slave while the spine side features the main cast of characters, which is where all the color really shines through. The top has the logo while the bottom has the basic disc technical specs. While it's dark overall, it looks great on the shelf if you have the spine part facing out set next to other sets or discs.

Menu:
The menu layout here goes for the metal aspect of the title with lots of interlocking pieces merging together to provide the main menu. Selections are nice and easy to get to, though there are some sections where you have to really focus for a minute to make sure you’re looking at it properly, such as the trailers in ensuring you’re selecting the right one. Access times are nice and fast and everything worked as expected.

Extras:
Included in this first volume for extras is pretty much the traditional extras with a textless opening and ending sequence and a series of production sketches. Also included is the original Japanese Piracy Warnings, subtitled with what Kaname says about them. After seeing this, it explains why the FBI warning has the English voice actress saying similar items.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Going into this show, I really wasn’t sure what to expect based off of the trailers. It looked like an action piece, but then it also looked like it had some comedy as well. There wasn’t a real clear picture of the plot itself from the trailer either, and having avoided the manga and reading much about the series, I went into it pretty much blind.

Being a Gonzo series, I’m unsurprised that I enjoyed it. Ever since I got into some of their earlier material, I’ve come to enjoy their style and quirkiness as well as how they do play things by the book while still tweaking it along the way. Full Metal Panic looks to continue that tradition, which means I’ll get an enjoyable series with a fair amount of predictability as it progresses, but also some strange tangents and very attractive animation.

The premise is… not all that fleshed out after the first four episodes. Quite a lot of information is left up to the imagination of the viewer until it gets told, which is a nice change of pace. We’re introduced to a vigilante/mercenary group named Mithril that does things nobody else does and generally in the name of good. These aren’t a bad mercenary outfit, but more like a group of rogue do-gooders. Based in a sizeable and interesting looking underwater craft, Mithril has a very skilled group of operatives to undertake their missions.

We see a particular mission in the opening taking place in Russia, where a soldier is fleeing with a young woman by jeep. When the enemy catches up to them and starts to attack, a “decent sized” piece of human operated “robot” appears out of thin air to take down the chopper and rescue the girl. These devices, which are piloted by one person, is known as an Arm Slave. Most governments have a variety of these we learn, but organizations like Mithril tend to be on the cutting edge and slightly ahead of the curve with it. The closest comparison I can come up with is a less-detailed piece of equipment from Gasaraki.

What we learn is that there is an experiment going on within Russia where they’re gathering peopled known as “Whispered”. These unique people are being sought extensively across the world for an as yet unknown purpose and Mithril is attempting to stop them. This brings the series to its main early focus point, as the three lead operatives of Mithril get assigned to go to Japan to protect a young high school student named Kaname Chidori, as she may be the next target.

So we then have series male lead Sousuke Sagara, himself in his teens, sign up at the same school and provide first level bodyguard support. Sousuke is helped out by Melissa Mao who operates the various listening gear in the apartment they’ve got across the street from Kaname and Kurz Weber, the amusing blue eyed blonde male who envisions himself as gods gift to the women of the world. Each of them has their own amusing quirks, but they all operate as a real effective military outfit.

Some of them too much. Sousuke, when he goes to the school, does so with weapons in his backpack. It’s an amusing moment when the teacher confiscates one of them and thinks it’s a toy but he simply informs her that it’s very dangerous and could kill a lot of people. When Sousuke introduces himself to the class, he does so as “Sergeant Sousuke Sagara” and rattles off a list of countries he’s been to in answer to where he’s from. Sousuke has had almost no real-world experience as a young man, and it ends up getting him labeled as a military/weapons otaku. This lights up the heart of one young man in the class though who also falls under such a label. Their relationship, as it starts in this set of episodes, is highly amusing.

The show moves in the direction here of having Sousuke and his team protect Kaname, a true beauty that everyone in the school would love to have a girlfriend if she wasn’t so… well, like she is. She’s eccentric in her reading, she’s only interested in people who can provide a real intelligent discussion and will help enrich her life. She’s definitely not who you’d expect based on the initial images we get of her. So it’s only natural that she and Sousuke conflict quite a bit when put close together.

Sousuke’s attempts to protect her, invariably from things that are not threats, are great fun. His lack of knowing how things work in a normal life continually interfere as he thinks of them as terrorist acts and acts accordingly, often pushing Kaname down and bringing out his weapon. One great sequence has Kaname yelling in surprise when a teacher comes out of nowhere which causes him to go an tackle her like a football player. Sousuke leaves quite the impression on the entire school during his first few days.

There’s a lot of growth towards the last episode in starting to scratch the surface of the larger plot. There’s the introduction of some back story and character history for various members as well as more detail about Mithril itself. Everything is not laid out simply on the table here, but rather teased out nicely once we get into things. The pacing and plotting of these opening episodes is rather enjoyable and works well in allowing there to be a nice balance of serious moments and action as well as the more comical aspects of it. Instead of the comedy throwing off the balance, it really complements it nicely.

Full Metal Panic (or Pencil, as someone misread the English logo said it) has definitely piqued my interest. It wasn’t over the top nor was it too subtle, but instead playing things just right. Fans of similar works will definitely enjoy this series.

Features
Japanese Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Reversible cover,Fold-out poster with in-depth background information printed on the reverse,Clean opening and closing animations,Production sketches,Japanese piracy warnings

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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