Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Full Metal Panic

Full Metal Panic. A 2002 Anime. Mecha Action, Comedy, Romance.That would summarize Full Metal Panic in a couple of words.

Military dude with a dubious past, and two sidekicks, all with great skills. These characters are sent to protect this typical anime beauty, typical until they get to know her well. The Military dude and anime beauty fall in love, and they live a cute yet neurotic love. The military dude doesn't know how to handle the situation (being a women-less mercenary his entire life), and the neurotic anime beauty doesn't help very much. Suddenly the military dude gets into giant robot action and some time or the other the girl acquires psychic abilities worthy enough to help out the military dude. The military dude is Sagara Sousuke and Chidori Kaname is the psychic girl (actually called The Whispered in the series). They are actually a very nice anime couple which I was glad to watch in action. Other important characters are the tough Melissa Mao, the feeble Captain Tessa, and "Kurz" the sniper.

I would say that this anime is built with two pieces: action and comedy.

The action parts of this anime sometimes take up many episodes in a row, which are pretty enjoyable to watch. It's a matter of taste though, I like when series use multi-episodic sagas for proper buildup.

The comedic parts have many fun jokes but sometimes drag a bit too long or make no sense. They are fun most of the time, and the boring ones at least have a bit of character development (in a romantic sense) so most of the time they aren't such a waste. Expect the character development to be slow, this series has 2 sequels up to now (Fumoffu- comedy based, and The Second Raid which continues the storyline) and they won't throw the entire material in their first saga; but they do use enough of it to be interested in the characters' story and such.

Even though both parts seem enjoyable (action and comedy), there is a big problem with such a diverse anime. When there is a 6-episode epic death-defying action saga followed by a dose of school comedy, some things are bound to go wrong. The simple solution is enjoying the randomness. People who do not enjoy it will inevitably dislike this anime in some episodes. I liked to think that the romance between Kaname and Sousuke glued up both of the parts greatly (but not perfectly), and the comedy stopped the anime from becoming too gloomy (Sousuke's past gets really heavy at times).

It also uses a conventional mecha setting. Some of the plot elements are a bit forced, too. You see, a weapon based on "imagination" sounds too powerful for me to conceive:P. The Black Technology concept is somewhat sudden, too. But as long as giant robots don't exist in real life, most people can take these premises for granted :P. Also, there is a character who is somewhat invincible in this series, and it's a bit disturbing.

I've spent a while saying mostly negative things about Full Metal Panic, now for the good part. The truth is it is one of the most enjoyable anime I've seen. Despite several deficiencies I have already described, it maintains the suspense and can generate a lot of different emotions in the viewer. Laughter comes in as an occasional treat. Romance is there for anyone who likes it, and it's not too consuming for anyone who dislikes it. Action is there in case you are not up for a school comedy anime, the action is heavily loaded with drama as well. Drama is unloaded with laughter, and the cycle is complete.

The animation is acceptable and the music is not really worth paying attention to. The opening and ending themes are not bad, even though they are just some jpop songs that will eventually stick into your mind due to repetition :P. I did like the ending theme at first, Never Dying Flower is not a bad title for a sweet song ;). As I said, music is not very important for this series (like for example Cowboy Bebop). The thick part of this series is in the plot and the dialogs.

I can not see Full Metal Panic from an angle where viewers could not be satisfied in some sense. The only real problem here is the balance between its elements. Depending on your personality, you will either like them, or have some trouble with them. In the end, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If I wasn't clear enough in this review: Full Metal Panic is amazing; entertaining, dramatic, but not perfect.

Favorite episodes: 1 (I rarely like first episodes, this one is pretty good) and 24.
Overall: 9.5
Closing comments: A lot of enjoyable themes. Trying to cover a lot of themes sometimes leads to loose ends.

Couple of Full Metal Panic images follow:

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