In an alternate future where the Soviet Union still stands and the Cold War continues to rage on, there are those known as Whispered who unknowingly possess Black Technology, advanced knowledge that can produce dangerous weaponry that alters the balance of power. 16-year-old Kaname is one of the Whispered, and to protect her from other factions, the secret military organization Mithril sends Sagara Sousuke to be her undercover bodyguard. Unfortunately, Sousuke does not know how to blend in.
summary by Eek
Highs: Good comedy with a serious story; solid action scenes
Lows: Feels unfinished; some characters need more background
Full Metal Panic! is a pleasant surprise from Gonzo. I expected a silly anime along the lines of Gate Keepers, but instead was treated to a great blend of action and comedy.
OK, so Full Metal Panic! packs the same tired teenagers-and-military-weaponry plot that Gonzo loves… only that it works quite well here. How? Beneath the slightly-stereotypical characters lies a story that is actually quite serious and allows many people to relate with the Cold War connection. However, when the plot is not as serious as a heart attack, you will usually be busting a gut laughing. A lot of the comedy revolves around the fact that Sousuke is incredibly naïve when it comes to life in the real world. As good as the comedy is, the action scenes are right on par. Whether on foot or in mecha, the action is played out just right; proper use of choreography, art and animation pull you right into the scenes and feel a lot of the firepower that gets thrown around.
For the most part, Full Metal Panic! does quite well because it has little filler and sticks to small story arcs, but the ending left me with the feeling that the series was incomplete. We learn very early on that Chidori has a soft spot for Sousuke, but there is not enough time to take the relationship very far. Also, a lot of characters are given some background, but several key questions about them are left. Why is Gauln such a madman? How did Tessa become a commander in Mithril? Just simple questions like those are left unanswered and could have really helped to fortify the personality of some characters.
Gonzo seems to deliver a lot of sub-mediocre anime, but Full Metal Panic! gives them more credibility because it shows that they do have a few diamonds in the rough. If you love action and comedy, give this series a try.
Highs: Nice animation; wonderful concept; likable supporting characters
Lows: Main characters are a bit grating; misuse of mecha; inconsistent story
I always dig it when an anime comes out of left field and pelts me with something I’ve never seen before, and I will always have a fond place in my heart for an anime like Full Metal Panic!. I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen a mecha drama mixed with a high school soap opera… only wish it could have been done better.
The concept is a unique and almost satirical jab at mecha and school. After all, with the vast majority of robot pilots in anime being in their teens, it’s a wonder how homework and world-saving fit so well. The only problem is that it works better as a serial than as a continuous story. At 24 episodes, Full Metal Panic! feels longer, thanks to a story that jumps in and out of different situations that barely hold together in the grand spectrum. At one moment there’s a hostage situation, the next Sousuke is in the Middle East, and all while Chidori is waiting by the sidelines for her turn in the spotlight. This is hardly helped by Sousuke and Chidori’s love/hate relationship; it’s a typical anime pairing with all the subtleties of a jackhammer on a New York street.
Thankfully, the supporting cast does its job and makes the ride smoother. As much as Sousuke can be liked, he would be nothing without Melissa, Captain Teletha and Kurz, and Chidori would be more annoying without her friends and teacher. Also, the anime is easy on the eyes, so those with a love of well-placed animation and distinct art will like this series’ look. A lot of it can be seen in the many mecha battles that lace together the episodes. The one gripe I have about the mecha is that there does not seem to be any rules set for them. Unlike Macross where all the bots are explained, the Arm Slaves alternate between grunt 08th MS Team soldiers and Dragon Ball Z-type fighters, hurling energy balls at each other and going “Super Saiya-jin.” It does make for some interesting action, but not a lick of sense. I would have preferred it if this anime had stuck with one idea.
Despite all the troubles, Full Metal Panic! is still a very entertaining show. It may not be one of the best series to feature “teenagers and the robots that love them,” but it’s in no way a despicable anime. At the very least, it offers a fun time and delivers it.