I am going to be level with you guys, I think that I am too attached to this series. I have a big history with this series. Not just on a physical level, there is an emotional one as well. I originally watched this show early in my anime watching career. It is also the first mech show that I got my older brother to love. I know that I said this before in lesser detail, but my brother passed away 4 years and 11 months ago from today. This was yet another major event in my life that changed me on so many levels that I still haven’t fully comprehended yet. My brother passing away, along with some other family deaths around the same time, was why I dropped out of grad school for a while. I had too many emotional things going on that distracted me from my studies. Especially since I was half way across the United States when I got a phone call telling me that my brother died. How is a moment like that not life changing?
Watching just the opening brought me to tears and brought back so many memories of him. At first, this was going to be a post about how I couldn’t review this show due to me having these feelings. Now that I had a couple weeks to get my feelings in order, I think I actually can. There will be some bias in this post, but this post will be dedicated to my long lost older brother, Steven. In my mind, I can’t see how I could do it any other way.
The world of Full Metal Panic is an interesting one. On a surface level, it looks like just another school anime, but there is much more going on than one would imagine. Enter two ideas that change everything. The first one is people called the whispered. People, who are labeled by their unnatural anime colored hair, that inherently carry knowledge of a lot of high scientific and technological concepts in them. Some of them don’t even know it yet until they get caught up in the plot. The other idea is a secret organization, kind of like Shield in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that protects these people from different terrorist organizations. It’s called Mithril. This organization recruits people from across the world who got caught up in terrible tragedies of their own and didn’t have any other place to go. So Mithril is an organization of stragglers that protects the world.
With all that said, our plot starts when a high school age soldier, Sousuke Sagara, and a couple other adult crew members, are pulled out of a mission of a submarine’s mission-based environment to go to a Japanese high school. Now that’s a very anime thing, right? Saving the world while also going to school? Well yeah, it kind of is. I think that Full Metal Panic does it better than any other series.
Full Metal Panic has a very unique and interesting large cast of well characterized characters, but I am going to focus on three. The rest of the cast range from average, innocent high school students, to veteran soldiers who have been fighting for a long time, to insane bad guys who are insane for the sake of being insane.
Those three characters that I will be talking about are Sousuke Sagara, Chidori Kaname, and Gauron. Sousuke and Kaname are the “well they or won’t they” couple of this series. Still, there are so many things going between them that makes it more complex. Let’s look at Sousuke first. At first, he is what you would expect when I describe him. A soldier that has a background from fighting in different wars, so he is completely out of place in a high school. He is seemingly boring and doesn’t know what being his age means, because all he knows are basic military things and being a master at piloting a giant robot. Yes, there are a lot of scenes of Sousuke reacting to normal high school things in a military manner that are kind of funny, or not depending on who you are, but that’s not the point here. There is an interesting change in him as the story goes on though. Sousuke Sagara slowly turns into an emotional high school student. All this was capped out when he called Gauron a son of a bitch. He would never have done that if he didn’t meet Kaname.
Now Kaname, on a surface level, can be what today’s anime field guide calls a tsundere. You know what, she pretty much is. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have characteristics that make her more interesting than that. For starters, she has blue hair. From my description from before, that means she is amongst the whispered. She doesn’t have a handle or control of the knowledge in her head yet, but it still has an effect on her from time to time. Especially in times when Sousuke is suffering and needs help from Kaname to work his machine. There is a complex relationship going on between the two that is just “two high school characters in love”, they look out and protect each other because neither is complete without the other. And yeah, you can call her a plot device as well, because her being a whispered means she has a terrorist after her. And well yeah, that’s who Gauron is.
Gauron is the main villain of the show. By saying that, I can’t help but say that he is the only character that I am disappointed in. Mainly because he seems more like a force of evil then a character? His description can only be said as “insane and war monger”. He is also the only driving force of the show. He is the character that gave Sousuke his terrible backstory and now he is after Kaname because she is a whispered. Thus, you have your plot right here. Despite the amount of times that Sousuke has killed him, Gauron is still around and causing evil across the land. He never changes, because his goals are always the same. The only thing that change with Gauron are how he goes about his plans.
Fullmetal Panic is an early 2000’s series that mostly holds up today. The character designs are great and unique, the settings are well drawn and visceral, and the art style is generally really good. Even the giant robots are hand drawn. The only complaint I have is the bad use of cg. Things that are not mechs, like submarines, helicopters, airplanes, and other machines, are very badly modeled in cg. This isn’t something that I can really complain about considering it’s time period, but that is the one qualifier that dates the show. Another qualifier might be that there some repeated scenes during might fights or close ups to save animation budget, but that is a technique that is still used today. Then there is the fact that Full Metal panic is in a 4:3 where we use 16:9 today. Otherwise, this show could have aired today and most people wouldn’t tell the difference. I guess that is why there is a new season airing very soon.
I feel like i should say something about the Mechs. I love the designs. You can tell what side each mech is on just by looking at them, but there is some unique traits between each of them distinguish them. For example, the M9 and the Arbalest look similar, but you can tell that there is something special about the Arbalest. They might not be the best looking mechs ever, but they do their job in a very efficient fashion. These are mechs that look like they belong in military organizations.
Fullmetal Panic is a series that has two settings. The high school setting and the military setting. The high school side is filled with what you would expect plus comedy with fish out of water comedy with Sousuke. This entails him using his military knowledge to get out of situations he doesn’t have to, like him throwing a smoke bomb in places that he and Kaname are escaping from, him bringing a gun to school and having it taken away from a teacher who thinks it’s a toy, or his terrible guarding of Kaname that he lazily says is a coincidence. This side so different from the military side that is filled with war drama. You know, people dying, war, torture, and stuff. At sometimes this can get completely confusing, but I see the school side as a grounding element for the audience. Not many of us are actually going to fully understand the military side and the characters get more characterization from what we see at school as well. The two settings meet each other at times too, which helps the blending. No complaints here.
In the end, if you want a series that encompasses all that anime can do, Full Metal Panic is your anime. It has high school setting that involve tsunderes with unique colored hair with romance and it also can be a serious war drama with mechs. Somehow, these two elements work together. Sometimes this obscures elements or makes it so one side can’t get in as much detail as the other, but it feels complete as a whole. Fullmetal Panic is a unique experience that you won’t see anywhere else. Code Geass comes close to this, but that show falls short in some compacities compared to Fullmetal Panic If you are new to anime, or know people that are new to anime, and want to know, or know people that want to know, what anime can do, this is Full Metal Panic is your show. It’s a great gate way anime for the uninitiated and an excellent watch for everyone else.
(All images come from Google images)
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