Full Metal Panic! Season 1: Two Ideas that make sense together

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.

Premise/Plot

mithril

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.

Characters

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.

sousuke.jpg

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.

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

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.

Visuals

FMP Mechs

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.

Other Things

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.

Conclusion

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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15 Comments Add yours

  1. A Library Archivist says:

    NOt positive but I think the mech designs in FMP were done by the guy from Gasaraki, which predates FMP a few years. That show would probably interest you since the designer was a mechanical engineer so the mechanisms look quite realistic. The plot of Gasaraki is insane, however. FMP is more realistic, even with its Light Hawk Wings. FMP had to reference its influences.

    As for Sousuke Sagara, he’s modelled on Ruroni Kenshin, and both were child soldiers, both were assassins, both had that same cheek scar, and both returned to the normal world to try and heal and become people again, but retain that alien distance that child soldiers have. Jormungandr is ALSO about child soldiers, only no mecha, just weapons and mercenaries, like FMP and Kenshin and Gasaraki.

    I agree about the CGI. Looks terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen Gasaraki. It’s definitely… a thing. I like your Light Hawk Wing reference (Tenchi for the win…..sometimes). But you are completely right. FMP has studio Gainax references all over it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A Library Archivist says:

        At least it didn’t give us 5 episodes and “sh17 the bed” like so many Gainax shows do. FMP was fun for a season. Fumoffu was fun as an OVA. The stuff after was awful and too serious. As a season and OVA it is wonderful. “Enjoy your time at the hot spring, as normal” is a wonderful line. If only they’d been more self aware with Wolfs Rain and Last Exile. Pity.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ospreyshire says:

    Oh man, it’s been ages since I’ve seen the original FMP!. Good job on the review.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ospreyshire says:

        You’re certainly welcome.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. kimchisama says:

    I’ve always felt the need to watch this anime. Also I think we all have that special show that connects us to those we love in some way. I think that is part of the magic of these things. Thank you again for sharing, and your story about your brother really spoke to me since that is the exact way that I found out about my brother passing away. For him I always made a special connection to Beauty and the Beast. Since he gave me a figure and the movie when I was younger. Some may think it silly that I’m so connected to the show, but again I have that bias of it being special to me. I can see the love you have for this anime and again, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      :), thanks for reading my personal stories this week. I’m sorry you had to go through the same experience.

      Connection any show or anything to a loved is not silly in anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. While I imagine that it’ll be quite the challenge to beat Code Geass in my mind, I’m still looking forward to watching this first season, and, eventually, the others too. It meant so much to so many people at the time it came out, and clearly, with a new entry to the franchise on the horizon, that passion still blazes on. Thanks for sharing not only your thoughts on this classic, but also for going out of your way to express how much it means to you—it can be hard to avoid bias when we have such strong emotional connections to these works, but some matters transcend a thing as trivial as bias.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      Can’t wait for you to watch this one and hear how you feel about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. raexelphon says:

    As an avid fan of mecha so I’ve seen a lot of different series and FMP is still one of my favs. Great review as well, I hope you’ll do TSR.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      I’ll rewatch The Second Raid eventually. Right now, except for some seasonal things, I am taking a bit of a break from genre. I’ll jump back into it in a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. TPAB~ says:

    condolence. it’s very brave of you to share it though, and i respect that. just like you, i also love this series to bits. i think the school setting/fish out of water had more potential, as proven by fumoffu, but the Gauron-Sagara bout is also a fave of mine. I still remember when Gauron hijacked the plane in one episode, because it’s just a fond memory for me. Tbh though, seeing him back in S2 felt forced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Thank you :).

      And that’s what Fumoffu is for. Doing all those fun fish out of water in a school setting things.

      And yeah, I am glad I rewatched this one because it’s just such a fun series. I definitely agree with you that Gauron shouldn’t have appeared in S2. Even if he was eaten by sea creatures and couldn’t play a part in the story anymore. Kind of plays with his invisibility a little too much…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TPAB~ says:

        yeah, and i think fumoffu ultimately became more popular, but of course, you had to have seen FMP first to really love Fumoffu

        I actually like the unkillable Gauron, but the potential was killed. he had killer twins and nothing came of it. i’m excited to see what kind of villain the new FMP will dish out just so i can compare them to Gauron, lol

        Like

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