This week, the first of three guest reviews from AceCaseOR covering the three series of Full Metal Panic! First up, the original.

Review: Full Metal Panic

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Kôichi Chigira
Writer: Gatô Shôji
Animation by: GONZO

Cast:

Satsuki Yukino as Kaname Chidori
Tomokazu Seki as Sgt. Sousuke Sagara
Michiko Neya as Sgt. Maj. Melissa Mao
Shinichirô Miki as Sgt. Kurz Weber
Akio Ôtsuka as Maj. Andrey Kalinin
Yukana Nogami as Capt. Teletha Testarossa
Masahiko Tanaka as Gauron
Tomomichi Nishimura as Richard Mardukas

Premise:

In an alternate now where the use of giant robots in warfare became extremely practical, there are special type of people, called “Whispered.” They have knowledge of highly advanced technology that by all rights nobody should know about because of voices whispering in their heads. Thus, these people are highly sought after by various organizations and governments, through unscrupulous. Kaname Chidori, an otherwise perfectly normal 16 year-old high school girl, living a normal life, is one of these Whispered. Sgt. Sousuke Sagara, a 17 year-old boy who was raised in various war-zones (and was previously turned into an assassin by the KGB), of MITHRIL, an organization that works to protect Whispereds from exploitation, is assigned to semi-covertly protect Kaname by going undercover at her school. Things don’t quite turn out as planned…

High Points:

  1. The mecha action in the show is very well done. While I can’t compare the action with other more grounded mecha shows like Patlabor, the combat is very well done and easy to follow, and visually interesting
  2. I came to really care about the characters, particularly the Kaname/Sousuke relationship (I put the slash there for a reason). There are some shows where I didn’t care that much about the characters, or I just watched passively and didn’t get that warm-’n-fuzzy when characters had calm moments together – not just the romantic relationships either. Most of the chemistry in some of the anime I’ve seen depended a lot on the voice actors (Record of Lodoss War is a big example of this). Here, the animation and the acting meshed, so that I got that these characters cared about each other, and in turn helped me to care about the characters.
  3. The roll call after the final battle on the Tuatha De Dannan.
  4. This has the best story of all the series GONZO has done, except maybe Last Exile.

Low Points:

  1. Sousuke’s backstory felt really contrived, especially considering his age. Not entirely impossible, but certainly contrived.
  2. You really have to turn off your suspension of disbelief for some of Sousuke’s shenanigans at school, big time.
  3. The attempts at merging the High School slice-of-life stuff, and the in-the-field-life-or-death stuff can feel than a little disjointed.

The Scores:

Originality: You got mecha melodrama in my High School Romantic comedy! You got High School Romantic Comedy in my Mecha Melodrama! Not particularly original but certainly two great tastes that taste great together. 3 out of 6.

Artwork: The artwork is nicely done, particularly the CGI effects. Frankly, Artwork has always been one of Gonzo’s strong points, it’s just when they get to original stories (with the exception of Last Exile) they run into problems (see the latter half of Hellsing for examples). 6 out of 6.

Story: The two great tastes that taste great togeather do lead to a bit of a disjointed narrative, but the story is fairly well done, and the story really helps build up the Emotional Response. 4 out of 6.

Acting: Excellent work by the cast. Tessa’s VA could get a little too… squeaky, but it goes with the character. Otherwise, the acting was very nice. 4 out of 6.

Production: This is Gonzo’s other strong point. I’ve always noticed with Gonzo’s series, where the production values for other series will kind of drag towards the middle, and you might start seeing some footage re-use, we see none of that here. It helps that we spend a fair stretch in the middle of the series with only one of the recurring characters with a bunch of new supporting cast, in an environment dissimilar to almost everywhere else they’d been previously. 6 out of 6.

Emotional Response: As I said before, I cared about the characters in this show. The show really makes you care, even with the characters who are basically filling the High School Anime Tropes. However, it’s building the groundwork for later. The payoff to the emotional response is moderate. 4 out of 6.

Overall: It’s a very enjoyable show, and it’s one of those shows that are on my shortlist of shows to buy. 6 out of 6.

Total Score: 33 out of 42.