Title: Review - Anime: Full Metal Panic
Posted: March 15, 2006 (09:53 PM)
The socially-challenged, teenage mercenary. The strong-willed, long-haired, sexy girl. The guy not understanding girl. The girl beating guy over the head. The blond-haired, sharpshooter of a lothario. The wise, mentoring veteran that knows everything but can't tell anyone. The passive, petite, clumsy, white-haired girl. The sharp-eyed, mafia-strutting villain. The secret military force. The mobile suits or "AC"s. The "Whispered" powers the women possess, but they… just… can't… remember…how…
With more clichés than a movie set in a high school, Full Metal Panic would seem as generic as pop music. But it is surprisingly adequate (read: tolerable). It is not going to knock you over with innovation, multi-dimensional characters, or startling plot twists. Nor is the dialogue complex or the script construction intricate. It is a straightforward, simple, and humorous anime that will, at least, engage you to the very end. A casual undertaking for a casual purpose. Maybe, too casual.
Unknown terrorists plan to capture Chidori, an ordinary girl in an ordinary school, for her recently released "Whispered" powers. Memories of "Black Technology", of advanced systems beyond human comprehension, have been planted in her mind. How does she know these things? Where do they come from? Frankly, no one knows and no one cares. But that doesn't stop the submarine-based force Mithril from sending a trio of mercenary bodyguards to protect her. And who better to disguise as a student than the boot-campin', mercenary-since-he-was-eight Sagara Sosuke.
Full Metal Panic rides on their inharmonious relationship to sell you the story, while shamelessly using humor and sex as lubricants. (And everything that makes a guy go wee.) No matter what's going on, there's always an unnecessarily elongated sex shot, a sex joke, or a wisecrack at Sosuke's social incompetence and insensitivity to a women's needs. Everything boils down to "throw the mercenary and the schoolgirl in a painfully ridiculous situation". Have Sosuke misinterpret a girl sneaking up on her friends as a terrorist attack and you've got a winner. Fortunately, these mishaps work as they are intended - to keep us laughing so we can absorb whatever they throw at us.
But beyond the antics for popularity, Full Metal Panic is hollow.
If you have seen Inuyasha, Bleach, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or any regrettably popular anime, Full Metal Panic is only one notch higher. Wanting to be a mech-anime one minute and a romance the next, the story shifts between moments of brilliance and moments of redundancy. During episodes fifteen through seventeen, Sosuke is sent on a mission to defeat Gauron with a couple of adult mercenaries that act high and mighty. So in a change of setting, Sosuke is placed from a school where he is too militant into a battlefield where he isn't militant enough. But that's where the fascination ends.
For an anime that is supposedly "Full", it mostly depends upon scene rather than depth. Sure, we'll laugh along and be caught up in the action. Enough happens in every episode and there are so many threads - the "Whispered", the ACs, Sosuke's troubled past, and military secrets - that the story is sellable. But analyze any character or dialogue and it borders on boring, if not cliché. The villain Gauron is straightforward evil. We never see a human side, and his motive to die magnificently is more psychotic than believable. And regardless of whether he gets stabbed, shot, blasted, or caught in a two-mile explosion, he never dies. So our stereotypical heroes always have a reason to fight, even if it is the same reason a million times. And then all of a sudden, it starts raining. Weather as omen is blunt. Thunder just happens to appear for dramatic effect and dark clouds drift in as if they aren't noticeable.
Furthermore, lack of elaboration and missed opportunities abound. Whispered powers are never explained. Why the passive, white-haired girl is the captain of the ship - to protect her - is puzzling. Where Mithril comes from is left blank. The reason for the existence of AC units is as substantial as "just because". And as cool as the turn-spirit-into-energy Lambda Driver is, why does the final AC-battle include it only once?
Take an overview of the series and cohesion - it does not. Ala Dragonball Z, you can chop the series into: The school saga. The airplane hijacking saga. Behemoth saga. Desert saga. And the submarine saga. But once a chapter ends, it's forgotten altogether. (Except for one moment where Sosoke mentions everything in six seconds.) The soundtrack is as forgettable as lounge music. And while the artwork pays attention to color, shading, and contrast, the animation frequently employs computer graphics that don't blend into the scenery. Landscapes are smooth enough and the transitions are unexpected enough - using blur effects, fade-ins, the moon, and even a hawk - that CGs only serve as a distraction.
Full Metal Panic is accessible but too understandable. Sort of like a V-neck T-shirt. One-note characters respond like one-notes. The opening song is J-pop. The ending song is slow and somber. And, oh yeah, the weakness of the Behemoth is the cooling system located at its groin.
Don't worry about panic. Worry about shrugging your shoulders and casually walking away.
Posted: March 15, 2006 (10:54 PM)
This confirms my fears.
Well, at least I had only purchased the first volume.
Posted: March 16, 2006 (06:08 AM)
FUMOFFU is better, I thought.