There's quite a lot of Full Metal Panic, although here I'm only reviewing the first series. There is...
- Full Metal Panic! (2002 TV series, 24 episodes)
- Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (2003 TV series, 14 episodes)
- Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (2005 TV series, 13 episodes)
- Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (2006 OVA, one episode)
Sousuke Sagara is the perfect soldier. He's tough, disciplined, unquestioning and has field experience far beyond what you'd expect from any teenager. He may have problems dealing with anything he can't either shoot or salute, but it never hurt anyone to be a one-dimensional military badass. However now he faces his greatest challenge. Terrorists want to kidnap Kaname Chidori, a Japanese schoolgirl. Sousuke must go undercover at her school as a fellow student and protect her.
Full Metal Panic was hugely successful, spawning so far two sequel series. The first, Fumoffu, abandons the ongoing story in favour of wallowing in comedy, then the plot resumes in Second Raid. I suspect I'd rather enjoy Fumoffu, but unfortunately before getting that far I'd given up on the show. It's a disappointment. I can see why it's received good reviews, but I think it's lazy. It's as if its creators had one good idea and thereafter sat back and let the show write itself. Yet again a Studio Gonzo anime proves to be a washout. I really must learn to start avoiding their shows. In this case the shoddy scripting is doubly unforgivable since unusually this anime is based not upon manga but on a novel series by Gatoh Shoji, plus assorted short stories which became Fumoffu. Three novels went into the first Full Metal Panic season. With that much source material to play with, Gonzo had absolutely no excuse for turning out something this formulaic and hollow.
Kaname Chidori is cute and spirited, or in other words pig-headed, slightly violent and destined for a stormy relationship with Sousuke. Unfortunately that's the good bit. Full Metal Panic is on to a winner with its character comedy. I loved the culture clash between Sousuke and, well, the rest of the universe. Even his army colleagues think he should lighten up. It's implausible that this delicate job should have gone to someone so obviously unsuited to undercover work, but the results are so funny that you don't care.
Unfortunately everything else is by the numbers. I dare say this show might impress people who haven't watched much anime, but it feels horribly familiar. It always settles for the easy option and the obvious joke. Having read this review, there's no need to watch the show because its episodes contain nothing you haven't already imagined already. The terrorism and military action is dull and mechanical. Fanservice? Did you think 'twould be capable of avoiding it? I've never seen such blatant panty shots... had this been live-action, in one or two scenes the actress would have been practically sitting on the camera.
At first I liked the comic juxtaposition of soldiers and schoolgirls, but eventually I felt that even that was poorly handled. The show's two halves don't really go together. There's military action, predictable teen comedy and little effort at integrating them into a cohesive whole. They're just cut-and-pasted side by side. By the end I was fast-forwarding through the action scenes and with hindsight, I wish I'd skipped right past episodes 15-17. Boy, were they dull.
I didn't even like the characters much. Sousuke can be entertaining, but only for the situations the script builds around him. As a character in his own right, he's wooden and predictable. So he's the perfect soldier. Gee. The concept has promise and I'm sure he was lots of fun in Gatoh Shoji's original novels, but everything here is so lumpen that it becomes hard to see the good points. Sousuke's classmates from school aren't any more interesting, though I kinda liked the military folks. His boss is cute.
The villain's a leering thug who'd be effective as a second-string henchman, but didn't work for me as the main baddie of a full series. I'm not wild about the show's plot structure... oh, you get my drift. It's dead, Jim. Its visuals are nice and it's an efficient crowd-pleaser in its own unoriginal way, but it's empty. I look into the show and there's nothing there. Obviously enough people enjoyed it to come back repeatedly for more, but I think it's one of the least interesting shows I've seen in some time.