Full Metal Panic!

Also Known As: FMP!, Fullmetal Panic
Genre: Drama/Action
Format: 24 Episodes
Allegiance: GONZO/Mithril
Director: Chigira Koichi
Vintage: 2002
Intelligence Agency Report by: Kuzu Ryu Sen
Mithril, an organization that destroys terrorist cells, breaks up smuggling rings, and intervenes in civil wars, can best be described as a neutral “world police.” Armed with weaponry 10 years ahead of the superpowers, and made up of elite personnel from around the globe, they are well equipped to handle any conflict. However, their latest mission appears to be a bit more peaceful: guard one Chidori Kaname. While Kaname appears to be a normal Japanese high schooler, she is actually a “Whispered,” one of a special group of people born with extraordinary subconscious intelligence. As such, Mithril has sent three of their top agents: SGM Melissa Mao, Sgt Kurz Weber, and one Sgt Sagara Sousuke – who has been assigned to infiltrate Kaname’s high school. The slight catch – Sousuke does not have the least shred of civilian common sense, and this, combined with his duty to keep a young schoolgirl under constant observation, inevitably leads to a more interesting life for all involved.

Field Agent Report by: Kuzu Ryu Sen
Overall 7.50
(not an average)

Science fiction drama featuring mecha is hardly a new concept, and neither is shounen harem romance. Both genres are generally reviled among anime purists who don’t like plot sacrificed for explosions and breasts. So it is rather surprising that Full Metal Panic!, a show best described as a marriage between the aforementioned two concepts, is actually a decent success despite the added complication of being made by the black sheep of animation studios: GONZO. Perhaps the reason for FMP!’s success is, just like in any good marriage, the way that the two aspects compromise and form an effective chemistry.

Full Metal Panic!’s strongest suit would definitely be the way that it manages to weave a serious plot with more relaxed moments. Essentially, it manages to intertwine civilian life with military life, and does so in a manner where the transition is nowhere near as jarring or as grating as it could have been. The presence of a varied and interesting cast of characters certainly doesn’t hurt matters either.

However, not everything is as silky smooth as it appears to be. For one, character development is kind of on the non-existent side of the spectrum. Sure, people do change and evolve somewhat throughout the series, but FMP! is relatively sub par in this department. The level of background information on the antagonist is remarkably low, suitable perhaps for a small sub-arc, but certainly never for a full series. Also, despite its successful intertwining of genres, FMP! is not very efficient in terms of screen time. The twenty-four episodes probably could have been compacted into thirteen with a little skillful writing. For example, it probably would have been better to provide the civilian aspect during small vignettes while characters are not on duty spread throughout the arc, rather than to waste an entire episode on some Mithril-sponsored trip to the beach. Finally, the way FMP! combines so many genres and topics really does serve to dilute each respective portion. While this helps in that it prevents any specific arc from becoming mind numbingly painful, it also hinders in that it prevents any specific arc from being particularly moving or effective.

Still, to be honest, FMP! could have really been a lot worse. It’s rare for a series to play with matches near an open flame located beside a tank of pressurized oxygen and come away (relatively) unscathed after all. One thing that has to be said about FMP! though: if you watch it, you have to watch it’s sequels Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. There is no halfway about it.