Without even hearing the last part of the name most anime fans already assume that “Fullmetal” refers to Fullmetal Alchemist. However, one year before FMA releases another anime debuted with a similar name called Fullmetal Panic”. Despite having similarities in their names the two shows could not be any more different from one another. In Fullmetal Panic, “Fullmetal” refers to the mechs called Arm Slaves which are gigantic exoskeleton suits used by many military organizations. The “Fullmetal” in FMA refers to the alchemist known as Edward Elric and his Automail leg and arm. FMA has monopolized the name at this point. Eventhough Fullmetal Panic Invisible Victory debute in 2018, anime fans’ apathy for this series continues.
So Why Talk about this
Like most of you, my anime watch list is immense and grows larger every day just check my profile on MyAnimeList. FMP (I am going to refer to this show this way for the rest of the article) is a show that I have wanted to watch for a long time. Despite all the new anime that comes out FMP never left my radar. Finally several months ago on many train rides from and to work, I watched the series. So, I figured why not talk about it. Plus, I enjoyed this anime and there is so much to talk about.
Fullmetal Panic consists of three main series with several spinoffs/OVAs. For this review, I am only discussing the first series FullMetal Panic. There will be a review of the Second Rain in the near future.
So, sit back and enjoy a journey that goes from the chaotic world of high school to the heart of a warzone.
FMP started as a light novel and given the subject that makes perfect sense. Light novels are for high schoolers and this series takes place in high school. Shoji Gatoh created the novels and worked on the series itself (Hodgkins). The light novel was first released in 1998, mangas and the anime series would follow (Chapman). The novel to this date has sold over 11 million copies worldwide (Hodgkins) .
FMP has several anime adaptions including the first series released in 2002, Fumoffu in 2003, The second Raid released in 2005, a side story OVA in 2006 and some recap movies that aired from 2017 to 2018. While recap movies were recent it was still the same old story. Finally in 2018 Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory was released. It’s great to see this series is getting some love after all these years.
The Story So far
Mithril an anti-terrorist private military organization sends a small team to watch over Kaname Chidori. Prior to this decision one of their members Sousuke Sagara assists in rescuing Mira Kudan from terrorisst with an Arm slave mech. Melissa, Sousuke, and Kurz were the three members sent to watch over Kaname. Sousuke so far only knows the world of the battlefield so transitioning to high school is going to be a challenge. His teenage age makes him the perfect candidate to attend hight school. This is the setup for most of the comedic aspects of this anime. The big question for Sousuke is can he fully embrace being a high schooler or will his military duties stop him.
Mithril’s goal is to protect Kaname from possible attacks as shown in the image. The question is why? This unknown puts everyone on edge because you never know when danger will strike. It also creates awkward funny moments throughout the story.
The story juggles between two different settings. First is high school a more relaxed but just as chaotic environment. Second is the war side where Mithril handles ongoing conflicts by sending Sousuke and the rest of the team. The best parts and when these two stories intertwine.
Without spoiling the series Sousuke goes off on a mission the setting and tone completely changes. Looking at the images above would make you think they were from two separate animes. But you get both and more from this very interesting series.
The Protagonist(s) and Antagonist(s)
Description of characters will follow the images from left to right or top to bottom if viewing on a mobile device.
He is an elite warrior who despite his age has had a considerable amount of experience on the battlefield. He is an excellent arm slave pilot. Because Sousuke lacks social skills he is completely clueless while attending high school. The term fish out of water describes Sousuke all too well.
Some of the best moments in this series are of Sousuke trying to protect Kaname while also acting like a high school student. Spoiler alert he fails and the rest is history. It’s always amusing to see Sousuke handle very awkward moments in the series. On the battlefield, Sousuke is quite a beast and demonstrates both mental and physical toughness. He never gives up and can keep going despite the odds.
She is a character that I admit to misjudging in the beginning. She seemed like the typical angry female stereotype that you see in anime. While she may act like that from time to time deep down Kaname is a good person at heart. There are many instances where she shows remorse and acts like a normal person.
The whole angry female character stereotype can make a character unlikeable and annoying. Neither of these things applies to Kaname she is smart and be quite clever at times. Shoji Gatoh wanted to make her relatable and he succeded Most of her reactions in this show are mostly realistic. You do get occasional over the top anime stuff but other than it works. If you get annoyed with her early keep watching because she shows her best traits when it matters most.
Testarossa or Tessa for short:
She is the young prodigy that leads the submarine of the organization call Mithril and her crew. Despite her initial clumsy and disty appearance, she is actually quite brilliant and leads with such conviction. Tessa has grey hair and likes to play with it when she’s thinking. Her greatest strength and also weakness is her love and devotion to her crew.
She is a high-ranking officer in Mithril, with her two best skills being an excellent Arm Slave user and tactical strategist. Her past is quite interesting and its something that I leave to learn about as you watch the show. Melissa is as beautiful as she is ruthless on the battlefield. Also, she likes to drink beer. Just like Kaname beyond her tough exterior, Melissa cares deeply for subordinates and would do anything to help them.
He is a typical male who always seeks out women with his blond hair blue eyes pretty boy looks. Of course, it never works and he is frequently punished by Melissa who is his commanding officer. Behind Kurz’s playboy attitude lies an excellent Armslave pilot. His skill set is his sniper prowess. Even while using an Armslave Kurz favors his sniper rifle. Kurz provides many comic relief moments but like everyone else in this show its only part of who he is. I love the comic relief scenes that he has in the FMP.
Gauron is the main antagonist in the FMP. There are other minor villains but they only appear for a small number of episodes. Only Gauron is consistently the thorn in the side of Mithril. He is a cunning warrior and mech pilot. Much like the “cerebral assassin” Triple H (WWE wrestler), Gauron can defeat his enemies psychologically without fighting. This man has a presence that sends a cold sweat down your spine when you look at him.
I like his design even though its the typical villain look. Normally making villains look like your a standard villain would be a mistake but it works here. You almost like the fact that this guy is evil and insane. The best part about this guy is when he enters a scene you know business is about to pick up.
The Major Conflicts
The two major conflicts in this story are Sousuke trying to protect Kaname while transitioning to a life in high school and Mithril handling the threat of Gauron and other terrorists. These two are not mutually exclusive there are many instances of crossover in the series. One of the images shows this where Sousuke is in an Armslave while protecting Kaname. That is it of itself is also a smaller conflict in the story. Sousuke cannot succeed in high school if he spending most of his time on missions for Mithril. The two conflicts are interesting because they are two different stories. This one of the best parts of FMP is that they blend so nicely together. Sousuke’s quest to project Kaname leads to many false threats as shown in the image below.
Art and Sound
The Music and Sound
The music is fantastic in FMP. “Tomorrow” by Mikuni Shimokawa is used in the intro. It is quite memorable and despite being the only opening song in the anime, it never gets old. The show uses a track for certain action sequences which I can only describe as a remix of the A-Team theme song. If you saw the show you would understand what I mean. There is also a great theme song that plays during comical and awkward moments in FMP.
All sounds of gunfire, mech movement, explosions are all handled with care and sound authentic. Even the sounds used for the comical hits from Kaname are great. I prefer dubbed version but the voice acting is solid regardless if you watch it subbed or dubbed.
Armslaves, CGI, and the rest of the art
The art style for FMP definitely looks its age which is not a bad thing. One of the interesting parts of FMP is the use of CGI with scenes of the “TDD-1” submarine. As shown in the image below. While not the best CGI it is somewhat comparable to what you find in “Ghost in the Shell” are great anime known for its great CGI. The Armslaves look great and there is nice attention to detail in both the exterior and interior parts of the mechs. For example, the screens in the cockpit will move left to right so no matter which direction you turn in the chair, a monitor will follow you. An example of an inside is pictured below. All the characters are aesthetically pleasing to look at it and the show definitely has its own style. The party in the TDD-1 submarine (shown below) is a great example of this.
Whats so Great about Fullmetal Panic!
It has great battles between the Armslaves. The sound quality and art design they make these battles look intense. I chose an image early on where Gauron and Sousuke first clashed. There is a part later on in the story where Sousuke works with a team of soldiers to hunt Gauron words cannot describe how awesome it is. Rather you need to watch it understand. Even though the high school stuff can get cringy I still enjoyed it. I cannot remember an anime that actually continued an introductory of a new student scene with a Q&A.
Usually, the student sits down or the scene ends after the introduction. In FMP you get a whole back and forth between Sousuke and his new classmates. This added so much including insights to Sousuke’s character and a chance to learn about the other students.
Even though the romance in FMP is not great, I still enjoy Kaname and Sousuke’s relationship. It gets heated later on but I am not going to say why. There are so many great moments like this one where both of them are fishing together.
The story is easy to follow and breaks its major plot points into smaller arcs. All of them are great and will keep you at the edge of your seat.
This show is a testament that you can successfully blend many genres into one anime. I have mentioned it multiple times already but I will continue to do so.
Whats Not so Great about Fullmetal Panic!
One of my complaints with the series is the opening to the show. The music is fine but the clips are not. All the clips from scenes in the show are were not made for the intro itself. This a pet peeve of mine. While I loved Gauron as a villain the rest of the villains in the story are not as impactful. One individual comes to mind who had a past with Sousuke. You learn enough from the encounter but it seemed like a waste of a good character.
The high school elements in this show were not always great. A lot of it was cringy and forgettable. But there is still plenty to like about it, for me though not so much. The scenes I remember and enjoy had nothing to do with the high school aside for a couple of outliers. This is one of the reasons why I did not watch Fumffo. I wish that there more scenes of Sousuke doing normal high school stuff instead of everything being a false alarm.
In the opening of FMP you see all the leaders saluting, my issue is that you never learn much about any of them except for a couple. Something happens, later on, that depends on you caring about a certain character and I never did because of the lack of attention given.
There is some fan service stuff in this series. There’s nudity in the opening and later on in the series (it’s not prevalent and in context makes sense). The only time it bothered me is when you are in the middle of a battle and I can see Kaname’s underwear (in the image above). It’s distracting and it takes you out of the moment.
If you want other animes that have elements of high school and mecha then I recommend Code Geass and Rahxephon. For just mecha, I recommend Patlabor, Gunbuster, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Gurren Lagann. For high school only, Clannad and Ouran High School Host Club.
Fullmetal Panic! was a surprise anime that I had low expectations for. I enjoyed the series so much so that I watched the majority of the spinoffs and sequels. This anime has a great mix of different genres and is an excellent gateway anime for anyone who wants to get into the medium.
Lets Here from you
Have you watched Fullmetal Panic! and really enjoyed it or maybe you did not. Either way let me know what you though of FMP. Please comment below and share the article if you enjoyed reading it. Check out my other articles here. Until next time thanks for reading and have a great day.
Feature image: episode 17 at 14 mins 42 seconds
Story so far: episode 2 at 17 mins 16 seconds
Setting: episode 1 at 15 mins 27 seconds and episode 16 at 6 mins 29 seconds
Chapman, Zac Bertschy & Jacob. AnimeNewsNetwork. 3 August 2017. 29 November 2019. https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2017-08-03/full-metal-panic-shoji-gatou-and-shiki-douji/.119685
Hodgkins, Crystalyn. AnimeNewsNetwork. 24 October 2015. 29 November 2019. https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2015-10-24/full-metal-panic-novels-inspire-new-anime-adaptation/.94580
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