Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Full Metal Panic!

Wow, I don't even remember this one. I thought I did, but I don't. It's just one of those anime I could have sworn to have watched way back in 2004, but I just watched it again and I couldn't even get a crack into that door to Nostalgia Land. It seemed all I could remember about the series was the name and that there were some robots and school kids involved. And that could describe a LOT of anime. 

So what is Full Metal Panic exactly? Well, it starts out like an animated version of The Delta Force featuring high school kids with robots and music that is at times similar to The A Team

FMP is an odd show because it doesn't seem all that futuristic. In fact, it feels even older than it actually is. As if the whole thing were inspired by cheesy 80's American terrorist attack movies. The animation is a bit clunky and the CGI is downright deplorable, too. The majority of the robots look completely underwhelming with the exception of the few that can power up to Dragonball Z levels and throw energy beams at each other.

Every single thing about this anime is ridiculously cheesy and groan-inducing. There is no logic. Absolutely none. On paper it all sounds kind of awesome, but the anime just doesn't quite cross that bridge. Thankfully, FMP does have some nice comedy to level out the playing field, but when things do get serious the payoff isn't quite as rewarding as it should be since the pacing and the clarity of the story are somewhat stunted. 

The captain of a secret military group is a klutzy 16 year old girl. The main character is a guy that is somehow an expert soldier, but he is somehow completely incapable of blending into a crowd of students. The main character is actually as old as his klutzy 16 year old captain, too.  

After watching enough anime one develops a mental file called an "anime file." Using this file, it's pretty easy to give a lot of things a slide by tossing those things into the file and saying, "It's anime, what do you expect?" My mental anime file is a rather large one and I can often forgive a lot of weird things, but this anime just about broke my anime file at the seams. 

Again, good thing there was some comedy to help this baby go down smooth. 

The story is simple enough on the surface, but a bit of a mess once you try to do some real analyzing. Which is a shame because it tries to add a little depth by going for a multi-dimensional story. The idea that the Whispered children can communicate telepathically and harness the power of "Black Technology" is fine and dandy, but almost nothing is done with this story idea for the bulk of the anime. Sometimes the phrase "Black Technology" is thrown around every now and then just to remind us that the phrase is supposed to mean something, but with the high school shenanigans and mecha fights going on it becomes less like foreshadowing and more like a line of dialog created on the spur of the moment to sound cool and menacing. 

Somewhat ironically the comedy also takes away from the story even though the comedy was my favorite part. This anime wants to be real serious at times, but then it wants to be silly, too. However, the serious part of the story isn't as quite elaborated on as it should be, but there are plenty of jokes to pad the time out. A few less jokes here and there and a bit more time spent on the plot could have done wonders. Sure, it would have made things more dramatic and realistic, but that is far from a bad thing.

I know this review doesn't exactly sound like a glowing one, but there are a few good things about this series.

The relationship between Chidori Kaname, Teletha Testarossa, and Sagara Sousuke is a neat one. The three have fairly good chemistry and it makes for one of the more believable love triangles in animedom. In fact, all of the characters are fairly interesting with the exception of Kurz Weber. I just found Kurz completely uninteresting as far as the "best friend of hero" role is concerned. The villain Gauron was interesting and pretty nasty, but he had a backstory that should have been fleshed out a bit more.

The mechas that don't look like overgrown turtles look pretty badass. I think there are only three or four mechs in this series that really look cool, but they are there nonetheless and worth noting.

Unfortunately, it's these same cool mechas that are capable of insane "power-ups" and energy blasts that kind make this series a bit more bizarre. Not only do we have telepathic people known the Whispered and the mysterious Black Technology, but we also robots that respond to feelings. Shit, I wish I could pilot a bigass robot using only my feelings to create energy. I'd kick everyone's ass. And yes, other mecha anime have been guilty of the same thing, but they've done the concept better while also having a better story. For instance: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Mobile Fighter G Gundam.

All of this seems to contradict the realistic atmosphere this series tries to give off when it tries to be serious. I mean, we've got giant robots that respond to feelings, but people are still using DVD roms in this futuristic world? Is this story supposed to take place in 1996 or what? Of course, this anime shouldn't be held at fault for the time period it was made in, but it wasn't actually made all that long ago. This anime is only 13 years old. And as far as the psychological struggling The Whispered undergo, Neon Genesis Evangelion easily has this one beat and that series actually came out in 1995.

The political landscape of this world is also a bit murky. It's tough to really understand what's going on because it is not all explained. This anime's original release was postponed because of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. With terrorism and espionage in a war torn world being the primary subjects of this anime it seems absurd that it doesn't really try to be much more than an average mecha/ high school comedy/ romance anime. There's some backstory about a few characters being guerillas in the Middle East, but that is largely unexplored territory. There's no sense of immediacy for me. It's not a post-9/11 work in terms of it's theme or presentation and that feels like a missed opportunity. Of course, it was more than likely made before 9/11 which again makes it a bit of an oddity. By the time it was released the game had changed and what seemed like a cool if a bit muddled story about fighting terrorism with robots seemed infinitely dated to another age.

Anyway, that's my review. I did get enjoyment from the series, though. Just not as much as I would have liked.

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