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Full Metal Panic – Ultimate Edition UK Blu-ray Anime Review

18 min read

full-metal-panic-second-raid-bannerA reminder of how lucky I was when I started getting into anime…

What They Say:
Kaname Chidori’s one of the most popular girls at her high school – unfortunately, it’s her growing popularity off campus she should be worrying about. Unbeknownst to Kaname, terrorists are plotting her abduction, believing she possesses the rare and coveted abilities of “the Whispered.” That’s where Sousuke Sagara enters the picture. He’s a hotshot soldier from the clandestine counter-terrorist organization known as Mithril – and he’s going undercover at Kaname’s school to try and keep her safe. He may be an ace in the cockpit of an Arm Slave mech, but there’s no training in the world that could prepare him for the warzone of high school…

Contains all seasons including the never before released in the UK third season The Second Raid. With Japanese with English subtitles and English dub.

The Review:
Audio:
For this release we get standard an English 5.1 and a Japanese 2.0 release on all three series, though the conversion is better on Second Raid (see below) the sound quality is still more than acceptable – setting it and adjusting accordingly, there were no problems with the release and with a series that relies on foley and sound effects it comes through quite well (keep in mind for the original and Fumoffu this is over 10 years old since it got released, even in the UK) in HD. The strength of both tracks holds well to this day in a great dub and original Japanese (which isn’t too much different in quality from the 5.1 English track) and whilst you can tell the newer series seem a little better, overall no issues.

Video:
Second Raid is in full 16:9 mode but Season 1 and Fumoffu were both animated before 16:9 became the standard format for anime, so both seasons are in 4:3 ratio but upconverted to 1080p. When watching any episodes from these seasons, the footage is Pillar boxed, meaning it will be displayed with black bars at the side to retain the original display ratio of the picture. That said, it isn’t that noticeable and with no delays to the sync of the animation or the audio quality (no slowdown during pausing or when pop-up menu’s occur) just you get the full-screen effect in Second Raid more clearly than in the original series or Fumoffu. The animation comes through superbly and has definitely been upgraded for Blu-Ray, making this a hard working and superb release.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this test release.

Full Metal Panic

Menu:
Each menu is similar in selection – on Full Metal Panic, the choices of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on disc 3 Extras, scrolling on the left hand side with clips of the show playing. Fumoffu is very similar though it is just a brightly shining Bonta-kun staring at you most of the time, whilst Second Raid returns to the similar structure of the original, except the choices are now horizontal (with extras on Disc 7) all on a metal background symbolizing the submarine or Arms Slaves. Menus like most Blu-Rays are swift when moving from one selection to another and you can access the pop-up menu at any time whilst watching the show with no slowdown to the experience. Very true to the show, easy to navigate and atmospheric.

Extras:
On the whole each series has some similar extras – each have the clean openings and endings, as well as some Japanese TV Spots, and trailers for a lot of shows – as these were Funimation shows not all of them are UK based but to quote, we have trailers for Hetalia, Eden Of The East, Initial D, DBZ Kai, Soul Eater, Nabari No Ou, Kaze No Stigma, Linebarrels of Iron, Jinki Extend, Oh! Edo Rocket, both the original Full Metal Alchemist and FMA: Brotherhood, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, Devil May Cry, Romeo x Juliet, Burst Angel, Big Wind Up, One Piece and Pumpkin Scissors.

The original and Second Raid have a ton of extras to get through – on disc 3, we get a Special interview with Koichi Chigira (director of FMP) and Shouji Gatou (creator of the original light novels) whilst the producer Atsushi Ito conducts the interview. They talk about everything more as friends rather than colleagues, ranging from their first meeting, their clashes with story outlining, how broadcast delays because of certain incidents affected them, contacting North America and checking out the dub, other production details (like at one point considering hiring people to talk in English for most of the show as few characters were Japanese in Mithrill), 3D vs. 2D designs, initial troubles with Kanames’ character design, their initial impressions with each other, the mecha designs, Gaurons’ character, the fact every character had a name, researching location settings, there is a ton to get through and they condense it in as quick as a possible time period they could allow (which works better than a later interview segment during the Second Raid extras) making it for a fun and informative interview.

full-metal-panic-second-raid-03We get some Japanese Piracy warnings which are unique compared to your usual TV spots – there are 12 of them, each told by a character of the show (Kaname, Sousuke, Tessa, Kyoko, Mao, Seina, Shinji, Gauron, Eri, Kurz, Kalinin, Mardukus). Each of them is quite in character – for example, Gauron is condescending but more in the way of his plans being eviler, whilst Mardukus does a ‘back in my day’ type of speech, each of them showcasing clips of the character in question as well.

Second Raid gives us the Bonus 00 episode (a short 6 minute-ish side story of Sousuke, Mao and Kurz kicking butt with clips from the series) and the bonus OVA, a.k.a. a day in the life of Tessa – a regular episode but seeing her in the sub more with her subordinates in a much more silly way – her half-asleep (and naked) with Sousuke brings some humorous moments considering this happens after the finale of Second Raid, combined with Kalinin’s dinner of Borsche, Kurz screwing with the corporal over his anime DVDs, and Melissa and Tessa just straight out drinking, bitching and playing about. Almost a spare filler episode but a lot of fun and Tessa is a blast in this ep.
More of the behind the scenes extras come in the form of ‘Dawn of the Light Novel’ – talking how the 2nd Raid is based on one of the novels, and see how in transforms from novel to anime, as the creator Shouji Gatou visits KyoAni animation and others to see how it works, whilst talking about the transaction from novels to anime in general – speaking to the directors, animators, scriptwriters, we see the work in backgrounds, computers, animation, photography, finishing, music – everything is gone through at least briefly in a good behind-the-scenes extra.

Perhaps not as good sadly is the other big extra – Location Sighting in Hong Kong. Now normally this type of extra would most likely be good – this goes through the big scenes where Sousuke is in Hong Kong and they indeed go and find places to use in the anime, and commentated by Gatou and Yashiro Takemoto (director) – and it is a very long extras covering 7 parts of them going through Hong Kong, from first planning their trip to various photos of how the Arms Slave could view things, to every nook and cranny, to the locals both pleasure and displeasure (markets, gardens, parks, even love hotels). The problem is two things – as it is a very long extra, it is actually quite dull when all it is walking as the group don’t even speak much and just occasionally take photos – so to help out we get the commentary. Which is the other problem – the commentary actually becomes both repetitive and even uncomfortable at times talking about certain things. I’m sure it is mostly joking, both with some of the subtitles, you do wonder, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend watching this in one sitting (clocking around 2 hours altogether) because the commentary isn’t that funny or interesting. A shame because the extra would have worked much better if it focused on the key scenes used with more general commentary from the crew, rather than just upsetting their tour guide or talking about schoolgirls.

Lastly, whilst not on the test release, the special edition (limited to 1000 copies) will contain a 76 page hardback art book.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I first was getting into anime, the UK market was just going under a small wave of releases by then prominent company ADV. A number of series I remember got released which included a lot I hadn’t heard before, but thanks to a US version of Newtype, information was easy to grab. Series included Excel Saga, Noir and this, Full Metal Panic. I remember enjoying the series a fair bit but it has been a while since I’ve seen it, Fumoffu, and the non-UK released Second Raid (which I imported from the US) – a huge massive collection of all three series in one was very welcome, but time to see if I have nostalgia goggles on, or is it actually a true classic?

As all three series are in this release, they are checked out one at a time. The original, Full Metal Panic, I believe got a UK release in 2004 and with that and Fumoffu over 10 years old in Japan (and second Raid believe it or not also coming up to that next year), so when watching this series, I was surprised in how well the animation has held up combined with the transfer to HD. The series, however, introduces one of my favourite yin/yang pairings of all time, in Sousuke Sagara and Kaname Chidori. Their interactions in this and Fumoffu, in particular, are utterly hilarious (a bit more serious come Second Raid) – the running joke, of course, is that Sousuke is not in tune with the real world outside of the military, and Kaname lets him know it…usually with a paper fan to the skull.

The plot is actually interesting – a secret organisation called Mithrill, almost a military specifically for justice with technology way ahead of its time have a mission to protect a girl from apparently terrorist organizations though they (and the girl) are not sure why she is special. The task force is Sousuke Sagara, a young soldier with tons of experience in the military life, but in the real world, zip. He has his two fellow officers, Melissa Mao, the tough girl who is the boss (and brains) of the group, and Kurz Weber, an excellent sniper but not as excellent playboy. Sousuke enters Kaname’s school as an exchange student and begins to cause havoc in Kaname’s life, to being stalkerish (just to keep an eye on her), to putting a gun on suspicious people (like fellow teachers and students). However, at the end of the first episode, Kaname – an attractive school girl with a bit of a temper – actually says he is interesting…suggesting that she doesn’t mind him as much as he suspected.

Full Metal Panic Fumoffu HeaderAs the comedy at first suggests the series will keep this fun, it quickly switches to drama when terrorist organisations do get involved. We are introduced to the beautiful Teletha “Tessa” Testarossa, captain of the Tuatha de Danaan, Mithril’s most advanced submarine to stop a missile strike, most likely implemented by the series one true villain, Gauron, who hijacks a plane which contains Kaname (and Sousuke) as the class were planning to be on a field trip to Okinawa. Kaname is kidnapped and begin to test on her, whilst Sousuke goes to save her (abandoning his original plan of trying to wait for the bomb squads to stop the plane blowing up, the first signs Kaname is getting to him positively). It is here that we are also showcased the Arm Slaves – giant mechs which Sousuke among others can pilot, and is also here the reason why Kaname is wanted by terrorists – she belongs to a group of people called ‘Whispered’ who able to mentally understands advanced technology, leading her to help Sousuke defeat Gauron, whose Arm Slave has an ability unlike any other called the Lambda Driver, as Sousuke’s mech (the Arbalest) also has the same ability….

A lot of FMP switches quickly from comedy to serious – for example, Tessa actually visiting Sousuke due to having to bring in a terrorist brings a lot of comedy as poor Sousuke has to deal with the attention of two very attractive girls (with Kaname not believing Tessa is a captain due to her age, Tessa goes along with it for Sousuke’s hilarious discomfort) but becomes serious when a hostage situation leads to Tessa and Kaname being kidnapped, and Mithrill dealing with a giant mech called Behemoth (with some touching moments involving other characters, like Sousuke’s superior officer Kallilin) – and whilst there are a number of fun episodes (Sousuke’s one true military friend at school Shinji in a military festival, Tessa trying to learn how to piloting an Arm Slave) when it goes back to the plot it does with a bang. Gauron is not quite dead and when Sousuke has to go on a mission with a new squad who don’t listen to him, it doesn’t end well….so when Gauron is still not quite dead after this encounter, the big finale with Gauron getting captured but managing to take over the submarine due to a bit of bribery leads to some real tactical skill and action involving Kaname, Tessa (who has been also revealed as a Whispered and the two girls have some telepathy due to this), Kurz, Mao and Sousuke dealing with the takeover. There is a race against time as Gauron fires on friendlies to try and discredit them, with Tessa and Kaname’s plan to get the sub back in their control is risky and quite tense with the traitors on board, with the finale very nerve wracking, and ends on a surprising nice note with Kaname and Sousuke, showing that they are much more comfortable with each other now (which ties into Second Raid).

The show itself is still very good – the relationship between Sousuke and Kaname is the key draw and the way the two play off each other, both as comedy and in action showcases their strength and timing, and when you add Tessa in the mix as both a potential love triangle, and a friendship (both with Kaname and Tessa, there is a tiny bit of tension there but they definitely seem to get along) it gets funnier. However, it also gets serious and Gauron is a villain who seems to always tag along, with history with Sousuke and other crew members (a lot of the one-off characters and background crew members also get their moments) – the characters all have very distinct personalities that it did surprise that there isn’t as much comedy in here as I thought…

That’s where Full Metal Panic Fumoffu comes in.

Rewatching this, I am astonished that I forgot how funny this was. There is no plot at all, it is literally 12 episodes of Sousuke and Kaname silliness. All done in half episodes, they range from Sousuke getting a love letter (and blowing up the lockers thinking it was a suspicious package), having to fight off the school janitor when he and the karate club’s captain take their duel too far, the obligatory beach episode with some comedy battle and my favourite being when Tessa takes a vacation…to visit Sousuke. Here, the love triangle evils are in full flow, a fan service episode where Kurz and Shinji also get invited and of course, try to spy on the girls in a very over the top sequence. The introductions of the school present and his assistant Ren also is hilarious, as it brings us the infamous Bonta-kun *who had been introduced in an earlier episodes with the strange ponytail maker* and using their military might against rival yakuza gangs – FUMO indeed. And also the rugby episode – the shout outs to Full Metal Jacket are obvious and the finale is hilarious and somehow terrifying at the same time.

There is nothing really major to talk about plot-wise, though there are plenty of fun character moments between Sousuke and Kaname (even some real ship tease in an episode where he has to try and find a woman to date during a room bet, and Kaname dresses up in a kimono looking very mature and beautiful, and Sousuke doesn’t recognise her) – it is just such a funny series because of those interactions between socially inept Sousuke and socially violent Kaname that it always sticks in your mind.

Second Raid, on the other hand, sticks in your mind in a different way.

Whilst SR definitely has some comic moments (the scenes with the pervert trying to listen in on Kaname, and the scenes at the hair salon among them), it is a very all business series. Despite the new villain Gates being quite eccentric and seems comic, he is very competent in his own way with his two assassin girls in tow and this new group they are part off called Amalgam. They set up a trap in episode 3 to lure Mithrill in (one of the assassin twins poses as a hostage whilst the communications officer Mithrill hired double crosses them so Amalgam knows their every move), it leads to the frustration that Sousuke can’t use the Lambda Driver anymore. This series is the first where we see actual frustration on Sousuke’s part, not just with the mech, but also with his own life as Mao seriously asks him where he sees him in the future, and aside from obeying orders, he can’t see anything whilst he juggles school and military work. A great action scene when Mao, Sousuke and Kurz capture the traitor is the standard here, but it is the next episode where I feel SR really shines.

full-metal-panic-second-raid-02It starts off fairly comic with Sousuke returning to school, and Kyoko (Kaname’s best friend, a wonderful side character who is always smiling and quips in a lot about their relationship that I wish she had a bigger role) mentions Sousuke’s hair is getting long. He goes to a barber where his military instinct at being helpless lead to the usual silliness and being kicked out. This leads to Kaname actually asking if Sousuke would like her to cut his hair. In perhaps the biggest ship tease moment of the entire series, Sousuke is nervous when Kaname is close to him for obvious reasons, but once she starts cutting his hair, it is proof that he is entirely comfortable with Kaname’s presence to the point he actually falls asleep (and Kaname NEARLY kisses him, before recovering from embarrassment). Their relationship is blossoming and you see that after Mao’s talk, Sousuke might have a reason to live outside the military…

…and then cue a message telling him he can’t see her and he is revoked from his due as a bodyguard.

You just felt like both Sousuke and the viewer get punched. It is actually heartbreaking the fact Sousuke can’t even contact Kaname whilst she is trying to call him, and when Kaname encounters one of the Chinese assassins, she instinctively knows she is in danger and finds Sousuke’s apartment vacated. What is worse is I feel really bad for Tessa, who made the decision, as it was a clear lose-lose for her – it is established Tessa has a crush on Sousuke, and the two even actually argue when he returns to base, with Tessa pretty much saying to Sousuke that he just wants to be with her, why can’t he admit it…Tessa has to absorb a lot of the blame for this, and fans may think she is being selfish, but you can tell she is being hurt by this as well, because she knows that everyone will think she is doing it for her own reasons, not for Mithrill’s, when it is clearly the reverse.

What leads into is a combination of some badass moments and some sad and surprising ones. Kaname is the badass here where using some of Sousuke’s tips, she actually out manoeuvres the assassin…and we get introduced to perhaps the boss of Amalgam, Tessa’s brother Leonard, who is very attracted to Kaname and is probably more of a figure in the light novels after this, sadly not animated. The assassins are working under their own whim now, but Leonard and Gates deal with that – but the big story is Sousuke completely gone as he actually deserts the team after an accident in Hong Kong where the other assassin is running rampage, the reveal of who the assassins are, and who their boss is, whilst not surprising still brings chills down your spine with some of the words said to Sousuke. With him losing all hope, (he even gets taken to a room with some whiskey to a Kaname look-alike prostitute, he does snap out of it, though) it is with a shock that a certain young lady manages to arrange to visit him to really snap him out of it….

Whilst the ending is predictable, the build up was incredible. The moment Kaname senses something is wrong, she heads over to Sousuke’s and then realises he isn’t there, that she is on her own – she becomes afraid. Sousuke was always with her for better or worse, and because of that, even in previous hostage situations, she was never as scared – because Sousuke was still around. Knowing he isn’t, she has to adapt, and she does really well in a great display of her intelligence, athletism and guile. On the other hand, Sousuke becomes more human and social is most established in this series, and whilst the other agent does mock him that he hasn’t fitted in at all in society, by the end of the series he is clearly doing better slightly, calling Tessa by that name instead of Captain, and a near hug with Kaname (you can clearly see him about to put his arms around her) – you actually wish the rest of the light novels had been animated…

There are plenty of awesome moments (Mao’s story with how she joined the marines, the new general laying the smack down to Sousuke and Kurz when he joins, the whole capturing the traitor episode when Mao disguises herself) but the interaction and development of Sousuke and Kaname is the real draw. And to be fair, that is the case for each of the series, even Fumoffu to an extent. The lead characters are wonderful – polar opposites socially but gradually accept each other’s company to friendship and potentially love. Add in a nice mix of other characters (Tessa, the rival – Mao, the big sister, Kurz, the Casanova) which gel well together and you have a series with some great comic moments, but knows when to hold them when things start getting real.

full-metal-panic-second-raid-01Except for Fumoffu which is just a riot.

The entire experience of Full Metal Panic and rewatching it made me have one of those ‘old man’ moments. Basically the fact I first saw this over 10 years ago and I did wonder if there was any series recently I enjoyed as much – and the answer sadly is no. It has aged well, and whilst some of the battles may seem unrealistic, you don’t really care considering how good it is animated and how well the action comes through. The characters interactions between military and civilian and the difference to say how Sousuke would act, to how Kurz would act, is a good balance. Kaname is a wonderful character, a bit violent, but considering she deals with Sousuke on a day-to-day basic she exhibits a lot more restraint than you’d think. Those early moments when she thinks Sousuke has gone go from disappointed to downright upset come Second Raid, as their relationship has expanded, and the whole experience from FMP to Fumoffu to SR, is one of the best mix of action, comedy, drama, storytelling and even romance. You just hope you can afford it and get one of the copies remaining….

In Summary:
The entire Full Metal Panic experience in a big shiny box – it is one of the classic series I grew up with and still holds out today. The characters of Sousuke and Kaname are wonderful, and combined with a great cast, some interesting villains, excellent battles, music, animation and managing to mix comedy with drama well, it is one of those series that I can always go back to after a few months and enjoy again and again. FMP is a good in between, Fumoffu is a laugh a minute, and Second Raid just hits you in the feels. The ultimate experience.

Features:
Season 1:
• Complete Season, episodes 1-24
• Extras: Jakoichi Chigara x Shouji Gatou Special Interview, Japanese Piracy Warnings, Original TV Spots, Textless Songs

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (aka Season 2)
• Complete Season, episodes 1-12
• Original Japanese TV Spots, Textless Songs

Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid (aka Season 3)
• Complete season, episodes 1-13
• Extras: Bonus Episode 000, Bonus OVA episode, Dawn of the Light Novel, Location Scouting in Hong Kong (Parts 1 – 7), Textless Songs

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: December 7th, 2015
MSRP: £99.99
Running Time: 1200 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.


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