Movie: Ever watch a good comedy? How about a good spy story? Okay, what about a story full of high tech giant robots and violence? Well, if you're looking for a show that combines the best elements of all three of these things, you might want to check out a new release by ADV, Full Metal Panic 1.
The dvd contains the first four episodes of a Japanese anime show that looks at the exploits of an anti-terrorist group known only as Mithril. The organization uses various weapons that are way ahead of the bleeding edge of technology, and act as an independent peace keeping force around the world. The leading operative, and pilot of one of the robots, is Sousuke. He's a dedicated guy in what appears to be his early twenties, and willing to follow orders no matter how demeaning. He is joined by his two associates, Melissa and Kurt, on a special assignment: protect a gifted young high school student, Kaname. Kaname's gift is hinted at, but not disclosed by the end of the dvd so I suspect future revelations will make it clear whether her gift is psionic in nature, some form of super power, or some genetic code that makes her superior. Sousuke's problem revolve around how deadpan serious he is to accomplish his mission, even when his over zealous nature causes problems. Most of the problems being quite funny.
I liked the show although I can't say for sure if future volumes will keep me hooked. I liked the silly humor a lot (I'm a guy which means I'm easily amused) and the potential regarding the combat mechs is up in the air at this point. The spy part of the story was pretty well written too. To keep me interested, it'll have to develop the characters more since the attractiveness of the silliness will wear off after several more episodes. I'm hopeful though as the voice acting on the English dub and the subtitled Japanese tracks were both good enough to get me to check them out.
I also liked that the story is building slowly-it gives you the chance to get a feel for the main characters as well as the support crew. I'm sure every anime buff has watched a show that went too fast and you never really get a chance to reflect on what the characters are doing or what their motivations are. Those have an appeal too but usually not long lasting to those of us willing to use our brain.
In any case, I think this one merits a Recommended status at this time for the overall nature of the show. The technical matters are well handled, the show interesting, and it was just enough to get me ready to watch another disc (time went by quickly when watching it). I didn't get the special boxed edition that comes with a T-shirt but collectors will likely want one of those too.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full screen with an action sequence or two in widescreen. It looked clear and crisp with a solid dvd transfer to enjoy.
Sound: The audio was presented in a few choices: English 5.1 or 2.0 (with optional song subtitles) or the original Japanese stereo track with English subtitles. Normally, I'm a snob about preferring the original Japanese track but the English 5.1 was exceptionally good with plenty of use of the entire 5.1 set up. You'll hear gunshots coming out of the rear speakers, voices on one track that correspond to the position of the characters on the screen and a host of other sound effects where they "should be". I liked the music too and wish there was a CD with the set.
Extras: The best extra was the paper insert which provided eetailed information about the characters and othe rbackground information. I wish all anime series had something like this as an extra. The menu's were set up in mechanized format which was pretty cool. Other extras included clean openings and closings of the show, some production sketches, some Japanese piracy warnings (there was an English one on the opening FBI warning that was amusing) and some trailers.
Final Thoughts: There's a lot of potential here and I'm anxiously awaiting volume 2. That alone should serve as a selling point since I see a lot of titles and many are quite marginal. Some aspects of the series may not follow through as well as others but I'm hopeful and this actually would be okay as a stand alone release. Check it out.