Since getting their hands on the license, FUNimation has done Full Metal Panic! some justice. The original series has come out and they've released The Second Raid twice, with one of those editions being a remaster. For anyone that may have missed it the other times it hit DVD, the original Full Metal Panic has been reissued as a four disc thinpack boxed set.
If you don't know what Full Metal Panic (FMP) is about, then you're missing out on one of the most popular mecha anime shows every produced (this side of Gundam, anyways). The series takes place in an alternative universe of sorts where the cold war never really ended and hostilities continue to exist throughout Russia and China. Several nations are being dragged into this conflict and throughout it all the rise of mecha technology, known as Arm Slaves, has become very pronounced on the battlefield. Standing as a united front against extremist and terrorist action is an organization known as Mithril. This secret militant force is well-funded and powerful with some highly trained soldiers and equipment. One such soldier is Sousuke Sagara.
Sagara finds himself with the distinction of being a talented teenage Japanese boy who is fluent in many languages and skilled with several weapons. He's also rather adept with the operation of Arm Slaves as well. At the beginning of FMP he is assigned with the duty of protecting a girl presumed to possess Whispered abilities (I'll get into this later) as she is suspected as the target of terrorists. Teaming up with fellow Mithril soldiers Kurz and Melissa, Sagara enrolls in the high school where the Whisper attends in an effort to get closer to the target but soon finds out that he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Chidori is the class beauty with long hair, a stunning body, and a habit for being good at just about everything she tries her luck with. In the beginning of FMP she views Sagara as a perverse stalker who continually attempts to get near her. Naturally Sagara cannot reveal his intent due to the threat of blowing his cover so this becomes a source of the show's humor early on. Hilarity ensues as the two students constantly clash but even in between the awkward moments and challenged explanations, there are snippets of a burgeoning relationship.
As the show settles into a nice easy pattern darker forces begin to stir in the background and by the end of the first DVD we get some real action. Chidori and Sagara's class goes on a trip to Okinawa but along the way the plane is hijacked by a man named Gauron who wants to get his hands on Chidori. With the plane on the ground, a bomb in the cargo hold, and Chidori in the clutches of a mad scientist Sagara has to burst into action. Thankfully his training pays off and a daring rescue commences with plenty of gunplay and Arm Slave fights in between. Gauron shows up during their escape and there's quite a climactic showdown with the terrorist.
After this the show heads back to the classroom to focus more on Chidori and Sagara attempting to maintain their "personal lives". I put that in quotation marks because when it comes to Sagara there really is no life outside of the military. His attempts to portray himself as a regular kid make him the butt of jokes and it's his skewed view of everything that gives this series its abundance of humor. When all you've really known in your life is the military and fighting, sitting down in a classroom to study with a group of students seems like a foreign experience. Especially when you're hanging out with Chidori.
These elements come and go throughout the series and as Chidori and Sagara's relationship grows, so does the overall plot. That Whisper ability I mentioned early plays a big role as it pertains to the abundance of advanced technologies across the globe. It seems that some event back in the 80's caused children of today to gain special knowledge about things such as Black Technology and Lambda Drivers. If that all seems Greek to you then you're not alone. The idea of Black Technology within the confines of FMP can be rather convoluted if you don't follow it closely. Really, if you ask me it all seems a little too supernatural for the show's own good but it's easy to overlook thanks to the quality production in just about every other area.
With Chidori and other Whispers out there, Gauron certainly isn't about to rest on his laurels. His motives don't exactly become clear until you're closer to the end of the series but he portrays a fine antagonist for Sagara. In between the various arcs and one-shot episodes scattered through the 24 episodes here, there is an impressive amount of character development. By the end of the series you'll truly care for each character here, since they are so well-developed. Sure Chidori and Sagara get the most screen time but the support cast is given an appropriate amount of development as well which is nice.
Full Metal Panic! is a fantastic show in just about every way. From the concept right down to the plot, characters, and action, everything about this series just gels. It's no surprise that the original season spawned a couple of sequels and if you've never seen it before, there's really no reason not to pick up this release. Highly Recommended.
While the show has been released on Blu-ray as well, this review is for the DVD release. Unfortunately the Blu-ray title has not come our way for examination. Even so, Full Metal Panic still looks great. The series is presented with its original full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The designs are solid, the animation is fluid, and all around the show stands as one of GONZO's best efforts. It's polished all around and the bits of grain and aliasing that pop up now and then aren't enough to really detract from the experience.
Full Metal Panic! hits DVD with English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 output. The quality of both is quite good with each dub offering their own charms and characteristics. I personally couldn't pick between the two as far as which team did a better job; and that's a rarity. The technical quality of both is good as well, though the 5.1 definitely had the edge in terms of presence during battles and such. The track was a smidge more dynamic, though the Japanese 2.0 is no slouch either. It just doesn't pack the same kind of punch.
Bonus features? What you're going to find here are some trailers, clean animations, original TV spots, and Japanese piracy warnings.
Full Metal Panic! is a fantastic show no matter how you look at it. Everything clicks and it's definitely a crowd pleaser. It's packed with action, funny, charming, and addicting. There are some moments within where some things get a little stale, but by and large the show is everything a mecha fan dreams of. If you don't already own it, consider this release highly recommended.