Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 18th 2007
Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid
Angry about being pulled from his Kaname-protecting duty so he can concentrate only on mastering Arbalest, Sousuke's confrontation with Tessa over it goes even worse than it did with Wraith. He fares little better in his first encounters with Lieutenant Clouseau, his new SRT commander, who seems determined to push him hard. Weighted down by his mixed feelings and inability to get Arbalest's Lambda driver to engage, things come to a head for Sousuke when his unit is sent to deal with an AS on a rampage in Hong Kong, one piloted by Xu Fan as part of the twins' scheme to get revenge on Mithril. Xu Lan, meanwhile, has gone to Japan to seek out Kaname, who, without Sousuke around and with Wraith incapacitated, must conquer her fears and act as needed to survive. In the process she encounters a strange man who claims to be in love with her, one who reminds her greatly of Tessa.
Volume three proves that volume two was no fluke: when allowed to take itself sufficiently seriously, FMP is capable of some damn fine drama. The introduction of the ball-busting new Lieutenant may be stereotypical, but the examination of the impact their forced spilt has on both Sousuke and Kaname, and the tactical consequences for both, uses the franchise's best writing to date.
Although Tessa finally gets to speak her heart and Lieutenant Clouseau reveals that he isn't a one-note character, FMP has not changed from being the Sousuke and Kaname Show. Instead of spreading itself thin by splitting its focus between the diverging but still connected story threads, each episode focuses solely on one of the main characters, with Sousuke featured in episodes 8 and 10 and Kaname getting full viewer attention in episode 9. Sousuke has always been so single-mindedly devoted and sure of himself that watching him struggle to reconcile his unacknowledged feelings towards Kaname with his duty, and his troubles mastering Arbalest and what his failures mean to his team, is quite fascinating. This is a gradual but full-blown meltdown in action, albeit one of a diametrically contrary nature to Asuka's famous mental collapse in Neon Genesis Evangelion; whereas she projected outward, Sousuke purely internalizes. That's hard to do convincingly in animation, but FMP has accomplished it.
Kaname also shines in her one episode of exposure, as the fearfulness that gripped her at the end of episode 7 carries over into episode 9. Though not directly cognizant of the threat to herself, a “spider sense” kind of reaction to impending danger eventually provokes her to take bold and desperate action. Lacking fancy moves, dramatic combat-application powers, or fancy equipment, Kaname must rely only on her own cleverness, which makes her action scenes all the more compelling because the danger to her feels so real. Capping the scene's chilling resolution is the much-hinted-at arrival of an important new character and a resolution of sorts between Kaname and Wraith, one which indicates that we have not yet knowingly seen Wraith's true face.
As before, the English dub proves more than up to the task of supporting the writing, especially in the tricky emotional scenes. Hilary Haag sounds a little more credible as Teletha than the too-cutesy performance by seiyuu Yukana, Luci Christian nails Kaname's tearful and fearful moments, and Blake Shepard gives “Mr. Silver” a sly and smooth sound that departs a bit from the original performance, while Lt. Clouseau is delivered in a fashion more befitting an American black military officer, which fits English better than the Japanese approach. In general, tones and inflections are adjusted enough to make the whole thing sound excellent in English. The English script still rewords things substantially, giving the dialogue speech patterns and slang usage more befitting the English language, but it is handled well enough that it is unlikely to bother anyone beyond the most diehard purists. The one flaw which prevents the English dub from being given a higher grade this time: one scene in episode 8, where Sousuke is in his cockpit, has a few lines of dialogue by the A.I. completely eliminated in English, for no apparent good reason.
As with the previous volume, the soundtrack shakes up its musical score quite a bit. Most of the traditional FMP themes have been set inside in favor of entirely new batches tailor-made for each episode, ones which favor a mix of dramatic sci-fi tones and horror themes for episode 9 and more general drama elsewhere. The effectiveness of the new themes is mildly mixed; often they're great, but at times you may be left wondering at the music director's choices. The soundtrack still knows well when to be quiet, too. Also especially noteworthy is the use of sound effects, particularly involving the gun used by Yu Lan. Special effort clearly went into making it sound authentic. Opening and closing themes have not changed, but their lyrics now speak more to what the main characters are going through than before.
FMP series have always looked good, and this volume maintains the franchise's high artistic standards. Well-drawn and interesting-looking characters, sharp (if not entirely original-looking) mecha designs, good backgrounds, and well-handled CG effects are all strengths, and although there's no actual nudity this time, episode 9 provides some quality Kaname-based fan service. Good animation supports effective and exciting action scenes, although this volume has less of such content than the norm for the series.
Once again all three episodes have audio commentaries by pairs of key seiyuu, and parts IV and V of the annotated Hong Kong location scouting seen in earlier volumes are also present. The only other extras are the textless opener and closer. The standard Mithral Report booklet provides a wealth of additional detail on fictional and nonfiction locations, personnel and equipment profiles, and call signs used in the various FMP series. . . if you can read it, that is. The miniscule font size and questionable use of background coloring previously cited as problems are even worse here, often making trying to read the entries an eye-straining experience.
Only three episodes coming out at a time may be a pain, but at least they're quality episodes. Though basically humorless, it is still one of the best FMP volumes to date.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Best dramatic writing yet for the series, great visuals and animation.
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