Reviewby Allen Divers, Jul 1st 2003
Full Metal Panic!
DVD 1: Mission 01
It's tough being the most popular girl in school. Of course, Kaname Chidori doesn't know how good she had it until Sousuke Sagara shows up and turns her life upside-down. The thing is, she doesn't know that Sousuke belongs to a secret anti-terrorist organization that has sworn to protect her. And Sousuke's life isn't a cakewalk either. More used to combat drills and giant robot fights, Sousuke finds it difficult to cope with the regiment of school life. Despite that, Sousuke must still protect Kaname from the people hunting her down for her ability as one of "the whispered." Can Sousuke keep her safe without being thrown in detention?
One of last year's big hits in Japan, Full Metal Panic! makes it ways to North America with a little help from A.D. Vision. Keeping up with the fanfare set by the Japanese release, volume one arrives in a standard edition single DVD as well as a premium edition. Just to keep things interesting, Full Metal Panic! brings together quite a few different anime genres to create a unique story that's sure to appeal to everyone's particular tastes.
The first four episodes of the series arrive in a couple of different packages. The standard edition has the regular extras you can expect from ADV with creditless versions of the opening and closing animations, production sketches and ADV previews. Something a bit extra is a custom piracy warning, done by Luci Christian, voice of Kaname and the inclusion of the original Japanese version. Rounding out the extras for the standard edition are a reversible cover and a pullout poster. The premium edition comes with the standard edition DVD, a box to hold all seven volumes of the series, and a t-shirt.
Upping the ante for soundtracks, volume one features two English soundtracks, one in standard 2.0 and the other in 5.1, as well the original 2.0 Japanese soundtrack. Don Rush, working solo on his second major ADV release, handled the directorial duties of the English track. The English cast features many familiar voices, with Chris Patton taking on the lead as Sousuke Sagara. Chris takes a lot of flak for seemingly becoming the go-to guy for lead male teen characters at ADV, but he does a great job in performing the role. Working against him in the other lead role is Luci Christian as Kaname Chidori. Despite working separately, the two generate a nice chemistry between the leads that makes the English soundtrack fun to listen to. The English script stays faithful to the original Japanese, making only the standard allowances for lip flaps and timing. Both casts are well suited to their roles, making Full Metal Panic! enjoyable in either format. The musical soundtrack proves to be an animal by itself, as it sounds reminiscent of the A-Team TV series from the 80s. Overall, the music comes across as upbeat in the exciting action scenes but also provides the necessary tension for the highly dramatic parts.
Full Metal Panic! is a Gonzo animation, which accounts for the seemingly larger-than-life animation style prevalent throughout the series. Gonzo continues to push the envelope of mixing traditional animation with CGI, blending the two seamlessly. The character designs by Osamu Horiuchi take on a whole new life in the setting laid out for them. Each character generates a certain amount of presence that is simply enhanced by the performance of the actors. The artwork has a huge chore of blending school life with mecha, bringing together all the elements smoothly. Somehow a fifty-foot mecha doesn't seem out of place next door to cram school. The animation is fluid, playing up the comedy in school hijinks as well as staying gritty for the action sequences. It all comes together well without making Full Metal Panic! feel like two different shows forced together.
The story of Full Metal Panic! comes up as the standard good guy protects good girl scenario. The magic of the series mixes in a few other standard plot lines, blending a whole and unique adventure. Mixing in romance, comedy, action and drama the first four episodes of FMP lay out the world and the characters pretty quickly allowing the viewer more time to enjoy the chaos that ensues. At the core is a fish-out-of-water story with Sousuke thrown into an environment that is wholly alien to him. Growing up a soldier, he has no idea that his actions cause chaos wherever he goes. Add in a love and hate relationship with Kaname, and Full Metal Panic! quickly moves away from the typical giant robot storyline. The story of Full Metal Panic! has a large number of elements as well a solid amount of background information that slowly leaks thru as the episodes move on. It's hard to fall into a rut when anything could realistically happen within this world. The one downside of the first four episodes is that the last leaves off on a major cliffhanger. Fans will be beating down the doors at their local retailers when volume two hits the streets.
Full Metal Panic! proves to be a unique adventure delving somewhere between giant robot action show and a school based romantic comedy. The setting, characters, and action move the storyline along briskly, keeping viewers from becoming bored. Full Metal Panic! is liberal with the genres it mixes together, making it a strong show that will appeal to a large audience. For those looking for a giant robot show with something extra, Full Metal Panic! is the right choice.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B
+ Mixing many different genres, FMP proves to be a unique adventure.
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