The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory
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Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory ?
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How was the first episode?
I have to admit it: my favorite part of this episode was absolutely the scene where Sousuke and Kaname hold hands and are reluctant to let go any longer than necessary in order for her to unlock the door. That's partly because I'm an incurable romantic, but also because in that small moment we see just how much Sousuke has grown over the course of the previous seasons. He's become human, a difficult journey that was arguably completed in The Second Raid (or at least realized during that season), and now he's going to have to deal with all of the attendant emotions that follow.
Given that Tessa's brother Leonard is on the scene loudly proclaiming his love for Kaname, one of the first emotions that Sousuke's going to have to cope with is jealousy. While Leonard has always been a frightening character, his feelings for Kaname do appear to be (for him) genuine, and his offer to take her in with “a reasonable amount of freedom” does appear to come from what passes for his heart. But Sousuke is realizing that Leonard's not just warning them about Amalgam's future plans for the Whispered, but also that Leonard has obviously done something to Kaname that she's not happy about. He gathers this just by picking up on little details, like Kaname touching her fingers to her lips, and he finds himself constantly glancing at her face when he previously would have been completely focused on the threat in front of him. This transformation in his characters is really well-done. It's equally telling that he nearly asks Kaname to run away with him in order to avoid this whole mess (or at least, that's my assumption based on his quick retraction), as well as his statement that their life in Japan has been good. Both of these things reinforce that Sousuke no longer sees himself as just a soldier or a dispensable agent who can be separated from Kaname, a realization he came to subconsciously during the events of The Second Raid.
There's clearly more that this new season will focus on besides Sousuke and Kaname's relationship. Certainly there's her status as a Whispered, which Leonard has brought back to the foreground. Kaname has always been a particularly strong heroine in that she's smart and knows when to take care of herself versus when to rely on others, and her decision to tell Sousuke to stand down so that she can make her feelings abundantly clear to Leonard is a clear sign of this. With Mithril's communications shut down, that self-reliance is going to help to make her more of Sousuke's equal as they try and navigate the world Amalgam is trying to create. Given that they're trying to rendezvous with Mithril's helicopter and have been surrounded by Amalgam in the meantime, this partnership is likely to kick into high gear next week. It's going to feel like a long seven days until we get to see what happens next.
Nearly 12 years have passed since the last new FMP animation, and 13 since the last series, and yet once this episode starts, it doesn't seem like anywhere near that much time has elapsed. There might be a new studio and a new director behind FMP, but these are the same characters that fans knew and loved from earlier versions, and not much time seems to have passed in their world since the events of The Second Raid. Any long-time fan should have no problem jumping right back in. Anyone who hasn't seen up through the The Second Raid will be utterly lost, so consulting our Beginner's Guide to Full Metal Panic! first is strongly recommended.
A more dramatic focus was promised with this new season, and the first episode makes that clear right from the start. Almost nothing in the episode – even the scene where Sousuke and Kaname hold hands while walking together – has any kind of playful feel to it, replaced by a tone of vague but escalating menace. We've seen the franchise get spirited before, and The Second Raid showed that it could take itself seriously. Now we get to see what it looks like when things get gritty.
That's a big part of what makes this first episode so great. As much as I've like the lighter elements of FMP, I've always thought that the franchise had an uncomfortable balancing act to execute between its serious and more lighthearted elements. Free of that burden, this first episode gets right to business by establishing that Amalgam's about to make a major move and then executing it. There's a few other interesting details in this process; I particularly liked how the outgoing Student Council President mentioned to Sousuke that he was aware something was up with Kaname, since a sharp fellow like him not catching on would have been incongruous eventually. The added detail that Kaname is getting nearly perfect scores in Math and Science now that her Whispered abilities are fully engaged is also a welcome tidbit. This new crisis that affects everyone in the organization and could put Kaname and Sousuke on the run has a lot of potential, and there are nice touches all around from Leonard's more prominent role to his long-awaited reunion with Tessa to Melissa Mao getting promoted. There's even a new lead antagonist, and thankfully he's not bat-shit crazy. (I got enough of Gates pretty quickly.)
The first episode looks great too. Character design updates are minor; they all look a little cleaner and a bit less cute for the girls, and the CGI has definitely improved. The musical score is the most obviously updated aspect, more low-key even when setting an ominous mood. Sadly, neither the new opener nor the new closer was included with this episode, but they did have a lot of ground to cover, so I can't complain. The only real question that remains is how the English dub is going to shake out when it begins on May 6th. Funimation farmed the dub of The Second Raid back to original distributor ADV, but it's anyone's guess how they will handle casting for a simuldub years later.
That concern aside, this is as promising a start to FMP's return as fans could hope for.
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