by Rebecca Silverman,

Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory


Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory LE
After the events of The Second Raid, Sousuke and Kaname are trying to put their lives back together and to figure out their relationship, both afraid and shaken. Their calm days, however, are quickly brought to an end with the reappearance of Leonard Testarossa, who wants to take Kaname with him to Amalgam due to her status as a Whispered. When Kaname sees that as her only way to protect Sousuke and the others she cares about, Sousuke vows to find her and bring her home. But with Amalgam's attack on Mithril leaving him on his own, he's about to discover that he's no longer the child soldier he once was, and that Kaname has made him human.

Going into Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory with the same hopes and expectations that you watched the previous seasons is perhaps not a terrific idea. That's not to say that it isn't good, because it is – the fourth season very strongly develops Sousuke as he realizes that being with and falling for Kaname has reshaped him from the emotionless soldier he spent most of his life as and into a bona fide human being with all of the attendant fears and feelings. But that isn't a happy story and it has few places for lighter content, and the finale, which hopeful, isn't necessarily going to please all viewers, especially if they were raised on strictly happy endings.

The true strength here, though, is not in the finish, but in the process of getting there. As fathers have been telling us for ages, the object of climbing the mountain is not to reach the top, but to enjoy the climb along the way, and this is absolutely true of the series. The focus is almost entirely on Sousuke, with Kaname only present in the start and the finish (apparently her story will be told in the novel that follows the three adapted here), and while that's a bit of a disappointment, it allows us to see the subtle changes in Sousuke's personality and methodology. He's still very much the competent soldier he always was, but with Kaname's absence, we can see the cracks around his edges. He's more aware of the people he's working with, the goal he's working towards has more meaning to him than past objectives, and for perhaps the first time, he's truly doing something because he feels strongly about it, not because he was ordered to.

As you might guess, this is something of a double-edged sword. Emotional involvement can be a weakness in terms of objectivity and making sure that everything is done as cleanly as possible, and there are a few moments where Sousuke's newly-found softer feelings do get in the way of his work. This is primarily when he sees Nami, the young woman he finds work with as an AS operator in AS gladiator games, as a Kaname foil figure. That is a fair way to describe her, but there's a distinct feeling that Sousuke conflates the two girls at times, not in terms of his attraction to and feelings for Kaname, but rather as a symbol of what he's now fighting for. In reality, Nami is a bit more like Sousuke himself, the survivor of a war-torn region who got involved with ASes, albeit in a different way, but he's not able to make that connection because his emotions so consume his mind. Add to this the fact that with Amalgam's attack on Mithril's base he lost contact with them, and you have a Sousuke who feels he's now completely alone in the world. Mithril, however, it turns out he can live without, and he even stops describing himself as a soldier. Kaname, therefore, is his driving force, something almost unthinkable back when we first met him in the first season. And as much as this is a weakness for him at times, it's also ultimately his greatest hope, because there are clear indications that he believes that once he finds Kaname, everything will once more be okay, whatever “okay” turns out to mean.

While this is all very heavy and intense (and outright disturbing at times), the Limited Edition does come with some extras that help to make it a little easier to take. This takes the form of audio dramas on two CDs; while they are in Japanese (a shame for dub fans), an included booklet gives a full translation that's easy to read along with the voices. All of the dramas a light and silly, ranging from parodies of the show's content to a particularly fun one of only Sousuke still being in the 1990s while the rest of the cast has been progressed to the 2010s. This is not only great because of Sousuke's reactions to smartphones, streaming video, and in one case selfie sticks, but also because the main show itself keeps the narrative firmly rooted in the original time period the first season was set in, which is excellent for continuity purposes. While it does require having a CD player or a computer with a D drive (neither of which are really certainties as of this writing), the audio dramas are an absolute delight and a great addition to the box set. My only real complaint is that the translation booklet is stuck to the outside of the box, meaning that it doesn't fit smoothly in with the disc cases and artbook, and therefore runs the risk of being lost.

As we would hope from a limited edition, there are a good amount of other extras as well. The artbook is a small hardcover mixing basic character designs, illustrations, and mecha schematics, thus touching on most of the important bits of the show's visuals, and there's an entire disc of extras such as music videos, location-scouting footage, and songs. On-disc extras are the two recap episodes and two commentaries by the English cast and crew, which are about par for the course, although in the first the cast thanks the Greeks for the Roman numeral system, which is kind of entertaining. The box itself is the standard sturdy and decorated affair, although the matte finish does show fingerprints a bit too well.

Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory is a worthy successor to the previous seasons, managing to build on the characters while still remaining tonally and visually faithful to the franchise. The original voice casts for the most part return, and it's easy to forget how long it's been since we got a new season. Hopefully another will eventually be forthcoming (although it's worth mentioning that J-Novel Club is currently releasing the original novels with new translations, so we at least have that), because while the ending may not be to everyone's taste, it's hard to deny that the series itself is very well done.

Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : A-

+ Good fidelity to franchise and attention to detail. Emotional development for Sousuke is very well done, great extras.
Ending is a bit disappointing, no easy place to keep translation booklet in box. Crossbow looks disconcertingly like Baymax.

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Production Info:
Director: Katsuichi Nakayama
Series Composition: Shoji Gatoh
Script: Shoji Gatoh
Michio Fukuda
Yutaka Izubuchi
Kazuyoshi Katayama
Tomoki Kyoda
Naoki Matsuura
Katsuichi Nakayama
Masanori Nishii
Masami Obari
Naokatsu Tsuda
Hidetoshi Yoshida
Episode Director:
Masashi Abe
Yuuichirou Aoki
Hitomi Ezoe
Shige Fukase
Abe Masashi
Rei Nakahara
Katsuichi Nakayama
Kenta Onishi
Daisuke Tsukushi
Masayuki Yamada
Unit Director: Naoki Matsuura
Music: Toshihiko Sahashi
Original creator: Shoji Gatoh
Original Character Design: Shikidouji
Character Design: Osamu Horiuchi
Art Director: Ryouka Kinoshita
Chief Animation Director: Osamu Horiuchi
Mechanical design:
Kanetake Ebikawa
Toshiaki Ihara
Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka
Director of Photography: Hiroshi Inoue

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