ADV Films // 2002 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 7th, 2004
"This should take priority over your own lives. We're the only ones in the world who can succeed in this mission!" -- Andrei Kalinin
Mission 01 of Full Metal Panic showed promise -- stellar animation, good music, interesting characters, and an entertaining mix of action and humor. The disc ended in a cliffhanger. Now we get to see whether Mission 02 can maintain the momentum generated by Mission 01.
Sergeant Sousuke Sagara breaks military protocol to rescue Kaname. This decision sets events into motion that reveal hidden truths about Kaname and the mysterious Black Technology. Kaname and Sousuke try to settle back into their familiar roles of protector and protectee, but the truth has forever altered their relationship.
After the impressive Mission 01 left me craving more, my anticipation for Mission 02 was fairly high. These next four episodes had every right to disappoint, given my lofty expectations. To my relief, Mission 02 continues the outstanding quality of the first four episodes and maintains the strong first impression.
Mission 01 set a strong precedent in terms of animation and visual style, and the four episodes of Mission 02 mostly continue the trend. I noticed flaws this time, such as periodic softness, minor anti-aliasing, and a handful of 3:2 pulldown errors. Nonetheless, most anime series have more flaws per episode than Full Metal Panic does per volume; the quality here is excellent. The visual style is simply amazing, with detailed characters and backgrounds, rich colors, and fluid action. Special effects (such as explosions, energy blasts, Whispered mental projections, and other oddities) elicit oohs and ahhs. As far as episodic anime television goes, I've never seen its equal. Full Metal Panic is about action, movement, and energy, and the animation reflects all these well. There were some moments of static imagery, but in general this is a feast of movement.
The soundtrack is particularly well suited to the action. It is always hard to describe music using words, but the track just feels right. Action is heightened and emotion is tempered by the music. The voice acting is great in both sub and dub. I'm rarely tempted to recommend the English vocal track, but this one is good enough to listen to. There are a few dropouts, which is disappointing given the relative quality of the soundtrack. Like the first volume, the 5.1 mix dramatically improves the action sequences. Watching in Japanese 2.0, you see Arm Slaves flying around and hear explosions. With the 5.1 track engaged, you duck to protect your head while you tremble at the bass-heavy aftershock of the explosions.
Given the superb technical quality, it's nice to have an interesting story to go along with it. Thus far Full Metal Panic is not overly deep, though Mission 02 had some moments of emotional connection. It still manages to balance action, romance, intrigue, and humor into a pleasing package. Sure, some of the elements are overplayed, and the characters tend to forget powerful moments from the recent past. There are definitely frustrating aspects to the story, where you want to reach through the screen and shake the characters. The rest of the story, however, compensates for these moments of frustration, giving us a relatively smooth path of escalating tension.
Specific notes on the individual episodes follow, but be warned -- they contain spoilers.
Sousuke manages to save Kaname from a makeshift lab, where a doctor is trying to find out if Kaname is a Whispered. Sousuke's actions betray his true nature, and Kaname begins to realize that Sousuke is more than just a military nut -- she knows for certain when he climbs into an Arm Slave. Tense action and the thrill that comes with the revelation of a secret identity power this episode. When Full Metal Panic does action, it goes all the way. This episode provides a fitting continuation of the tense hijacking scenario.
* "Still Alive"
Gauron injures Kurz in a dramatic confrontation against a silver Arm Slave piloted. Gauron's AS employs an unfathomable new technology that neither Kurz nor Sousuke have ever seen before. Kurz, Kaname, and Sousuke meet up and flee the battle on foot. It is only a matter of time before their demise at the hands of enemy patrols. Kaname and Sousuke have an emotional moment before Sousuke tries to sacrifice himself for her. But Kaname figures out a plan to save them all. This episode is lighter on action, but packs an emotional wallop. Kaname relents a bit and connects with Sousuke on a personal level for the first time. The episode also reveals two important plot points: Kaname is not helpless, and Gauron has some truly fearsome technology at his disposal.
* "Boy Meets Girl"
Full Metal Panic turns the expected on its head yet again. In the plotline we have come to expect from a show such as this, the heroine with strange powers only harnesses them at the end. She saves the world from annihilation through last-minute freakiness; we all know it is coming and it lacks suspense. But here we are a mere seven episodes in, and Kaname is unlocking secret information hidden inside of her mind. When Sousuke hops into his shiny new Arbalest to confront Gauron, Kaname helps him tap into the top secret Lambda Drivers and mount an AS assault like no other. This episode showcases Full Metal Panic's snazzy special effects. The melancholy ending is another fine example of this show's emotional range.
* "Part-Time Steady"
While not exactly a clunker, this episode is the first one to take us out of the flow of action and danger. Life returns to what passes for normal at Jindai High School. Kaname acts cool towards Sousuke, who again reveals his inability to function as a normal teenager. Sousuke's strong-arm tactics cause fellow student Mizuki Inaba to lose her boyfriend. She demands that Sousuke step in to pose as her boyfriend so she can save face while her friends visit. Sousuke's rigid behavior infuriates both Mizuki and Kaname, but jealousy gives Kaname an extra edge. This episode is played for comic relief, and it works somewhat well. I find it hard to believe that Kaname can return to her former self so readily in light of the experiences she's just had with Sousuke. For his part, Sousuke is unbelievably dense, yelling at people in movies for employing improper military tactics and such. This kind of overplaying has turned some people off from Full Metal Panic.
For all practical purposes, the extras in Mission 02 are the same as the ones in Mission 01. Nothing about these extras really distinguishes them. Full Metal Panic is a new series with a wide following, and some lesser series have managed to produce great extras. Surely there is something of interest available, aside from character sketches and credits?
Mission 02 is not quite as good as Mission 01, which is like saying that your banana split with whipped cream and syrup is missing a few sprinkles. The action and humor are both handled well, to say nothing of the fantastic visual style and impressive soundtrack. Full Metal Panic continues its march into classic status.
Sousuke is remanded to civilian anthropology training, while Kaname Chidori is ordered to take sensitivity training. GONZO Digimation and ADV are found innocent.
Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Reversible Cover
* Fold-Out Poster with Background Information
* Clean Opening and Closing Animations
* Production Sketches
* Japanese Piracy Warnings
* ADV Previews
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review, Mission 01