ADV Films // 2002 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 14th, 2004
"If I lose, I'll run a lap around the base naked." -- Melissa Mao
Almost every series experiences a lull from time to time, and Mission 04 is Full Metal Panic!'s. The episodes aren't necessarily bad, but they aren't cohesive and they don't drive the story forward. The net result is a feeling that the series has stagnated and can't figure out where to go with the premise.
Adding to the malaise is the decision to drop from four episodes per volume to three. This decision comes at a particularly bad time. The first two episodes are filler episodes, and the last one is the first part of a three-part side story. These factors combine to make Mission 04 the probable nadir of Full Metal Panic!. The worst part is it doesn't make any sense. Check my math:
Mission 01 (4 episodes) + Mission 02 (4) + Mission 03 (4) = 12 episodes
Mission 04 (3 episodes) + Mission 05 (3) + Mission 06 (3) + Mission 07 (3) = 12 episodes
It doesn't take a financial genius to see that the first half of the series is a much better value. It doesn't take a math whiz to see the solution, either: drop Mission 07 and add one episode to Missions 04-06, and you have yourself a neat and tidy six volumes of four episodes each. Makes sense, doesn't it? The rhythm of the episode breaks wouldn't be any worse than it is now.
* "A Cat and a Kitten's Rock and Roll"
After a long and stressful day, Tessa returns to her quarters to find that Mao has been waiting for her. For Mao, "waiting" means "drinking lots of beer and smoking lots of cigarettes, leaving the remnants all over Tessa's quarters," which upsets the image-conscious Captain. This unlikely visit (how exactly does a subordinate gain unfettered access to the Captain's quarters?) spirals into a showdown between the two women, with Sousuke caught in the middle.
It is unclear to me what purpose this episode serves. Is it an attempt to create a conflict or relationship between Tessa and Mao? If so, it is awkwardly introduced. Is it a chance to highlight Sousuke's military prowess? I don't see how, because all he does is watch Tessa repeatedly fall down in her Arm Slave. The confrontation is fudged, relying on the apprehension and pretense of battle rather than actually showing us what is happening. The best part about this episode is getting a look into Tessa's thoughts and finding some sexual tension between her and Sousuke. What's most bothersome about this episode is not what happens, but what doesn't happen. Tessa is presumably a whispered, so the series creators lost a golden opportunity to have her tap into unlocked resources in a dramatic exercise-turned-deadly. I'm also a bit resentful of the long buildup to a "run around the base naked" that doesn't take place. Not that I'm desperate to see nude anime gals running around; it is more that the episode continually referenced it and didn't capitalize on the gag in any way. The episode isn't bereft of entertainment value, it simply doesn't mesh well with the rest of Full Metal Panic!.
* "Is Narashino Burning?"
The above statement goes double for "Is Narashino Burning?." You could completely remove this episode from the series and never notice its absence. Sousuke accompanies Kaname, Shinji, and Mizuki to the Narashino Ground Self-Defense Force Post Festival to watch Shinji's father compete in an Arm Slave Olympics. Narashino squad perennially loses this competition to the visiting Nerima squad, which embarrasses Shinji. Yet his father's position as base secretary bothers Shinji more. Shinji's petulant behavior recalls an equally annoying but much more powerful "Shinji vs. father" dynamic from another anime mecha series. Kaname doesn't do much besides stew and attract the attention of the inane and annoying Nerima captain. Her distinct lack of substantive action highlights a sense of stagnation. The creators set Kaname up as a gifted mortal in mortal danger, and have since ignored what had been the main thrust of the series. To cap it all off, most of the kids wind up piloting Arm Slaves in the competition, which is a radical stretch of logic. If the previous episode seemed awkward, this one is downright clumsy.
* "The Wind that Blows at Home -- Part 1"
Finally, an episode that restores some hint of what Full Metal Panic! is about. Sousuke must return to his homeland to confront a nasty terrorist. The older team of soldiers traveling with him resents Sousuke's presence. The predominantly American squad is unlikable, and I found myself rooting for their demise. (It is unclear whether this was the response the writers intended.) Much of this episode is predictable, and the experienced soldiers are far too flippant to seem effective. Nonetheless, "The Wind that Blows at Home -- Part 1" manages to restore a sense that Full Metal Panic! is on track. The action is intense, the plot cohesive, and Sousuke has plenty to deal with. Just before the buzzer, we regain the desire to see what happens next.
Fortunately, Mission 04 maintains the high level of animation quality, giving us many moments of pure eye candy. The sound is still strong, with good voice acting from both Japanese and English casts. Unfortunately, the extras continue to mimic the extras from previous volumes. The dropped episodes in combination with the filler episodes make Mission 04 disappointing. But it is still Full Metal Panic!, which means it is a high functioning batch of filler. The court warns Full Metal Panic! to snap out of it and get back to the mayhem.
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, original language)
Running Time: 75 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
* DVD Verdict Review, Mission 02
* DVD Verdict Review, Mission 03