Full Metal Panic
Genre: Comedy, Action
Episodes: 26 episodes
Notes: Sequels: Full Metal Panic Fumoffu and Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid are reviewed separately.
Sousuke Sagara is an elite soldier/armslave operator under "Mithril," an independent military organization that fights terrorism around the world. He is assigned to protect Kaname Chidori, a high school girl with special knowledge of which even she is unaware. He goes undercover as a transfer student attending Kaname's school. While still trying to assimilate himself into civilian life, Chidori is kidnapped. Who wants her and why?
Animation was above average with good integration of computer graphics, but the mecha and character designs were not particularly inspired. The opening/ending themes and overall score and were also above average. Voices were quite good and distinctive and fit the characters well.
This series is a fairly interesting mix of school life comedy and mecha action. It's set in a modern, parallel world to our own where the Cold War has yet to end and secret governmental agencies play a large part in the world's affairs. It starts off as a school life romantic comedy with social misfit Sousuke Sagara, an elite soldier, assigned to protect Kaname Chidori, a popular teenager, without her knowledge. Then it becomes a mecha action anime as terrorists hijack a plane, kidnap, Chidori, etc.
Chidori is one of the "Whisper" who possess an inherent understanding of advanced "Black Technology" which was implanted genetically upon birth. An example of Black Technology is the "Lambda Driver" which allows pilots of high tech Arm Slaves (term for mecha in this series) to just use their imagination to operate and affect defensive and offensive maneuvers. That's the basis for the bad guys kidnapping Chidori. The main bad guy terrorist is Gauron (a long thought dead rival of Sagara) who is highly adept at utilizing the Lambda Driver.
Other characters include Kurz Weber, Sagara's teammate, a light hearted playboy, Melissa Mao, their tough second-in-command, and Teletha "Tessa" Testarossa, Sagara's (submarine) commander. The characters were likeable enough but only Sagara stands out. His deadpan expression as he blows up the school and takes drastic measures to protect Chidori is hilarious. Chidori is the typical goodhearted heroine with a bad temper who beats up on the guy for comic effect. At first she thinks he's a stalker and even later as she realizes his mission, his over protectiveness annoys her. Sagara is a good character with a childhood full of war and death so he is unable to fit into normal peaceful society, yielding comical situations rather than angst. The couple do come to understand each other as they're thrown together in one dangerous situation after another. Of course Sagara and Chidori actually like each other, but romance never develops. There is a love triangle of sorts involving Tessa but the romance angle is not developed.
The story goes back and forth between comedy romance and mecha action which makes it difficult to get into a rhythm while watching this series and confusing as to where the characters are as they travel to a number of different areas. Those who like comedy romance may be bored by the mecha part of it, which is more standard and less interesting with Sagara and his rival continually engaging in robot fights. Another weakness is how the backstory of the Whispers and Black Technology aren't fully explained.
This series works best as a comedy as Sagara tries to (not) fit into normal school life. Though it should be seen in order, it feels more like an episodic anime as it cuts back and forth from school to military life. Rated PG for violence and slight ecchi humor. Recommended for couples. Though this may sound sexist, the romantic comedy episodes should satisfy the women and the action episodes the men.