Assumed to be within the realms of action and romance, “Full Metal Panic!” seems more focused on comedy. While there are decently choreographed fight scenes between mecha (mechanical suits of robotic armor), a good 70 percent of the anime consists of situational humor and slapstick comedy.
The premise is firmly based in the running gag that the protagonist has been a soldier all his life, thus he has no basis for any semblance of civilian life. The narrative follows what is presumed to be his first undercover mission as a high school student and how he copes with this façade.
Most of the characters are developed yet somehow rather flat. All of the main characters have an established running gag, and that is about it. Characterization develops through comedy, not through character arcs. Not to say the character in “Full Metal Panic!” lack opportunities for change, but rather the narrative down plays their existence.
These arcs are only highlighted when drama must have presence on screen, but it is hard to be emotionally invested as the world building lacks suspense of belief. Furthermore, the backgrounds of these characters appear to conflict with themselves, clouding even the simple idea of ethnicity.
“Full Metal Panic!” happens in an alternate timeline, but nothing is explained as to how it differs from the historical timeline. Viewers can reason that the universe is simply placed in a distant future because there are no indications otherwise.
The existence of mecha technology passes off as normal until the story states that it defies natural technological progress. This plot thread is not explained or expanded until later. Many plot threads that would help suspend disbelief and develop the literary universe are forgotten.
“Full Metal Panic!” contains a good amount of comedy, even if it’s not the best paced or well set-up. The first episode had a terrible sense of awkward humor that had very poor pacing and callable punchlines, but the jokes are decently done. There are a few clever set-ups, but those are far and few between.
As the series progresses, the opening and closing become more endearing. Overall, the music is relatively decent but not very memorable. There are a few moments where the music conveyed more than dialogue or animation ever could.
As for the animation, this series was obviously a testing ground for numerous techniques that for the most part are adequately integrated. There are a few very jarring scenes., such as having a CGI coffee and milk mixing sequence in a traditionally animated teacup. The cinematography was fairly amateur for an anime, and the editing was good but awkward in some places.
Originally dubbed by ADV Films, “Full Metal Panic!” shows the pre-FUNIMATION vocal cast in a bad light due to the poor dialogue. A lot of the dialogue is oddly worded or delivered, probably as a result of the flaps, but with a better creative writing team, the amazing voices and character acting of Chris Patton [Sousuke Sagara], Luci Christian [Kaname Chidori] and Vic Mignonga [Kurt Webber] would have provided a better suspense of disbelief.
As a first time viewer, I definitely enjoyed “Full Metal Panic!,” but looking at it from an analytical standpoint, it falls pretty flat. “Full Metal Panic!” had by far one of the most painful first episodes; I could nearly call every line, and the jokes were just sad. After the first episode, it got better, not by much. The ending to the series has to be on my top ten lists for the most satisfying. As an anime, “Full Metal Panic!” is very entertaining, just do not expect for it to make a lot of sense or explore the diverse nature of humanity.
Kimberly Joy Ward