While waiting for the next disc of Last Exile, we started watching Full Metal Panic. I’ve watched the first two discs, and so far I’m pretty happy with it.
Kaname Chidori is a high school girl who is somehow connected to the plans of the bad guys. They need her for some reason that would take too long to explain, even if I understood it. So they mean to kidnap her.
Mithril (the goods guys) finds out about this beforehand, and so they send a team of three agents to protect her in secret. One will keep tabs on her via spying. Another remains on standby in a nearby Arm Slave (a mecha) just in case, and the third attends high school with her to provide direct protection.
Kaname is the biggest flaw of the series for me. We’re supposed to empathise with her, and so far I don’t. She may grow into an interesting character as the story moves along. We’ll see. Right now she seems pretty shallow and self-absorbed, and I feel like the show expects me to care about her a lot more than I do. I like all of Kaname’s classmates better than I like Kaname herself.
Sousuke Sagura is the agent sent to protect her and act as a bodyguard, although he’s not allowed to tell her anything. As far as she knows, he’s just a creepy kid who follows her around. This makes for some humorous tension in the first few episodes.
I love Sousuke’s attitude. He’s quite stoic and serious, and has no idea how to act like a normal teenager. Seeing this practical, diciplined soldier try to pass himself off as a normal kid is pretty funny. He has to pretend to take an interest in the world of school exams and pop music. He’s terrible at it, and so he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Andrey Kalinin is my favorite character. He’s the XO aboard the secret submarine that acts as a base of operations for Mithril. He’s a pretty realistic depiction of what an XO should be like, which is really amazing given that anime rarely has realistic military characters. He makes tough choices, even when it means sacrificing his men. He doesn’t do so because he’s cruel or arrogant, but because he also has the mission objectives and the rest of the crew to think about. He’s not heartless, just firm and resolute. He supports his captain’s decisions, even when he might disagree in private. He does so without angst and shouting. I don’t think his beard is regulation, though.
Testarossa Theresa is the kind is military character I’m used to seeing in anime: Far too young for her post, overly sentimental, showing doubt and conflict in front of her crew, lacking in technical knowledge, and generally not at all the type of person you’d put in charge of the most advanced submarine in the world. Sub captains – particularly ones who see a lot of conflict – are usually hard-nosed men of steely resolve, not soft-spoken doe-eyed teenage girls.
There may be some sort of explanation for why she’s in this position, which might be related to why the bad guys are after Kaname. I can’t say at this point. Either way, she’s an interesting character. I like how she messes around with her braids when she’s anxious.
Gauron is the main bad guy so far. Sometimes – just for a second – I’ll look at him and think he looks a bit like a younger, more muscular Jack Nicholson. In the dub he even sounds like Jack. He’s kind of cool, and seems to have a real plan aside from “be an evil jerk”, although it should be noted that he IS an evil jerk. This guy isn’t Antonio Salieri. Heck, he’s not even Anakin Skywalker, but he’s not a cardboard villian either.
At the end of disc two they made it look like Sousuke killed him, but I’ve been around long enough to know that the villain doesn’t die in the first act, and that when he does die, we see it happen. Bad guys who seem to die in explosions aren’t really dead, so I’m not falling for it.
But the real star of the show is the Arm Slaves. Here is a paradox for me: I really like giant robots. I love seeing them in action. I think they look cool and the kid in me wishes he could jump into one of these things and brawl around the city with the bad guys. However, I can’t stand the story or characters for most mecha series. They are usually built around a nonsense plot with angst-driven characters who spend the whole show SHOUTING AT THEMSELVES AND EACH OTHER. Bah.
So Full Metal Panic is pretty fun for me. It lets me get my mecha fix without making me suffer through too much angst and stupidity. It has some great characters. I’m looking forward to the next disc, although I won’t see it until I’m done with Last Exile.
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