I am a big fan of the mecha genre, specifically the real robot sub-genre, which is why I’m such a big Gundam fan. However, Gundam isn’t the only mecha show I watch. In fact, just this past week I watched both the first and second season of Full Metal Panic. It may have a few supernatural elements to it, but at its core Full Metal Panic is a real mecha show and it’s one of the best that I’ve seen.
The story of Full Metal Panic is set in the near future of the late 2020's/2030's which in all honesty doesn’t really look any different than it does in real life right now with the exception of cloaking on helicopters and the mecha known as Arm Slaves. Sergeant Sosuke Sagara, a mercenary, is sent by his employer to guard a young girl named Kaname Chidori who is being targeted by an unknown organization.
Full Metal Panic is part mecha action show and part high school romantic comedy. Despite this really odd marriage of genres, it actually works out really well. The romance between Sosuke and Chidori is really good and the comedy is on point, relieving the stress and tension of the more serious mecha segments. There are also no dull characters in this show. All of them have their quirks that make them likable, even the main antagonist of the first season is a great character. The show overall is one of the better mecha series I’ve seen recently and that says a lot considering its age. Full Metal Panic is from the early 2000's, a time when showing nudity in anime was commonplace and wasn’t even treated like fanservice with special camera angles, it’s just there.
Full Metal Panic, for its age, isn’t half bad looking. Granted, it’s rough around the edges in some places like a lack of sound effects in a few areas or rain apparently not having an effect on clothing in this future. The Arm Slaves are the real highlight as a lot of attention to detail is paid there though the animation can look a little wonky sometimes. This is mostly fixed in the second season where everything is crisper. I will say that I was shocked to find that Kyoto Animation had a hand in Full Metal Panic. When you think of them you think of them as the people who make heartbreaking romance shows like Kanon and Clannad or the hilarious Haruhi Suzumiya and the beautiful Free, but here they are working on a mecha series. Of course, this is before all of that other stuff, but still seems strange.
I mentioned the sound effects problems earlier, but other than that I really didn’t have any problem with the sound design of the show. The English dub was actually pretty decent all things considered. There were a few voices that could get grating after a while, but most of the characters were voiced well enough that I didn’t care. The soundtrack is also pretty good if you can’t tell. I was always waiting for those really good tracks to come on because they set the mood really well.
Full Metal Panic is a forgotten gem of the early 2000's. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it except some of my mecha enthusiast buddies and even that was only recently which is why I even watched the show. But I’m glad I did because it’s really good like I can’t stress that enough. Granted, I haven’t watched the spin-off series Full Metal Panic Fumoffu which is, to my knowledge, more about the rom com than the mecha action and it’s non-canon(Correct me if I’m wrong.). However, I will definitely be watching the new season of Full Metal Panic that airs this fall, Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory, which is actually a bit shocking considering the second season, The Second Raid, aired in 2005. But hey, I’m not complaining about more Full Metal Panic goodness.