Last updated August 26, 2006.
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August 31, 2003: beat me badly to the punch, but you know that maxim about sequels not being as good as their originals? Well, it doesn't apply to the second season of Full Metal Panic! A.K.A. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. Only one episode (consisting of two independent 12-minute shorts a la Galaxy Angel) has aired so far, but FMP2 is, ahem, "badical."

Sagara and Chidori
Sagara and Chidori

This single episode of Full Metal Panic? is easily—EASILY—far and away better than anything the original Full Metal Panic! had to offer. The simple reason being is that the first episode focused entirely on the wacky antics and excellent chemistry of the tempestuous Kaname Chidori and the fish-out-of-water Souske Sagara. There's no stupid military plot involving the incredibly annoying Gaul or those Godawfully ugly and/or silly looking mecha. A brief digression here:  It is possible to have an excellent show despite the presense of silly looking mecha, as Gundam SEED handily demonstrates.

I didn't hate the original Full Metal Panic!, but like many people, I thought it should have focused more on the stuff at school and the likable protagonists' interactions with each other instead of the rather unremarkable plot and stupidly uncharismatic villains. Full Metal Panic 2, on the other hand, is essentially everything I've ever hoped for Love Eva.

Chidori and Sagara
Chidori and Sagara

For those of you curious as to which fansubbers' version to watch, thus far, I've compared the fansubs by aozora, A-F & AF, and Anime-Keep. They were all pretty good. I liked aozora's font the best, but aozora's subtitles had one awkward part where it wasn't quite clear that the woman in Sagara's apartment building had sprayed him with insecticide instead of spraying the cockroach that had made her scream in the first place.

A-F & AF's version was encoded at a lower resolution. Also their translation did not use the word suplex, which is understandable assuming the members of that group are not familiar with professional wrestling moves.

I suppose Anime-Keep was the best overall, but they had the worst font of the three. So it's pretty much a toss-up with these three groups. However, I still recommend avoiding anything by AnimeJunkies, though, since their translations and quality control still fall notably short compared to that of just about everybody else.

Incidentally, no still screencap can adequately demonstrate the frenetic energy and movement in Full Metal Panic? Much of the comedy in the show is physical and/or consists of sight gags that work because the timing is spot-on.

One additional note:  It seems clear to me that this is not a sequel to the original Full Metal Panic!, but rather a stand-alone series based on the original characters—hence my earlier comparison with Love Eva.

December 17, 2005: Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid

I caught up with Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. I must say it was a pretty good sequel.

I enjoyed the original Full Metal Panic!, although I felt the series lost its way after the sixth or seventh episode. That would be pretty damning had those early episodes not been so good. Thankfully they had a great balance of comedy and action that carried the rest of the season.

Chidori and Sagara
Chidori and Sousuke.

The second season, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, was perfection. By focusing excusively on the comedic elements, Fumoffu raised the bar as to what sequels could accomplish. Probably not coincidentally, Fumoffu-type twists have been copied by other noteworthy shows/sequels such as Akane Maniax and, of course, Futakoi Alternative.

The third season, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, had a tough act to follow. Although it did not neglect the comedic elements of the series entirely, it did focus heavily on the dramatic and combative elements. This it did quite well, with engaging action scenes and some interesting scoundrels as antagonists.

It also helped that The Second Raid was only 13 episodes long, as it kept the storyline tighter. In fact, I felt the series was too short, and that the comedic elements and love story could have benefitted from more attention. The relationship story seemed rather short-changed to me at the end, but I'd rather be left wanting more than have something bungled up, any day.

Tessa gets mad.

I liked the attention to detail that went into the series. There was some great-looking animation throughout, particularly in some of they key battle sequences; the military protocol and courtesies depicted seemed accurate (certainly enough so for a fictitious organization); the English on-screen text was good—not the typical Engrish comedy found in most anime; and Chinese characters spoke Chinese.

The dramatic intensity level was also much higher than the first season. There were some gory bits and several disturbing moments throughout The Second Raid. This Full Metal Panic is definitely for older viewers than the first two seasons.

The best episode was number six, the haircut episode. The tone of the first half of the episode captured the comedy and charm of the early first-season episodes and Fumoffu. However, I was most impressed with the tenderness and quiet moments between Chidori and Sagara in the episode's second half.

Sousuke and Chidori
Sousuke and Chidori share a quiet moment together.

I would be quite happy to see another season of Full Metal Panic deeper explore the romantic possibilities expressed in this episode. To my knowledge, no fourth season has yet been planned, but I remain hopeful that we may see one someday if there is enough demand for it. The ending of The Second Raid does leave the option open.

Speaking of which, I was quite glad that the ending addressed one of the most troubling aspects of the first season. That was good to see.

August 11, 2006: Full Metal Panic!

Tessa is unhappy.

I re-watched all of the original Full Metal Panic! a month or two ago. It was the first time I had seen more than one or two episodes from the original series since I first watched it fansubbed years ago. This time around, I found the original Full Metal Panic! series as a whole to be much better than I had remembered.

Most significantly, I liked the later episodes much better—Gauron and all. Originally I was pretty disappointed with everthing after episode six or so.

Shinji and Sagara
Shinji and Sagara.

One thing I noticed, though, is that while I had liked the tournament episode originally (mostly because it broke up what felt like a long string of tedium at the time), I didn't care for the episode this time around, and I really felt that Mamiko Noto sounded way too feminine. They really should have just made Shinji a girl.

Conclusion: The DVDs are totally worth the $50 I paid for the thinpak.

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