Hello 90s, I’ve missed you!
Time to review the first season of a crazy anime that most of the time just was so 90s it hurt, literally.
Full Metal Panic! (yes, there is an exclamation point in the title) is an absurd anime. It came out in 2002, but feels like it was made in 1995, and that is when it’s set, or thereabouts. The music, the plot, everything feels like it’s from 1995. The story is pretty absurd as well; there are people who are known as “whispered” who have knowledge trapped in their heads about amazing technologies beyond anything that could be imagined. So of course there are plenty of people who are after them and trying to unlock that knowledge. Mithril is a secretive mercenary organization that stops bad things, and is mainly focused on the drug trade, at least allegedly. They catch wind of a high school girl who is a target of these hunters who look for the whispered, and they send in a soldier to pretend that he’s a high school student to keep track of her and make sure nothing happens to her.
You can basically guess what happens from there. Sousuke, the soldier who’s sent to protect the high school girl, follows orders to the tee, and even though he’s been fighting for a long time, he’s still just a teenager. He’s put in charge of watching Kaname Chidori, a weird and fiercely independent girl who lives on her own. Since Sousuke is supposed to be on a secret mission, he has to try to follow her around without getting caught, but he takes his mission very seriously and ends up mistaking so many different things for threats. This leads to him and Kaname bumping heads, and causes many weird situations. However, when Kaname and the whole class are taken hostage by a bad guy who’s after her, Sousuke and Mithril are able to protect her, though not before her whispered memories are unlocked. Can they keep protecting her now? What’s going to happen to them? What other absurd situations will they get into? And in the most 90s way possible, will they fall in love?
This is just an odd anime. It has so many comedic moments and situations that makes it seem pretty light, but it goes to some oddly dark places at times. The main characters play off each other in many ways, the way Drax and Star-Lord do in Guardians of the Galaxy. Sousuke is very much the straight man who understands everything as a literal command, and has no idea how to interact with society or in normal situations because he’s been fighting his whole life. Kaname is a free spirit who does what she wants, and that combination is played for a laughs a lot.
It’s an anime that I would say is often less about the overarching plot, and more about the character development. How much or little does Kaname change when her whispered powers are unlocked? Will Sousuke ever be able to fit in properly and gain her trust? They do a solid job with the character development of the main two characters, and it’s interesting to see how they react to situations as time goes on. That’s what makes this anime pretty solid in my opinion.
Now, talking about gore, violence, adult situations, fanservice, and all of that fun stuff, what level is this anime for? It’s definitely a slightly more mature anime. It isn’t nearly as mature as Code Geass is, and the fanservice that there is, is always played for laughs, not sexuality. However, they are fairly often fighting various villains, and there is a fair amount of death and blood in the show. It also deals with some deep themes, especially when it comes to Sousuke and his past. It’s definitely well done in those areas, though.
So, with that said, would it be something that I’d recommend? I’m not sure — I don’t know that it has a very broad appeal. Simply because, as I have said, it’s so 90s it hurts. If you’re a 90s kid, it’ll be pretty funny, as you’ll see the 90s-ness come through in the effects, music, and situations. Just because of those things, it keeps it pretty light; however, if you aren’t into reliving the 90s and all the questioning of why you ever thought those things were cool, this anime is probably not for you. If you weren’t around in the 90s at all, probably skip it. It’s going to feel very dated — the effects are very outdated, and everything about this anime feels like it was made in the mid-90s, not in 2002.
Talking quickly about dubs versus subs: I watched it dubbed, and I tend to watch most anime dubbed, though the one I choose depends on what a series is set at for VRV streaming. I thought the dub was just fine, and Sousuke in particular worked very well dubbed. The dub will probably be easier for an English-speaking audience to relate to. Most of the voice acting in it is just okay, and a lot of it is pretty over-the-top. However, a lot of that is intentional because it’s meant to be very absurd with the 90’s motif. I’d probably recommend the dub in general, but if you go with the sub, you probably won’t have much of a different experience.
One last thing to talk about is the bad guy for the “mission.” Overall, I felt like he was a pretty weak bad guy. He was supposed to be more scary than he was, but he just kind of fell flat. He was cruel, and that was about it; you never really felt all that threatened by him or felt he had any greater objective than to just be the bad guy. If you’ve read my article on villains, you’ll know my thoughts on that. It helps that the show is really more about Sousuke and Kaname’s character development, but it felt like it was lacking in tension a lot of the time. Because of that, it has the drama of a sitcom in the wrappings of an action show a lot of the time. That does give it an odd feeling when the bad guy is just being cruel sometimes in his killing, as it doesn’t always match the overall tone, though it isn’t really ever not 90s.
Overall, this was a 90s anime. It was fun for that reason, and hard to watch at times for the same reason. There are more “missions,” or seasons, as they really would be. I’ll likely check them out later, and you might get separate reviews for those; however, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be about the same in terms of reviews. It’s fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The season itself is pretty short and can be watched as a stand-alone, which is nice. So if you want to sit down to some 90s fun, I’d say check it out.
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