It’s probably no surprise that romantic comedies are among my least favourite genres in anime. The reason for that is that 90% of the bunch just looks way too damn much like each other, is too afraid to go beyond the usual genre tropes, and/or just plain lazy. Nevertheless, I definitely enjoy that remaining ten percent that manages to avoid these pitfalls. Full Metal Panic belongs to those 10%, and is another example of a Good Gonzo series.
Full Metal Panic is a story that combines this romantic comedy with futuristic military combat (mechas included), and it tells the story of a teen-aged army sergeant (Sousuke) who grew up as a child soldier that ends up protecting a not-so-regular high school girl (Chidori). These two really are the reason why you would want to watch this series: even though the series is seven years old by now, they’re still fresh and dynamic, and the relationship between the two of them really grows on you. Sousuke’s socially inept antics will delight any fan of deadpan humour, while Chidori herself quickly sets herself apart from all other overused tsunderes with her wit. The two shine in the comedic part with some fresh jokes, but they definitely impress the most when they get serious.
Overall, this series has made a good use of its airtime; it consists out of four arcs, which all serve their own purpose: the first arc serves as introduction, the second fleshes out, the third one provides background and in the fourth one everything comes together in a great climax. This series knows how to build up and finish off with an impact, though my one complaint is that the comedy and drama don’t try to mix at all: an episode is either focused at completely at comedy or completely at drama; there’s hardly any in between.
Full Metal Panic is a series that shines in the way it takes a bunch of cliches, and makes them actually believable. Mechas and romantic comedies have been done to death before, but in this series, it’s actually made plausible: the situations that the characters are thrusted in make quite a bit of sense. The military side of the story is fleshed out really well and the battles are pretty realistic for anime’s standards. And take the seemingly oddball character of Tessa: she’s a young girl who commands an entire crew of a hyper-modern submarine. Throughout the course of the season, you can and will be wondering why the heck she is at such a position. And yeah, while there is of course no way that this would ever happen, her actions at the end of the series will have you convinced that she at least deserved her position.
Unfortunately, there were cliches that even this series didn’t escape (I’m looking at you, walking-into-bathroom-naked) and the building up during the drama parts does take a bit of patience when everything is being set up because during these parts there isn’t a lot that is going to make you keep watching, but the climaxes will definitely deliver in the end. My biggest complaint is that the main villain lacks any sort of background whatsoever: he’s definitely one of he smarter vilains out there, but he could have become so much better if we actually KNEW WO HE WAS. There are a few annoying side-characters (I’m looking at you, Chidori’s classmates), but overall Full Metal Panic can boast a well developed main cast, and I’m interested to see what Kyoani could have added to their development when they took over the franchise.