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Full Metal Panic!: Season 1(TV) (2002)
Sousuke Sagara, a seventeen year old military specialist working for the secret organization MITHRIL, has been assigned to protect the latest "Whispered" candidate Kaname Chidori. To complete this task Sousuke will have to deal with enemies from his past as well as the occasional panty thief. Unfortunately for Sousuke, the toughest part of his mission isn't only protecting Miss Chidori but also getting used to living an average High School students life, no easy task for someone raised on the battlefield.
For more about Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 and the Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray release, see Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on October 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tomokazu Seki, Satsuki Yukino, Akio ďtsuka, Shinichir˘ Miki, Michiko Neya, Masahiko Tanaka
Director: K˘ichi Chigira
» See full cast & crew
Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray Review
Though it's far from an ageless classic, Full Metal Panic still offers an entertaining experience.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, October 22, 2010
Continuing with their onslaught of newly released anime series on the Blu-ray format, Funimation dug deep this time to bring fans the original 24 episode series of Full Metal Panic, remastered (upscaled) in high definition, and delivered in the native 4:3 aspect ratio of its original broadcast. Though it may seem a bit odd to find the initial series hitting the Blu-ray format more than a year after the sequel danced into our high definition collections, I can understand the choice to wait on this release until fans accepted the idea of double-dipping on titles that don't offer an extreme visual upgrade. Despite such worries, many of the Blu-ray series offered by Funimation have hit a price point that often falls at or below the current asking price for these series on DVD, so despite the occasional modest returns for those of us considering a double dip, I rarely feel as if we're being taken to the cleaners. That doesn't mean we should all run out and sell our DVD box set of Full Metal Panic now that a Blu-ray version has emerged, but if you're a format purist like myself, the prospect doesn't seem altogether painful.
Set in a modern day timeline that parallels our own in a number of ways, Full Metal Panic focuses on the adventures of a mercenary group known as Mithril, who accept various anti-terrorism missions that span the globe. Within this group, we're introduced to a young Arm Slave (robotic suit) pilot named Sousuke Sagara and a rag-tag ensemble of fellow mercenaries. Assigned to protect 16-year-old Kaname Chidori from rival organizations who are aware of her unique ability to understand Black Technology, Sousuke enrolls as a fellow student at her local high school in an effort to keep tabs on the gifted girl. Socially stunted and incapable of interpreting signs from the opposite sex, Sousuke struggles initially to fit in with the other student and disguise his frequent encounters with the female target of his mission. However, it soon becomes impossible for Mithril to remain in the shadows without letting Kaname in on her significant role in shaping the future of technological advances, and the truth behind Sousuke's status as her protector. Meanwhile, a mysterious terrorist named Gauron sets his sights on the gifts in Kaname's possession and plans to use her for his own evil intentions. Before all is said and done the world will be brought to the brink of war, and the strength of a budding romance will be tested around every corner.
Considering it's been several years since my first viewing of Full Metal Panic, I forgot how slow the series takes to develop into a rousing action-adventure. During the initial four episodes, the majority of the focus remains on Sousuke's struggles to fit in at Kaname's high school, with abundant comedy strewn throughout. Matters change somewhat when Gauron first emerges on the scene (ushering in several violent encounters), but up through episode fourteen there's a definite light-hearted feel to the multiple story arch's. While I don't typically enjoy the "fish out of water" comedy that's often found in anime depictions of young relationships, this is one instance where it works better than normal. For example, the early episodes of the series provide a necessary character-building element that establishes an effective foundation for the meaty portion of the series. Unfortunately, this also means you'll have to wait a little while for the pacing of the show to hit its stride, forcing fans of action-oriented anime to show a little patience.
Regarding the episode to episode structure of the series, we're given a nice mix between self-contained storylines and the core underlying plot (which eventually becomes the driving force of the final act). As mentioned in the synopsis, the plotline of most interest involves a well-connected terrorist in possession of an advanced armored suit. Though the weapons at his disposal already appear to incorporate a healthy dose of Black Technology, his goal appears to be the acquisition of individuals gifted with Whispered abilities, which explains his ongoing pursuit of Kaname. As the story moves forward, his ultimate gameplan becomes clearer and clearer, eventually leading to a showdown in the final two episodes, making the entire affair more than worthwhile.
Beyond the strengths in the overall story arch involving Gauron, Full Metal Panic rises above the masses by offering the audience a healthy dose of heartfelt emotional attachment with its characters. Unlike some of the average anime productions out there, each character in the series has a unique personality to accompany the personal crusade they must overcome. Some are fleshed out in more detail (Sousuke, Kaname), while others are relegated to supporting roles, but the interactions between each character form an effective framework to keep the audience interested. I suppose that also explains why two follow-up productions were eventually green-lit, since most fans couldn't wait to revisit the familiar faces from the first series.
Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (in the original aspect ratio of 4:3), Full Metal Panic looks about as good as anyone expected going in. The series was initially released in 2002, so we're witnessing a production that wasn't created with a focus on high definition visuals. What that translates into is a Blu-ray experience that demonstrates increased stability over the prior DVD version (reduced banding, aliasing, and other transfer specific anomalies), but rarely offers much improvement in the precision of lines or a reduction in haziness. Thankfully, the series never looked overly weak in the first place, so most scenes still offer average detail levels, though those looking for a significant overhaul will likely feel underwhelmed. On the positive front, we have a boost in the richness of the color scheme throughout the series, which seemed a bit muted on the prior DVD box set. Additionally, black levels and contrast appear consistent and well defined in all but a handful of scenes, adding to the depth of the predominantly hand-drawn animation.
In summary, Full Metal Panic won't knock your socks off with tremendous visuals, but for non-HD source material there's little to complain about.
Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with most Funimation offerings, Full Metal Panic includes a lossless English 5.1 offering, and a Japanese 2.0 offering. Switching back and forth between the native language mix and the dubbed version, I failed to notice much difference in the level of surround separation, leaving almost every element firmly entrenched in the front sound stage. While this may be disappointing to most audiophiles, it makes it much easier for most of us to justify a decision to stick with the better of the two tracks (I always tend to prefer the original rather than the dubbed option, despite the impressive voice talent utilized by FUNimation). Getting down to the particulars of the lossless upgrade, the show contains a reasonable level of clarity, but never reaches the robust heights of more recent productions. This is most apparent in the LFE elements throughout the series, which provide only average bass response during the more intense moments of the storyline.
Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Koichi Chigira x Shouji Gatou Special Interview (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 23:22 min): Filmed in a Japanese cafÚ in 2008, this interview session stars the director of the anime series, the writer of the original Full Metal Panic story, and features producer Atsushi Ito as the interviewer. Overall, this is a candid assessment of the production history from three men with intricate involvement along the entire creative process, but there are times when the choppy editing of the supplement tends to create confusion (presented in Japanese with English subtitles).
Piracy Warnings (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 8:23 min): Each of the main characters from the series present a brief warning to anyone considering pirating the production.
Rounding out the extras, we have original TV spots (480p), textless opening and closing songs (1080p), and various trailers for other Funimation titles.
Full Metal Panic!: Season 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
On the surface, Full Metal Panic may seem like yet another mobile suit series with rival military factions engaged in constant conflict. However, dig a little deeper and you'll find a funny, action-packed experience with characters worth revisiting on multiple occasions. From a technical standpoint, the Blu-ray version offers a minimal upgrade over the prior DVD box set, but should still stand as the preferred choice for those who don't currently own the series in any prior iteration. For all others, the decision boils down to your level of dedication to remaining a format purist, which could vary wildly among anime enthusiasts.
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