With Full Metal Panic now nearing its climax, both the character development and action have been stepped up in this volume, resulting in a much more exciting and tension-filled few episodes.
After the tragic events of Sousuke’s blood-drenched mission in his home country, he is starting to feel the burden of expectation that his exceptional talent has afforded him.
Without so much as a few days rest, he has again been posted on a mission to kill Gauron. But this time, Sousuke’s close friends (and valued team-mates) Kurz and Mao are joining him.
Given Sousuke was the only survivor from his last encounter with Gauron; it seems he has more on his mind than being simply a professional mercenary.
After a largely forgettable first half of the Full Metal Panic series, the last five or six episodes have really given this sagging anime a much needed kick up the ass. It feels like FMP is finally discovering a right balance of comedy, drama and action without seeming like a thinly veiled attempt to generally appeal to everyone.
Funny then, that we start this volume with a classic anime convention, the token fan-service ‘bath house’ episode. You would assume, being set in a top secret submarine and all, such facilities just wouldn’t exist… However, it is quickly explained that the bath tub had been converted from a mecha cleaning tank. Convenient indeed– since this also gives us a chance to get a glimpse at the Sousuke of old and how he, Kurz and Mao ended up on the same fighting team. This is a fun, if slightly pointless episode, which has been produced to perhaps purely satisfy the fan boys. With the story now getting more serious, I assume this is one of the last opportunities we will get to see the cast in their (seemingly perpetual) care free poses.
It’s strange to think that we are as far into this series as EP21, yet several key explanations are lacking. The ‘Whispered’ are still only hinted at, with us basically knowing nothing more than what we learnt in the first five episodes. The same problem applies to Gauron himself; who the feck is he and how does he keep escaping the jaws of death? Maybe he’s just an evil Russian, predictably bent on causing havoc in the Western world?
There-in lies a big problem with Full Metal Panic, given there has been little-to-no character development so far, many of the earlier episodes are incredibly forgettable and perhaps even completely redundant.
All of this would be quite insignificant if the ‘central relationship’ between Sousuke and Chidori had evolved just a smidgen, but as it stands, we have seen little change in their attitudes towards each other; resulting in a confusing, frustrating couple of scenes.
Having said that, the last few episodes really have made an effort to change this tiring pattern; beginning with Sousuke’s traumatic mission to his homeland, character emotions are becoming notably more frayed and erratic. Episode 21 even contains a moment when Kurz isn’t displaying that cheesy grin of his.
Indeed, the reality of war seems to be hitting home and its affects are visibly seeping into many of the key personalities – no where is this more apparent than in Sousuke, who in these three episodes seems like a shadow of his dangerous, clinical self.
Also worth praising are the surprising action scenes, which have become notably more brutal and violent as the series progresses. Guns are fired and blood is spilled (especially in EP21), adding to the growing feeling that things are finally starting to get serious for the FMP crew.
The soundtrack continues to conjure up images of ‘the A-Team’, a TV show which bares more than a passing similarity to Full Metal Panic and its Mithril ‘mercenary force’. And no I’m not kidding, sucka’-fool!
Full Metal Panic #6 simply adds to that sinking feeling of impending doom. While nothing revelatory to the story is revealed, these episodes heap on the action and gosh darn it, we are even treated some decent character development too.
I find it frustrating we still know very little about Gauron (excluding the fact he is a ‘badass’), but I will let that slide for now, instead praising these episodes for consistently continuing the interesting new themes introduced to the series since Sousuke’s tragic visit “home’. FMP #6 contains nothing ground breaking, but remains an important volume for the overall story, leaving us on a rather painful cliff hanger.