Full Metal Panic! is based on a series of light novels written by Shoji Gatoh. The anime series was directed by Koichi Chigira and was produced by Gonzo. The 24 episodes of the anime series aired on Japanese television from January 8-June 18, 2002. There are three additional anime series, as well as an OVA, that are part of the franchise. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American distribution rights for Full Metal Panic!
Sousuke Sagara is a member of an anti-terrorist private military organization called Mithril. He is assigned to protect Kaname Chidori, a high school student who is a target for kidnappers. Sousuke goes undercover and transfers into Kaname’s school, and he is assigned to her class. He is backed up by his comrades, Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao. Unfortunately, due to not having experienced social interactions, Sousuke comes across as a military geek to his new classmates. He also tends to interpret everyday situations from a combat perspective. Even though Chidori comes to realize that Sousuke is protecting her, he doesn’t reveal the reason to her due to his orders. But as the series progresses, she learns the truth about what’s going on. And a romance angle develops as well. Chidori develops feelings for Sousuke, even though she keeps denying this fact to herself. Sousuke’s commanding officer, who is also a teenager herself, has feelings for him as well. So amongst the combat and mecha that’s highlighted in the show, there’s a love triangle thrown into the mix.
Full Metal Panic! starts out as a light-hearted series that focuses a little more on the comedic side. But as it progresses, the storytelling adds more dramatic elements… but the comedy never truly goes away. It just becomes less important over the course of the 24 episodes of the series. The relationships between characters feel genuine, and how those relationships evolve realistically. The relationship between Sousuke and Kaname is the most riveting.
I also appreciated the episodes that provided the audience with backstory for Sousuke. These episodes also took place when he wasn’t able to be around Kaname, so those episodes truly allowed him to shine as his own person. There were a couple of episodes in the series that felt like “filler” rather than doing anything to advance the story, but at least these “filler” episodes were few and far between.
The animation definitely looks like it came from the early 2000’s, though. It’s not bad for what it is, but it does look a little on the dated side. The character designs were well-done, with each character having a very distinctive look and feel to them. You can’t easily mistake one character for another.
Overall, I enjoyed the first Full Metal Panic! anime series. It’s something I would be willing to recommend to viewers who enjoy mecha and action, but also have an appreciation for character relationships and how those relationships evolve over time.