The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid

Title: Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Kyoto Animation/WOWOW
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 14 Jul 2005 – 20 Oct 2005

Synopsis: A few months after the hijacking of the Tuatha de Danaan, life is normal for Sagara Sousuke and Chidori Kaname. Well, that is between Sousuke’s constant absence from school and his duty guarding Kaname as he undertakes missions such as recovering hostages in the Republic of Balic or capturing traitors harbored by the Sicilian mafia. Sousuke must balance the responsibilities of guarding Kaname while attending school and piloting the Arbalest, both of which are proving stressful for the young soldier. Truly, life is normal.

The Highlights
Animation: Rich and easy on the eyes; a visual feast.
Music: Compliments the atmosphere in every scene.
Characters: Amazing amount of development in the characters we’ve come to know.
Plot: Well paced and with some huge twists.
Ending: The weakest part of the series.

The first Full Metal Panic!(1,2) series was a decent action series, nothing special, but an entertaining watch, nonetheless. In many ways, the Gonzo series was probably most remembered for its comedic spice: something that was amplified by several orders of magnitude in the Fumoffu side series. The Second Raid concentrates more on being a war drama and character analysis than its predecessor, resulting in a series that is superior in almost every aspect.

Kyoto Animation’s vibrant and fluid animation is slowly establishing their reputation among the best in the business and was apparent here again. But, the animation was only one working part in the visual feast served to the audience in TSR. Cinematography and directing worked wonderfully to create the right atmosphere in almost every scene. A subtle, yet profound soundtrack complemented this atmosphere perfectly. Also expect to be impressed by the brilliant choreography that electrifies every action sequence.

But, what made TSR a truly special series, above and beyond what I ever could have anticipated was not its aesthetics. While the first FMP! was a war action series, TSR resembles more a war drama. Almost every single episode was highlighted by numerous fascinating character interactions, many of which were augmented by some topnotch dialogue. The story intimately explores both its leads as they struggle through personal hardships. This highlights a difference between TSR and the first FMP!, where the characters merely struggled against an enemy. The consequence is that the characters are far easier to sympathize with in this series. The plot is fast paced, with a number of monster twists – one of which in the penultimate episode had me gasping at the screen. Ironically, it was this very plot twist that tied together several of the loose ends in the story, making TSR a self-consistent work. But, TSR isn’t standalone, and does require a working knowledge of the first series to be appreciated.

For all its excellence, a few minor flaws sees TSR fall short of perfection. Mr. Gates, though one of the more eccentric villains in anime, exists in a role more than as a defining character. I would have also liked to have seen more of the merciless Xia twins. Without giving too much away, there did exist one significant loose end surrounding one of the antagonists who didn’t take part in the final battle. On the topic of the finale, I was disappointed that the last episode took such a different attitude to the rest of the series. Considering the struggle the characters went through, the ending was too nice, and felt somewhat rushed. I suppose, after all, FMP! is less a set of series, and more a franchise, which is likely often going to compromise the endings of the (inevitable) future FMP! series, since the possibility of a sequel must always exist.

I look at all the FMP! series in a different light after seeing TSR. Its plot enlarges the entire story told so far. Its aesthetics blazes a new and better direction that future FMP! series would be foolish not to follow. But, most importantly, its characters are enriched by the hardships they experienced here. I can understand people not taking a liking to Sagara and Chidori before watching TSR. I can’t, after.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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