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ADV Films presents
Full Metal Panic!: Mission.01 (2001)

"Yes! A high school girl taking a morning shower!"
- Sgt. Kurz Weber (Vic Mignogna/Miki Shin'ichirou)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 24, 2003

Stars: Tomokazu Saki, Chris Patton, Satsuki Yukino, Luci Christian, Shin'ichirou Miki, Vic Mignogna, Michiko Neya, Allison Keith, Hilary Haag
Other Stars: Yukana, Monica Rial, Mike Kleinhenz, Mike MacRae, Andy McAvin, Greg Ayres, Ootsuka Akio, Tanaka Masahiko, Kimura Ikue, Noto Mamiko, Natsuki Rio
Director: Koichi Chigira

Manufacturer: M.O.F.C.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild sexuality, mild language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: June 10, 2003
UPC: 702727061622
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BB+A- B-

DVD Review

When you're out of your element, you sometimes cower in the knowledgeable shadow of the de facto master. In this case, that master is dOc's own Jeff Ulmer, our unadulterated resident anime buff, and when I found myself in possession of the first four episodes of Full Metal Panic! to review, I literally pissed in my boots. My knowledge of Japanese animation has been heretofore limited to My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away (ok, I confess to being a Miyazaki fan), and of course Katsuhiro Ôtomo's Akira. Did I mention Speed Racer? But that's about where my exposure ends, though Voices of a Distant Star has somehow found its way onto my "want" list.

I know that Full Metal Panic! is a Japanese television series, and each episode runs a little over 22 minutes. Not much to go on, is it? Ignorance is supposed to be bliss, and when I popped Mission.01 into my player, I didn't really know what to expect. The first episode (The Guy I Kinda Like is a Sergeant) was unlike anything I might have anticipated, in terms of mood and tone, and it took me a few moments to get my anime "sea legs" working properly. The casual, ever-present sexuality is way upfront in the first two installments, which feature a high school girls' locker room scene, a teenage girl's shower, and more than a few so-called "swirling dress panty shots". There's no outright animated nudity, but the level of implied female sexuality seemed more than a bit unusual at first.

The basic premise, as I slowly gathered, concerns an elite group (is there any other kind?) of secret mercenaries called Mithril, who apparently operate out of a high-tech, heavily armed submarine called the Tuatha de Danaan. A trio of young mercs, and their M-9 Arm Slave (it looks like one of those hulking, two-legged Mech Warrior things, with the power of invisibility) are assigned what seems like a fairly routine mission to protect a blue-haired high school girl named Kaname Chidori (Satsuki Yukino/Luci Christian), though the reason the girl needs protection is not given. At least right away. The team consists of 1st Sgt. Melissa Mao (Michiko Neya/Allison Keith), Sgt. Kurz Weber (Shin'ichirou Miki/Vic Mignogna) and Sgt. Sousuke Sagara (Tomokazu Saki/Chris Patton), and Sagara is given the task (or is that indignity?) of enrolling as a high school student in order to keep closer tabs on Kaname.

The "overly rigid mercenary in high school" angle is what the first two episodes work pretty hard for laughs, and I'll admit that element of the storyline took me by surprise. Sagara is portrayed as being totally out of his league (to say nothing of being nearly inept) in high school, and the development of a predictable romance between Kaname and her protector plays out as one would expect it to happen in a feature film where the tough guy actor has to keep an eye on a ditzy free-spirited ward.

The narrative, however, changes quite a bit during Episodes Three and Four, where the storyline gets much, much darker. I'll admit this is where I really sat up and realized I was hooked. There are veiled hints about people known as The Whispered, and I was never fully certain what they were supposed to be, but it had a psychic feel to it. A nasty KGB agent named Gauron has his sights set on Kaname, and large-scale violence by both good guys and bad guys becomes much more prevalent, including a full-scale cruise missile attack on a suspected drug base, a hijacking, cold-blooded murder and an airport shootout.

The visual look of Full Metal Panic! has moments of surprising beauty, but the fluidity of the animation is inconsistent across the four episodes, though I trust as a comic book (where static pen and ink drawings didn't rely on movement) this series must have come across exceptionally well. Director Koichi Chigira employs some clever POV shots, and the blending of CG and traditional animation in a few sequences manages to lend a richer bite to some of the action.

Full Metal Panic!: Mission.01 covers just the first four episodes of the series, and be forewarned that this set ends without coming close to resolving anything.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer is full of bright, saturated colors that reveal consistently strong image detail and depth, along side solid black levels. The blend of CG and traditional animation looks seamless, and the transfer doesn't reveal any distracting source flaws or artifacts.

Solid.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Japaneseyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: While the original Japanese dialogue is available in a rather plain jane 2.0 surround offering (along with an English track), the gem of this disc is the terrific 5.1 English dub. Purist issues aside, the track is stacked with a number of well-placed discreet rear channel cues (check out the gunshots and far-off voices during the big airport sequence in Episode Four) as well as some pleasing imaging with regard to placement of voices as action and characters move across the screen. Presentation is very clear throughout, making this a treat to listen to.

Excellent.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Spectral Force, Voices of a Distant Star, Noir, Rahxephon, Steam Detectives, Genesis Climber Mospeada
Packaging: Unknown
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Clean Opening
  2. Clean Closing
  3. Production Sketches
  4. Japanese Piracy Warning
Extras Review: I understand there are a couple of available packagings of the first four episodes, one of which includes a T-shirt and foldout posters, while another is a more elaborate box set. The version I had to review came in a plain manilla envelope marked "Confidential," and includes a batch of top secret documents, dossiers and photos (some of which are seen in Episode One), with the disc itself housed in a simple thinline CD case.

The Clean Opening and Clean Closing are simply the (duh!) opening and closing sequences, minus the credits. The fact that it has been utterly impossible to get either of those two songs out of my head makes it difficult for me to completely downplay its inclusion here. (I'm singing them now, in my head....)

Production Sketches (01m:31s) is an automated peek at a handful of character drawings. Also provided are a number of anime trailers, along with the humorous Japanese Piracy Warning, which is similar to the Americanized one that opens this disc.

Each of the four episodes on this set are cut into 5 chapters, and are available with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

I think I'm getting the anime bug, thanks to Full Metal Panic!: Mission.01. Just what I need. And "no" Jeff, I'm not trying to horn in on your territory. The first four episodes that make up this set have really only whet my appetite to see how everything shakes out, and considering Episode Four ends understandably with a colossal cliffhanger I'm chomping at the bit for the followups in the series.

Not being a true anime fan, I can't vouch for how well this compares to other genre titles, but as a relative novice I found it to be unexpectedly exciting and entertaining overall.

 


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