Full Metal Panic. Various governments are searching for Whispered Children, who are said to subconsciously be in possession of secret plans for revolutionary machines which far surpass the abilities of the current technology and even seem to defy physics.
One such Whispered Child is Kaname Chidori, a beautiful 16 year-old high school student with a quick temper to match. "The most beautiful girl you'd never date," as it is said in the series. Sousuke Sagara, also 16 years old, is an agent of Mithril sent to watch over Kaname to ensure her safety. Mithril is an independant military group which seeks to prevent the dangerous black technology hidden within the Whispered Children from falling into the wrong hands. Sousuke himself is already a veteran of guerilla warfare in his homeland, and has been working for Mithril for several years honing his skills. The problem is, even though he means well, Sousuke's exuberance usually lands him in serious trouble of his own creation. This is especially true as he is following Kaname all over school, trying to protect her from perceived foes while doing much more damage to the school himself than any terrorist group could hope to accomplish. He also is a skilled AS pilot. AS means Arm Slave, which is what the robots are called that the members of Sousuke's squad pilots. In this task of protecting Kaname, he is frequently joined by Melissa Mao, his outgoing squad leader, and Kurz Weber, also a member of the squad who is a talented marksman. The main focus of the series is Mithril's, and primarily Sousuke's, task of protecting Kaname and keeping her from falling into the hands of their enemy, Gauron.
The visuals on this show are very well done. A number of scenes, such as those including Mithril's submarine, the Tuatha de Danaan, are very well done using CG. The fight sequences between the AS units are excellent as well. But what I love most here are the character designs. It's sort of hard to describe, but just by looking at Kaname and Tessa (Teletha Testarossa, the captain of the Tuatha de Danaan), you can see in how their faces are done that the style is slightly different and, to me, more appealing.
I decided to downgrade the story to B, though I did struggle with this a bit. A few key elements of the story, such as the origin and purpose of the Whispered Children, were unfortunately not addressed in the show at all. It would have been nice to have some more background information and development on several of the characters as well, including Kaname and Tessa. Really, only Sousuke has a very strong characterization and development. For Kaname, we can see who she is through her actions, but in spite of that we get very little background info here. My thought on this is the creators did not want to get into the how and why of the Whispered Children, and since both Kaname and Tessa are among the Whispered, we are denied details of the pasts. All in all though, the story flows well. Mainly the series consists of arcs which have been linked together by interludes that highlight their school life, so things move fast at times, but slower at others to balance it out. Not that school life can be called slow or unexciting when Sousuke is involved.
There was some excellent voice acting done in this series. The prolific and talented Tomokazu Seki portrays the voice of the main charactere Sousuke Sagara, and Satsuki Yukino acts as the voice of the female lead, Kaname Chidori. Both of these VAs are among my favorites, in part because of the great performances they turned in for Full Metal Panic. Other notable performances here are Shinichirou Miki (all-purpose bishounen voice actor) as Kurz Weber, and Akio Ohtsuka who does an excellent job as Major Kalinin, one of the commanders of Mithril.
The music in the series was decent, but not particularly noteworthy. I liked the opening and ending, but the background music failed to catch my attention in most cases. It supported the action well, but did little to expand upon it.
Overall this is one of my favorite series, despite the less than superior marks I have given some aspects. It's a very unusual series, in one sense, because it combines a high school comedy with a mecha show. I enjoyed both aspects, even though mecha is not always my cup of tea. There is a fair amount of humor to the show, such as Tessa pretending she is Sousuke's girlfriend to tease Kaname. Other times the humor is more outright and slapsticky, usually involving scenes when Sousuke is trying to protect Kaname from an imaginary foe while at school. But the focus, ultimately, is on the action. AS battles, daring rescues, undersea treachery...they all come together nicely and form an excellent show.
There's not really any one show I can easily compare it with, but as far as genre goes I would classify it as an action-mecha-comedy. It's certainly an odd mix, very different, but I really enjoyed this series.
Composite grade A (3.60)