Full Metal Panic! Second Raid

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FULL METAL PANIC! THE SECOND RAID

Watched via fansubs/DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: After deviating into Fumoffu the Full Metal Panic! franchise comes back strong with a second season, Second Raid. This addition to the original plot line revs things up a notch by going further in depth than ever before. The first season was a nice glimpse into the main cast of characters and did an excellent job at setting up the plot and premise of the show. Fumoffu demonstrated the potential for humor and created some wonderful tension in interpersonal relationships. Second Raid adds to all of this by developing politics, action, and back story.

Sousuke Sagara, initially assigned to a small mission to follow and protect Kaname Chidori, receives orders to move on and leave her in the care of an unknown agent. Meanwhile Mithril has caught wind of a secret organization known as Amalgam with weaponry as advanced as the Arbalest with powers inspired by the Whispered.

With Sousuke assigned to a new position, the tension between him and Kaname naturally rises and poses some interesting questions as to the nature of their relationship. Kaname finds herself unusually worried about Sousuke’s absence and tries to find out more information on his whereabouts, while Sousuke remains dubious on his replacement’s abilities and intensions.

Throughout this 13 episode sequel we find out more information on the group Amalgam and see Mithril get through several tight situations. I highly enjoyed how much Mithril was developed in this season. Rather than focusing entirely on Sousuke, I felt that the organization as a whole finally was explored more widely. I found the pacing and story arc to be very exciting to watch and it was nice that the “fluff” was primarily cut out to keep this more action based. I only wish we could get another additional season as I felt the series was just starting to get past the superficial elements and dive right into the inner depths.

I really liked getting to see more of Mithril, both in terms of its members and their workings with other organizations. I agree that TSR seems like the beginning of really developing Mithril, and it’s a shame that more of the series wasn’t animated, because it would’ve been so exciting to watch.

PLOT: Following the first plot-focused season of Full Metal Panic!, things are going pretty well for Kaname and Sousuke, as they’ve had enough of a break from secret operations to get into the swing of everyday high school life. The feelings the two have for each other begin to deepen, and they slowly open up to each other.

However, this time of peace has been mirrored at Mithril, where they believe they have taken down the last group who would interested in Kaname due to her Whispered powers. Due to this, Mithril decides to step down protection of Kaname and removes Sousuke from duty in Tokyo, instead leaving Kaname in the care of the mysterious agent Wraith.

This sudden change—Sousuke leaves without a trace overnight—has a drastic effect on both characters, which is responsible for the bulk of the character development in this season. In addition to that, though, the group Amalgam appears and is a more serious threat than Mithril has previously faced, as they have their own Black Technology that rivals Sousuke’s Arbalest. While Amalgam creates havoc in China, Kaname works on figuring out where Sousuke went, also running into Amalgam along the way.

This season of FMP has a much longer plot line than we saw in the first season, and I think it works out well. The two main characters are given a lot of space to develop into their own and determine how they want to ensure that they can be together, which is great to see after so much will-they-won’t-they action in the first season and Fumoffu. In addition to that, the plot with Amalgam is exciting and kept me guessing throughout the season, always eager to see what would happen next. If anything, this season just made me want to see more of the series animated so I could further resolution with Amalgam.

Admittedly, I couldn’t easily follow the whole Mithril/China thing. The action is nice, as well as the pacing, but I’d have liked a bit more exposition.

SETTING: As I said before, the political world building is the highlight of this season. China is split into two factions, North and South and Mithril ends up coming up against the Amalgam through international situations. Despite all this political world building, there are still a lot of questions that are left unanswered. Mithril is some sort of policing entity which deals with international crimes and wars, but we never really learn how it operates on the large scale. Sure we see some highlights and find out more about Tessa’s character, but we never learn any real information. I would have liked to see more on why and how the organization runs as I feel it would justify the group’s actions a lot more.

Unlike in Fumoffu, the classroom takes a back seat this season. We still see how the characters develop, but this time in the real world. In the first season Kaname gets thrown right into the whole operation with no choice, but this go around she willingly gets involved in order to find out her own answers. Sousuke also takes charge of his own surroundings and the two begin to question their environments and the roles they play within them.

SETTING: Unlike the previous seasons of FMP, The Second Raid really lets you see how the military influence has impacted both Sousuke and Kaname. For Sousuke, this influence is pretty obvious, as he has such a hard time fitting in with civilian life that it’s the series’ recurring joke. Despite that, the military life has also kept Sousuke from thinking for himself and determining what he wants, and this season pushes him to develop as an individual and fight for what he wants. Kaname has also been influenced by her encounters with military groups, and, when she needs to learn more about Sousuke’s disappearance, she’s savvy and knows how to defend herself as necessary. It’s a really exciting development, especially because up until now she’s generally been saved by Sousuke.

The Second Raid also goes into further depth about the political differences in the series’ world, especially involving China, which has been divided into northern and southern factions. This all could have been more thoroughly explained, but the anime seems to assume that people will pick up necessary information from the light novels. I stuck it out for Sousuke and Kaname, but be warned that it does get rather politically confusing.

CHARACTERS: As mentioned above, Sousuke and Kaname’s relationship changes when he receives orders for a new mission. Sousuke, because of his army training, has always followed orders to a T. This in the past has led to a plethora of hilarious situations which explore situational awareness and common sense. Finally in this season he begins to think for himself and question the logic of his orders, as well as his own opinion and feelings on the matter. Rather than blindly listen to Tessa he shakes matters up a bit by taking charge for himself. I enjoyed this character development as it shows Sousuke in a new light, as human rather than machine.

Kaname also evolves. Previously this hot-headed teenager would speak her mind and project a tough exterior, but when it came to difficult situations she’d rely on the help of others to save herself. This time she decides to step up and fight for what she wants directly.

As for Tessa, I don’t know that I cared to see more of her character throughout the series. I found her jealousy to be rather annoying, and I wished she’d just back off and let matters evolve naturally. I guess theres always gotta be the control freak.

The villains in this arc were extremely predictable. In particular there are two Chinese twins, with unique fighting styles, who manage to make matters more difficult for Mithril. I hate stories with twins who fight together, but this just takes the stereotype to a further level. Also, I don’t appreciate the twin fan service.

I was frustrated by these twins because I wanted to like them so much, but then they’d shower around each other and fawn all over each other, and it was too much.

CHARACTERS: As I said above, Sousuke and Kaname see a lot of development in this season, which is why I love it so very much. Both of them have spent previous seasons pretending that they don’t love each other, but Sousuke leaving forces them to confront this fact and take action on it. For Sousuke, this means deciding whether or not he can continue to obey orders he disagrees with, and it’s wonderful to see him gain confidence in himself. As for Kaname, she has to deal with the loneliness of abandonment, but then she quickly takes matters into her own hands and proves just how capable she can be. It’s awesome to watch, and writing about it just makes me want to go rewatch this season again.

Unfortunately, these events push Tessa to the breaking point, making her be angry at Sousuke for preferring Kaname to his job (and her). I’m not Tessa’s biggest fan, but I feel for her here, as she assumed she could keep Sousuke close to her through his job, but then she doesn’t know what to do when he resents her orders. She sees some growth in this season, too, which I appreciate, considering how immature she can be for being the captain of a submarine.

The Second Raid also introduces some interesting new characters. First of all, there’s Wraith, the agent who takes over for Sousuke. I’d love to see more of Wraith, but the amount that’s divulged this season is still interesting. Gates is the lead villain from Amalgam, and he’s both pervertedly hilarious and creepily evil. Finally, there are Chinese twins who work for Gates who are way too fanservice-y for me to appreciate as twins, but I find them fun to watch for their fighting skills and intellects.

I’m shocked they couldn’t design a better villain than Gates. Is it really necessary for bad guys to be gross and revolting in appearance and character? He just comes across as dumb, which in turn makes the story too two dimensional. I guess things are black and white in shounen.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Second Raid is probably the highlight of Kyoto Animation for me. I can’t think of a more beautiful series they’ve animated. The action shots are well paced and choreographed, and the angles ramp up the drama and make the whole show more exciting to watch. The studio does a wonderful job animating each character’s expressions, which really heightens the brutality and internal turmoil of the characters, in particular the twins. This really helps redeem them when they would otherwise be rather boring. Then again, the highly illustrative fan service pretty much negates it by objectifying the cast all over again.

The character designs for Full Metal Panic were already nice, but Kyoto Animation makes each character gorgeous and highly detailed. Like I mentioned before, a lot of detail went into the expression of each character and their faces move more fluidly than ever before. Their body motions have also improved, making the battle sequences more inspiring as the characters leap and dive about the room to avoid projectiles. I really liked the fight scenes as they were highly graphic and showed the highly advanced training of each person. The violence was a bit too explicit and you see several people blown into bits.

The violence is definitely a step up here, which I wasn’t expecting, but I think it suits the more serious mood of this season.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Just like Fumoffu, The Second Raid is a step up in terms of animation for the FMP franchise. Kyoto Animation holds nothing back here, and the entire series is gorgeous and full of beautiful lighting effects to heighten the battles and emotional conflicts of the main characters. The animation is also strong, especially when it comes to the mecha, despite the studio’s relative inexperience with mecha anime. The beautiful mecha battles make me yearn for KyoAni to animate another season of FMP, but I’m at the point where I’ve given up hope for it. Instead I’ll just cherish TSR, which is a solid blend of action and character-focused animation.

The character designs have been updated again for this anime, losing most of the harsh angles and instead emphasizing the attractiveness of every character. Gates has the only ugly character design here, and that’s meant to show how disgusting he is as a human being, while Wraith’s design is a fun surprise. As I mentioned above, the Chinese twins are very much designed for fanservice purposes, meaning they’re beautiful to look at but end up rubbing me the wrong way. I’d rather have characters like Kaname than those two, where there’s no reason for them to look the way they do aside from wanting to sell more merchandise for the show.

OVERALL: I’ve already highly recommended the previous two seasons, and this sequel goes above and beyond its two predecessors. With the world building and character development, this is the perfect mixture of science fiction, shounen, and romance. I don’t think I could have stumbled upon a more perfect “mecha series”. If you’ve been waiting for development and action, this sequel will not disappoint. Additionally relationships finally start to wriggle their way out into the open, at least a bit. I think the only thing I could have asked for was another 13 episodes. I’m still hopefully waiting.

So if you’re a mecha fan, run out and watch this, and if you aren’t, this is probably the best show you’ll find that’ll help you get sucked into the genre.

OVERALL: Despite my complaints about the use of twins in this season, I consider TSR to be just about perfect. The character development between Kaname and Sousuke is excellent, and I don’t think I’m just saying that because I ship them so hard. It’s very rewarding to see both characters come into themselves the way they do, making it that much more frustrating that no more of the franchise ever got animated. Furthermore, the animation and art are gorgeous, and the setting is used in intriguing new ways that affect all of the characters. Really, TSR is everything I could hope for from this franchise, working together mecha and romance to create a great story. The previous two seasons pale in comparison to TSR, which is saying a lot, because both of those seasons are actually very, very strong on their own. If you’re any kind of anime fan and like action or romance, watch this. It’s too good to miss.

FINAL SCORE: (9/10) FINAL SCORE: (10/10)
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