While these two episodes certainly do a better job of bringing the season to a resting point, this remains pretty much not concluded with no real indication of a follow up any time soon.
After a couple of weeks off we finally get the last two episodes of this season and it is the big and dramatic rescue attempt of Chidori (or abduction attempt depending on which faction attacking the one mansion you are). These two episodes bring us all our favourite characters into one location, we’ve got some great fight sequences, an accidental shooting, and a radio message from Chidori to Sousuke that would have tugged at the heartstrings even without the soundtrack kicking into gear in the background.
Like most of the season, these two episodes were nostalgic fun and just good at doing what they set out to do. There was very little time wasted and yet the pacing didn’t feel too extreme. I did like that even after the main team reunited it wasn’t as though the months of separation and the fact that they were currently operating separately disappeared. Sure they helped each other out but they all stayed on their mission.
Of course, what sours these two episodes and the season as a whole is the fact that we don’t know if we’ll ever get anymore and we are still undeniably not finished. At least Second Raid had the courtesy of bringing us to a very solid end point (even though the story would continue) with the characters all back together and doing their thing. But it is hard to feel too hard done by here. There was very little more I could have asked from a follow up season to Full Metal Panic other than an actual ending and I absolutely love the journey Sousuke has been on over the course of this season. Fingers crossed we do eventually get another part to this.
After a thirteen year gap, two recap episodes, we now have a ten episode season with a totally incomplete story. If this were any other franchise I’d be dropping it for good and never looking back and yet Full Metal Panic still makes me desperately want more of this story.
There comes a point where a franchise knows that its core audience isn’t going anywhere and so they realise they don’t need to worry about a big season finish or even attempting to tie up their story. It is dissatisfying to say the least and makes Invisible Victory more or less impossible to recommend to anyone except die-hard fans of this franchise given you can’t start the story without knowing the history of the characters and events and then it just leaves us all hanging.
This final episode is clearly setting up the next phase of the story, but we haven’t really done anything with the current phase. The best way to describe Invisible Victory is a bridge between the previous seasons’ events and whatever they are moving toward but we don’t know what that is.
Still, Sousuke gets to do a cool take down even from a hospital bed, we get Kaname sighing and then swimming in her underwear, Tessa also has a changing sequences because the anime couldn’t possibly ignore the fans of Tessa, and we get a Sousuke training sequence before they reveal who some villain is and the story just stops. Kind of something for every fan of the series in this episode and yet nothing for anyone because we don’t have an announced follow up yet and by itself this story went nowhere. I don’t think I’m going to do a series review of Invisible Victory at this point because basically it isn’t a full series and other than complaining about that and being all happy about seeing Sousuke and Kaname again, there isn’t a lot to say. You are either already a fan of this franchise or you never touched this season of it.
Despite the fact that Sousuke has been carrying this season fairly well on his own, episode 9 of Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory brings the welcome return of some familiar faces at just the right time.
Despite the twist being obvious from the minute Tessa was picked up, this was a deeply satisfying return for the crew as we watched Tessa work her magic playing bait for the bad guys. The crew all got their moment to shine in a short but effective fight sequence and all and all this was a really fun reunion for the audience with these characters who have so far only really had a token appearance in this season.
Then we jump to Tessa’s brother, Leonard, and for the first time since episode four we get a look at Chidori. It is nice to know that while she’s being compliant enough to not be chained to a wall that she hasn’t lost all of her attitude despite captivity.
Lastly, we return to Sousuke, where we are reminded of the events in episode 8 and see the toll they have taken. This is where the episode ends and it makes me really excited for what will come next now that all the players are back on the stage. I also really liked the parallel from the beginning to the end of this episode with Tessa on the hospital bed to Sousuke being on the hospital bed.
All and all, another solid episode (provided you don’t look too closely at Sousuke while he’s lying in the hospital bed – there’s some bad shots there where his neck looks like it has disappeared entirely).
If you don’t understand why Full Metal Panic has so much appeal to me, the end of episode 7 and the beginning of episode 8 will probably help clarify. This anime uses the emotional cliff-hanger to bring us gut wrenching trauma in the first few minutes of this episode that then launches us into nearly non-stop action for the remainder of the episode. Clearly spoilers coming if you haven’t watched the episode yet.
Last week I was overjoyed to see Sousuke back in the field even though it came at the cost of the newer and softer Sagara we’d seen with Chidori at school during the first few episodes. Still, Full Metal Panic is at its best when it points Sousuke at an objective and we watch him run at it. Mostly because the writers of this anime really like hurting Sousuke emotionally. As an audience, we never really have to fear for his life. As the main character he’s pretty much guarded with impenetrable plot armour, however that isn’t a safe-guard against either physical pain or emotional trauma and he’s been put through huge amounts of both (and I will need to get around to reviewing the earlier series of this sooner rather than later I think).
Episode 8 of Invisible Victory brings us the perfect culmination of everything that is great about this series (except of course any interaction between Chidori and Sousuke because Chidori is still missing in action save for a very brief mental hallucination Sousuke has later in the episode). The first few minutes of the episode dump us straight into the stand-off from the end of episode 7 and rather than drag it out or have some implausible victory for Sousuke then and there, they literally pull the trigger on a character who we’ve only known for three episodes and yet part of me assumed that of course she would get rescued.
Even then, Sousuke’s Rambo act is not the only determining factor of victory as Lemon’s group are still on the move and they briefly converse before Sousuke takes off in pursuit of Nami’s killer. As we see the rampage in the city, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first fight of this season when Chidori cautioned Sousuke more or less at every turn about property destruction and civilian lives. As Sousuke blows holes straight through the sides of buildings to take down his pray, I wondered if he could also hear her voice or if he had shut down everything except the absolute need for victory in the here and now.
When we finally get to the show-down at the arena, we’re reminded once again that Sousuke is a soldier through and through. And a smart one who has a lot of field experience. Couple his natural talents with an absolutely unshakeable will and you can almost anticipate him simply kicking a grenade to the side as he charges after his foe. The final fight and the final shots are wonderfully done and then we go to the closing credits.
My only complaint then would be the post credits moments where we get exposition for the sake of it and information that kind of kills the mood of the end of the episode when we really could have just seen this sequence at the start of the next episode. But that would be a very minor complaint in the face of an episode that was just a ride from start to finish.
In one episode so much was packed in. This returning anime has definitely continued to impress as Invisible Victory marches on.
It is rare that an episode can pack so much in and yet not feel like it is rushing a mile a minute or mashing things together that just don’t fit. We continue directly on from the previous episode with Sousuke and Nami gearing up to fight in the illegal battle (which is of course rigged against them and designed only to kill off Sousuke). However, in the midst of this they manage to drop a potentially major character reveal that could become fairly critical to the plot later around Nami. Sousuke starts to raise the point and then decided to let it be because his attention is still squarely on Kaname.
And that brings me to another excellent character point in this episode. Sousuke is fully in military mode for the majority of the fight. Its been awhile since we’ve seen him this on edge and having to think of a way around what seems like insurmountable odds. I like that for the most part this show doesn’t rely on just giving him the best equipment or being the most powerful (even when he had the Arbalest he could seldom use it at full capacity). They also don’t really rely on luck or chance. Sousuke genuinely thinks through the possibilities based on his and his machine’s capabilities at the time and manages to apply clear decision making in the heat of the moment. It occasionally helps that his opponents aren’t always the brightest bulbs.
Despite this, Sousuke makes a declaration after the battle that really struck with me. He tells the former Mithril mercenary that he is ‘just a man’. For those words to come out of Sousuke’s mouth really demonstrates how far he has come. Previously he would have claimed to be a soldier or to have a mission or something to that effect. This is a really impressive moment for him and yet it isn’t given a fanfare, it comes across as part of the natural flow of the episode.
We then have the reveal about Lemon and though we still don’t know exactly what he’s up to this looks like it is going to get interesting as he swooped in and saved the rest of Nami’s crew from becoming pig food.
So, a cool robot fight and some fantastic character work, meanwhile the plot progresses in a satisfying way; what more could you want from an episode?
After wondering how long it had been since Kaname had been taken and what Sousuke’s plan was last week, this week the anime lays Sousuke’s plan kind of on the table and it makes everything else so much easier to swallow.
While I’m not against delaying reveals in order to build suspense, there’s something fairly positive about a series that is confident enough in its plot and characters to know it doesn’t need to. Holding all its cards close to its chest isn’t necessary because the audience want Sousuke to get to Kaname so letting us in on his current course of action isn’t going to take away our interest in watching the plan play out. With that said, Full Metal Panic continues to keep Kaname’s whereabouts and current state a complete mystery without even a teaser glimpse of her for two episodes. There’s some smart calls here in how the story is playing out and I’m loving the anime for that.
This episode mostly focuses on Sousuke using the corruption of the fights to try to get a look at what Amalgam is up to. It isn’t a great plan and even Sousuke knows he’s going to have to rely on others and that some of his friends are going to get burned along the way. And yet, the defeat of Mithril has left him with little choice. While it isn’t entirely clear, it does seem like Mithril is gone and Sousuke hasn’t been able to make contact with anyone, though I’m still kind of hoping that the rest of the crew show up sooner rather than later to help Sousuke out because while Sousuke is incredible at putting a plan together, he’s also a realist about his chances of taking on an organisation the size of Amalgam all by himself.
So all and all, Full Metal Panic is continuing its fairly strong run this season and I look forward to what comes next now that Sousuke has an in to the illegal battles but Amalgam is also keeping their eye on him.
We could kind of view the first four episodes as the cliff-hanger ending to a previous season given how this episode makes it feel like the anime is starting over. However the absence of Kanami is keenly felt in this fifth episode.
This episode very much reminds me of the very early Full Metal Panic episodes. We have Sousuke Sagara being underestimated by those around him because of his age (and lack of personality), his name being horrendously mispronounced, and some cool but fairly pointless mech fights. While this call back to old-school FMP is kind of fun, it really serves to highlight how much more interesting Sousuke has become and is when he’s with Kaname.
Clearly Sousuke has some plan in mind but he’s alone and starting from the ground up. By default he’s reverted to what he was. A soldier in every sense of the word. As he says to the new crew when challenged about his knowledge, he is a specialist. And hearing him say that again was fantastic but hearing him say it the way he did in season one was heart-breaking. It had become more of a joke line between Kaname and him and now it’s back to being the straight truth.
However, where this episode falters is the new group of characters we are introduced to. Each works well enough, but there is a lot of emotional attachment to the cast of Full Metal Panic and the anime suddenly removing all of them except for Sousuke isn’t something to be taken lightly. While these characters are fine, they are just that. Fine. They aren’t the amazing crew we’ve fallen in love with and that hurts this episode in a lot of ways. Hopefully these guys will either grow on us or Sousuke will reunite with someone else soon because otherwise what had come back as a fairly roaring continuation may quickly become just a quiet rumble.
A third of the way through the Spring anime season, and FMP does not seem in any danger of losing its path so far. You want action, romance, explosions, and drama, this anime is definitely aiming to deliver.
Episode 3 gave me more or less exactly what I wanted from Full Metal Panic and episode 4 gave us a very solid follow up. Chidori and Sousuke plan their rescue of the students and while they do save their classmates it isn’t without cost and it doesn’t go without a hitch. Plot armour is reasonably strong in this anime with main characters only getting wounded rather than killed, but seeing Tokiwa writhing in pain after getting a chunk of school building lodged in her side isn’t exactly easy watching. While we assume she’ll recover, there’s a real tension that one mis-step could lead to any one of these characters dying.
Of course, after the beautiful moment between Chidori and Sousuke last week and some fairly touching early scenes this week, we knew that things were approaching the end and while you see it coming a mile away it still hits hard. What I think really sells these events is Sousuke’s reaction as his usual stoicism is utterly and completely dispelled and we see the boy he is who has just lost the person he loves.
And for those just in it for the giant robot fights, you’ll find those too as well as a dramatic escape by Tessa and the others (again with causalities aplenty to add to the real drama of the situation). So far this returning series has delivered what I wanted and I’m loving each and every episode. Really looking forward to next week.
Let me begin this post by giving you a full history of my blog and all of the previous posts that have come before this one. Most of them are irrelevant to the current context and I know you clicked here to read this post, but surely you should acknowledge everything that has previously occurred.
Maybe that’s not the best approach when trying to engage an audience. I mean, I previously did a feature on recap episodes and why some of them make me want to drop an anime then and there particularly when viewing week to week.
But even then, I acknowledge that sometimes recap can serve a purpose and be done in an interesting way. The problem is, a lot of anime don’t bother with this. They just cut and paste sequences of previous events together without even really stringing a plot around it. But more and more often, we’re seeing anime try to disguise their recap.
My Hero Academia Season 3 is one such anime that used this method. They gave us a thin plot of the characters training at the pool (good excuse for buff boys in swimsuits I guess) but interspersed those events with characters reminiscing or discussing prior events supported by flash backs. Now, to give credit where it is due, this approach is better than just a series of disconnected scenes or a rehash of the story. At least the recap is given context and the characters are adding their thoughts or feelings about the situation to our understanding of it, and there’s some small amounts of new-material that has varying levels of entertainment strewn amongst it.
What it doesn’t change, is the fact that My Hero Academia felt that despite less than a year had passed since its previous season and the episode count as a whole is under 50, that the audience couldn’t remember what had happened. And maybe for a more obscure show that might be true, but MHA is not obscure. People were talking about it and sharing parts of it well after it finished airing.
However, if they hadn’t done a recap, there may be some people who would complain that they’d forgotten some detail. So how does a show know when to recap and how to go about it?
Realistically, if we have a long gap in-between seasons, recap of some sort is needed. Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory won me over by skipping this step, but a thirteen year gap on a series that never had the sort of popularity of MHA probably warranted some work to get new viewers. Instead, only those who have watched at least the first season and second raid need apply because without that knowledge you aren’t following this story. And if your knowledge is over a decade old, rewatch it and do it quick. The anime is brutal and unforgiving, barely reminding you of character roles as we jump between the school and Mithril and are plunged straight into a conflict that will make zero sense without the back story.
So where My Hero Academia could have foregone the recap, Full Metal Panic probably should have tried something. Then again, if they only ever intended to target the original fans, most of them have probably rewatched the anime many times in the years since it aired and like me, they are probably pretty happy to get dropped straight back into the action. It definitely narrows the target audience but at least it keeps the people in that audience pretty happy.
While it might be hard to say when a recap should occur, it is pretty easy to figure out where they shouldn’t. Any series that is only one cour long should never have a recap episode. Not ever. There is no reason on the planet why a series that is thirteen episodes or less needs to recap. if there are production delays, skip the week, or replay episode one, or something. But don’t try and pretend recaps are episodes in their own right. They really, really aren’t particularly when hastily put together to fill a gap in the schedule.
Record of Grancrest War used a week inbetween seasons to recap and I still have not watched that episode. The interesting thing about that is that a lot of bloggers claim that it made the entire first cour actually make some kind of sense. I wonder if that’s still true now that we’ve seen all the random plot lurches of the second cour occur, but I thought that for once that might be a useful use of recap. If you know your plot has gone off the rails and you are trying to refocus both the writers and the audience as to which direction the story will continue, a recap that crafts the narrative you wanted to see could do wonders. Though, that is admitting your story had fallen apart in the first place.
From where I’m sitting, I’ve come to the conclusion that recap needs to have some thought behind it and effort put into it. I still think Kimi ni Todoke has the best recap episode ever as the special episode before the start of season 2 where the story of season 1 is retold from a different character’s perspective. More anime need to consider what they are giving their audience when they drop half-hearted recap efforts on them and start thinking about how they can use recaps (if they are needed at all) to really re-engage the audience with the story and the characters.
Where do you stand on recap episodes and what do you think of how the returning series of Spring have done with them?
Every now and then an anime episode delivers exactly what you wanted to see and you finish the episode perfectly happy with what you just watched. That was my feeling this week with Invisible Victory.
While visually there are still some issues with this anime, I’m not going to worry about those in this review. They exist, they always have in this series, but as was the case over a decade ago, the characters carry this well and elevate the show from something that should be fairly ordinary to something that is truly great fun to watch. For 18 minutes we are caught up in the conflict on the island, and it isn’t resolved when we finally cut back to Sousuke and Chidori and the crisis in the city. Mao has ditched and is on the run, Kurz is ignoring instructions to withdraw and is using the last of his ammo to bring down yet more helicopters before they can land, and Tessa is hastening an evacuation knowing that it is only delaying the inevitable as the submarine isn’t ready to go.
Unlike so many other shows with mechas, Full Metal Panic is one that has always given a very human element to the fights. While I do think killing of Speck after last week was probably pushing it a little, almost every part of this conflict worked. The ongoing need to plan, to think, to act desperately, and the deaths that occur all fit well within the context.
And then we jump back to where we finished last week. While I feel putting the classmates in danger, again, is also a fairly cheap emotional ploy, I loved the exchange between Chidori and Sousuke as they both admit that the other scares them. This could have dragged on for episodes with Chidori being scared of Sousuke but not saying anything and Sousuke getting rattled and insecure, but instead they both just came out and said it. The end result was an emotionally charged ending that hit home and made me love this anime and the characters even more.
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