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Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (Blu-ray)
on November 2, 2011
Movie - 4.5
Fans familiar with the FMP! franchise should know what to expect. But for those who don't, Full Metal Panic! (yes the exclamation always goes at the end every time outside of Fumoffu), is a series based on said light novels following the adventures of.. well, a lot of people. Sousuke Sagara is the main character: a soldier since childhood, 17 to the present day of these stories, and is an officer of the special-ops/military mercenary police group known as Mithril. At one point or another, he had to infiltrate a high school to serve as bodyguard for a girl named Kaname Chidori who is a person of interest to a lot of shady organizations for reasons I won't go to spoil. In performing his duty, though, a lot of the franchise's charm comes from many different angles. To this day, there are 3 different series in the following order: Full Metal Panic!, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. FMP! is a mix of action, comedy, drama, mecha, military, mystery, and science fiction for 24 episodes. Fumoffu is 100% comedy with no relevance to the central plot established in FMP! and is 12 episodes. TSR is a continuation from FMP!, runs for 13 episodes, and while it still has some of those trademark comedic elements, it's also the darkest of the 3 in terms of storytelling, plot, and violence. Depending on your tastes, you may prefer one of the post-FMP! series to the other, or if you're like me you'll take them at face value for what they are and for what they bring to the table in terms of presentation/continuity. That being said, I really like TSR because of its grittier story. Back when it first came out, I was amazed by its production quality (Kyoto Animation, who did this and Fumoffu, as opposed to Gonzo who did FMP!) alone, but in telling a more brooding and emotionally taut story, I think it added a lot more depth to some of the characters, particularly Sousuke, Kaname, and Tessa. The events that befall each of them really progress their personalities for the better, and I feel it makes them a lot more mature if you consider the facts that, 1) they're all still teenagers, and 2) given the physiological gifts they possess, the maturity that they gain in this series kind of equalizes their characters to the scope of the plot for possible future anime adaptations. If you've yet to see TSR and are intrigued by the stuff they hinted at in FMP!, this is definitely worth checking out.
Video - 4.5
- Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
- Video resolution: 1080p
- Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
TSR was produced in 2005 by Kyoto Animation and was animated digitally in SD, so this is an upscale. However, for an upscale it looks pretty darn amazing. I still own the single DVDs and artbox from the series' initial release, and I have to say the video quality is astounding in comparison. The actual art style and animation were considered to be of very high quality when this series first came out, but despite upscaling the SD animation into 1080p, there's actually quite a bit to like about this presentation. First, and foremost, I love the coloring. Colors are very vibrant from the various shades of hair color to the numerous backgrounds for all the exotic locations they show from the Middle East, to Japan, and to Hong Kong. Black levels are excellent as well with some very detailed shading techniques in some of the darker scenes or whenever some of the Arm Slaves endure scuff marks from battle. Contrast is handled especially well revealing some great detail in closeup shots of peoples' faces and delineating the lines in their clothes, hair, and other finely drawn areas. Particularly, you could look at any of the hairstyles of Sousuke, Kaname, or Tessa since they have a lot of layers drawn into them on a general basis. Or for even better detail, check out the scene when Gates is putting a CZ-75 into Yu Lan's mouth. You can see all the lines in her teeth (as graphic as the scene is), but only goes to justify the really high production value even more. But for all the pros that TSR's video has, there are a couple of noticeable drawbacks from the fact that the source material was SD. Banding (which never really bugged me) is apparent from time to time in the digital paint they used for the solid background colors that aren't black. And because a lot of the line art was drawn digitally, you can also see a little bit of pixelization which, again, can be attributed to the source material. But aside from completely re-animating the series, I believe this is as good as TSR is ever going to look. Pretty much any action sequence from the first or last episode are my go-to scenes for reference. There's a lot of action and movement on the screen and a lot of color as well for either one.
Audio - 5.0
- English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
- Japanese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
In addition to the higher quality animation, TSR also gets a boost in the sound department by getting the 5.1 treatment. As I've mentioned in other anime series reviews, it's a major upgrade when Japanese studios give their shows a bona fide 5.1 mix from the start. Contrary to what the English dubs do in creating a matrixed "fake-5.1" using 2.0 sound masters, it's just not the same unless the show was genuinely designed to be that way. Thankfully, though, the people at Kyoto Animation decided to really immerse the viewers by putting a lot of effort into the sound design. To start off, we get to hear the lovely vocal work of Mikuni Shimokawa in the series' opening. I've been a big fan of hers since she started singing for the first FMP! and absolutely fell in love with her voice when I heard an acoustic version of the opening from Grenadier, so hearing her in lossless audio is a great way to kick things off. And then there are the sound effects of the show itself. Episode 1 puts us in the Middle East where Mithril is trying to overthrow some dictator, but in the process has a lot of gunfire, explosions, and Arm Slave battle. Directionality and separation should be the most apparent thing you notice first as bullets fly across the rears, while helicopters pan in the front with the radio and non-radio dialogue staying crisp and clear in the center channel. High and low ends are also handled especially well with a good deal of thought going into the the size and weight of the shells and casings of all the various guns being fired. In the last episode, we get a great test of dynamics when the Lambda Driver on the Arbalest gets used quite a bit. In addition, there's also a great amount of LFEs from all the Arm Slaves involved in that particular sequence. As for everything in-between, directionality is generally balanced depending on the type of scene playing out, be it at the school with crowd noise and bells in the background, cityscapes with random happenings, or the general ambiance of Toshihiko Sahashi's excellent score. Considering that, again, this is ONLY a TV series, I'm quite happy with the way things turned out and that FUNimation was able to provide lossless audio for which ever language tickles your fancy.
Extras - 5.0
- Bonus Episode 000 (SD; 5:52)
This is something of a preview for the series. It shows Mithril saving some hostages from a terrorist about to execute them and was supposed to be a lead-in to the full-on series. It's pretty dated given the fact that the series has been out for so long by this point. Interestingly enough, though, while the footage itself is in SD, the audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.
- Bonus OVA: "A Relatively Leisurely Day in the Life of a Fleet Captain" (HD; 29:26)
A bonus episode to end things on a cheerier note. It's something akin to the nature of Fumoffu with a lot of funny, fluffy, upbeat humor and even a little bit of fan service. The plot has Tessa getting inebriated from something Mao gave her, which then results in the captain sleepwalking half-naked, hitting on Sousuke, and eventually retracing her steps to find a special item she lost on her drunken-endeavor. In her short journey, she interacts with the crew and we see a lot of situational humor involving a bad recipe, some stolen anime, and some hilariously misunderstood dialogue at the end. Fans who enjoy the style of comedy from the franchise will like this one a lot. It's presented in 1080p with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track as well.
- Dawn of the Light Novel (SD; 26:02)
A small look at the light novel medium where its compared to anime as a distant cousin, of sorts. While it's not quite as thick as novels, nor does it have as many illustrations as manga, they try to portray it as something in-between and as a fairly well-received form of the same kind of material. In addition, this feature follows creator Shouji Gatou around the offices of Kyoto Animation as he takes a look at the anime's production and talks to some of the crew. It's pretty interesting to see, as I now have a better idea of how their animation is so damn fluid.
- Location Scouting in Hong Kong (SD; 2:26:22)
Yeah, that says 2 hours, 26 minutes, and 22 seconds. Ported over from the DVDs, this 7-part videography chronicles the scouting they did to storyboard and illustrate the latter half of the series. The commentary provided is by creator Shouji Gatou and director Yasuhiro Takemoto and was recorded after the series had already ended. Content-wise, there's a lot they talk about. It's a little unorganized, but they cover a range of topics including the general architecture of Hong Kong itself, how they wanted to implement said backgrounds into the anime, their thoughts on some of the particular scenes in the anime, and then a LOT of goofing off in-between. It's not a constantly informative process, but it's informational enough when they get to the point and even pretty funny when they're just being candid. I wouldn't recommend watching too many parts in a row, though. The camerawork a little too shaky and gave me a headache after so long.
- Creditless OP (HD; 1:31)
- Creditless ED (HD; 1:30)
Pretty much everything from the DVDs is ported over aside from the episode commentaries by the Japanese cast and crew, which is a little disappointing. Even the reverse cover says the commentaries are on here, but the slipcase and original cover says otherwise, which is too bad.
Overall - 5.0
The Full Metal Panic! anime franchise is a fun series. It has a lot of quirky humor, some intriguing military and mecha elements and a great voice cast (in Japanese anyway). FMP! has a good balance of the two, while Fumoffu takes all the comedy and exaggerates it into a very entertaining frivolity. The Second Raid, however, gets back to the main storyline and does so in a much more violent and gritty fashion. Some people may not like the more dramatic turn some of the characters take, namely Sousuke and Kaname, but I think it adds a lot of maturity to them and a lot of potential for future development. I haven't read any of the light novels, but I'm really hoping they continue to adapt them someday. With much better video and audio than its DVD counterpart and most of the extras ported over, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid comes highly recommended.