“Panic Attack” – Full Metal Panic! (manga) – 6/10 Streamers

Out of life’s school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger. ~Friedrich Neitzsche

Mangaka: Shoujo Gatou (story) and Retsu Tateo (art)

Genre: Action/Comedy/Romance/School/Mecha/Shounen

Review Status: Compelte (9 Volume/9 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US

Summary: On the surface, Kaname Chidori appears to be leading a normal life as a popular high school student. She’s cute, and quite a social butterfly. Kaname’s life is anything but ordinary. Unbeknownst to her, a group of terrorists believes she possesses the special powers of ‘The Whispered.” Mission: Kidnap Kaname. Enter overzealous hero, Sosuke Sagara- former resident of a war zone and member of the stealth anti-terrorist organization, MITHRIL. Sosuke is gung-ho, war-crazed and obnoxiously conspicuous. Will he drive Kaname insane by watching her every move and detonating bombs in her social life? (back cover of 1st volume)

Review: FMP! is most definitely an interesting title, combining high-tech, world-saving shennanigans with the average high-school romance.  There’s a definite mix of the good and the bad in here. From the characters, to the plot, this attempts to be a funny yet dramatic story, and while it definitely succeeds in some areas, there are others that definitely need more improvement.

Most of the comedy rides on the interactions of Kaname and Sosuke, a normal girl (total tsundere, one of the most revered out there in this archetype) and a socially inept teenage soldier. One of the best things about this series is watching Sosuke’s extremely serious, yet overblown reactions to things that we take for granted. A love letter becomes a threat on someone’s life, a borrowed book becomes a potential bomb… Seeing him attempt to defuse these situations in the most rational way -to him, of course!- is some of the most hilarious stuff I’ve read in a long time. If this manga had decided to stay the course and have it just about him attempting to deal with normal life, then I would have totally been okay with this.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a damper on the laughter as Kaname dramatically hits Sosuke out of a window or blasts him across the street for irritating her. Some of the time it comes across as unnecessary and rather mean. Having also recently come across a manga where that same comedy was reversed, I now find myself far more hesitant to laugh at exaggerated physical abuse aimed at any gender. The romance part also comes into play when Sosuke’s superior comes for an unexpected visit, forcing Kaname to rethink her feelings for Sosuke. This was also more dramatic than it really needed to be, but wasn’t out of reach of reality.

Where the manga starts to really go downhill is in the second half, where it brings in the plot about the Whispered and terrorist groups. This seems half-baked at best, Kaname’s powers remaining completely unexplained and the one time they are used, not really making any sense for why it works like that. The mangaka also decides to throw in a deadly grudge between Sosuke and someone he fought against once in a war. The action ramps up into some very serious battles. Fight for fight, they’re drawn well and interesting to follow, even if I’m never really invested in the bad guy enough to care. That’s where the real problem lies- he’s not really given enough spotlight ore development to be anything but a one-dimentional antagonist to be overcome. It’s vaguely interesting to not that Sosuke knows who he is and has fought against him before, but not enough to warrant any more than a passing interest. Not all shows or manga need that- Redline certainly didn’t- but the rest of the story builds up as one that is meant to be a drama and require that from the readers. It’s a shame when it doesn’t follow through.

It all made for an average, somewhat unsatisfying ending, where the bad guy was defeated through the aforementioned powers Kaname has, even though why her powers work is still left up in the air and her future is left a hanging plot thread.

Overall, this really needed to be legnthened and the story given some depth. However, the comedy really shines in the first half, and the second half was merely mediocre, enough where I can’t score it any lower.

Recommended: 13+. There is some none-sexual, non-detailed nudity, a few of the splash pages have some scanty outfits, and there’s a peek or two of girls in their bras. There are a few people stabbed and one is shot, but all you see is blood- no gore, and only one death in the whole thing. There isn’t anything that wouldn’t make the cut in a PG-13 movie.

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