First Look: Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory

Alternative title(s): FMP IV
Light novel adaptation by Xebecs
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Jumping in right where we left off 13(!) years ago with The Second Raid, Kaname Chidori is once again the target of various military conspiracies and PMC ambushes. Teletha “Tessa” Testarossa’s estranged brother, Leonard, has returned to kidnap Chidori and do various shady bad guy things. Once again, Chidori’s bodyguard/classmate/boyfriend Sousuke Sagara steps up to the plate to deal with it all, preferably while in a giant robot.

Gee’s verdict: Return to Tour of Duty

The return of Full Metal Panic! is literally a dream I’ve held onto for over a decade. Hell, half the foundation of my longstanding grudge against Kyoto Animation was based in their abandonment of the mecha genre despite the genuinely impressive job they did with it. I’ve softened on that since but boy did I hold onto that shit for years longer than I needed to. To finally see it back though, is truly bizarre. Like seeing an old ex who disappeared one day and never came back, a lot of old feelings flooded back, but I had also changed so much that I wasn’t quite sure how to receive it. In many ways, Invisible Victory is everything it should be, and yet that exact result makes it a weird anime to exist in 2018. The character designs are completely unchanged, which made seeing the early 2000s schoolgirl designs feel oddly dated in a way I hadn’t realized until seeing them move and talk in HD.

However the actual weirdness is probably Invisible Victory’s complete apathy to the idea of onboarding new viewers. Invisible Victory makes the faintest effort to recap events in prior seasons but doesn’t actually do any of the work to try and introduce the setting or its characters in any appreciable way. Invisible Victory’s narrative progresses as if the last 13 years never happened. In many ways, this is perfect for old fans chomping at the bit to get back into the swing of things, but for anyone else, I can only imagine how baffling it might be. Throw in the lack of any robot action in its first episode and no amount Melissa Mao and Kurz Weber will make up for that. Unless you just went and made a spinoff anime about those two hanging out at Mithril HQ getting up to shit. Tonally, Invisible Victory also feels a lot more self-serious, which can be reflected in Sousuke and Chidori’s interactions. Long gone is the physical comedy and hijinks of the older series. While in-universe it’s been less than a year, it’s been over a decade for the rest of us. By its nature, the characters must grow and mature to stay relevant. It’s a necessary choice, but time will bear out if it was the proper course of action.

As a whole, seeing a well produced Full Metal Panic! in 2018 is a return to form I can appreciate, even if I’m not 100% sold on it yet. Honestly I’m not sure if I’ll still enjoy it all these years later. I’m willing to try though.

Iro’s verdict: Not for Newcomers

I’d never seen an episode of FMP until I watched this, and I spent the entire time thinking I shouldn’t be watching. The show seems to continue directly where it left off something like a decade ago, expecting you to already know all of the characters and their relationships, all of the previous plot lines, and all of the Proper Nouns that the original show doubtlessly spent some time building up. That in itself is a brave decision – and I’m sure some older fans are as happy as can be – but without a recap or some kind of reintroduction, I was left a bit baffled at how inaccessible it is to those not in the know.

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