I am very biased in my love for Full Metal Panic! I very strongly relate to one of the main characters, which I will elaborate on later, but for now, know that up front.
Full Metal Panic! is a boy meets girl story according to its creator. I tend to think about it as an alternate reality, mecha, high school, romantic comedy. The story follows a child soldier/mercenary named Sousuke Sagara, as he is ordered to secretly protect a Japanese high school student named Kaname Chidori. To do this, Sousuke transfers into Chidori’s class. He is in no way good at civilian life, especially in a super peaceful nation like Japan. The show follows Sousuke through his comedy of errors and his attempts to protect Chidori from utterly harmless situations. He ends up causing a lot of problems for her by doing this. She then beats him senseless, because she has anger issues. Interestingly enough, during the series we find out that the danger is real. This is when Sousuke comes into his own and saves her from the real war going on behind the scenes. Sousuke is a soldier, but his humanity remains intact. He desperately tries to fit in in the civilian world, while maintaining his vigilance. Chidori starts to fall for Sousuke, but she fights hard to maintain her focus on school and keep him out of trouble.
I treasure Full Metal Panic as a series, because of the way they play Sousuke. He has become one of my favorite fictional characters. I grew up in a military family. We moved every couple of years. War for about 13 years of my life was a constant reality. Whether Iraq or Afghanistan, I lnew people in one or both places at any moment. I spent a large amount of my life on military bases and every school I went to except one were military or else all the military kids went there. I remember the struggle when my family moved off base for the first time. I had culture shock and lots of difficulty fitting in. No one around knew the pain of constant deployments or of all the PCS (basically a military mandated move). Even through high school, I didn’t really have any friends that were civilians until halfway through high school. This is why I relate so strongly with Sousuke, and probably a huge part of why I love being a missionary.
Now Full Metal Panic! has three seasons. The seasons are not really the same timeline:
- Season one, Full Metal Panic!, is chronologically the first season. It introduces you to the characters and storyline. It is my favorite season.
- Season two is called Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU. This series is all comedy. It also doesn’t really have any mechs. I really enjoy this season, but is does deviate from the rest of the story. This season has a couple of fan-service heavy episodes, but I think it could have been a lot worse.
- Season three is called Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, aka Full Metal Panic! TSR. This is the second main story arc of the show. With new enemies and new struggles, this is a very good sequel. I do however, have a deep seated hatred for the bad guys in this show. They are way over the top, in every respect. TSR does however have many of my favorite scenes in the entire series.
If you are looking to watch the show, I recommend the order, Full Metal Panic!, Full Metal Panic! TSR, and then FUMOFFU. I believe this helps cement the characters before throwing them into the insane scenarios of FUMOFFU.
I recommend the Full Metal Panic! series as classic anime. Interestingly enough, Full Metal Panic! did alright in Japan, but was a much bigger hit overseas. There are also a couple of decent manga for the series as, the entire series comes from a visual novel series that is still being produced. Many fans hope that there will be another anime at some point.