Gather ‘round, kids. Come and learn about one of the giants in the mecha genre.
The tale starts in 2002 (or 1998 if we start with the light novel). And since then, surviving time and changes in the industry, Full Metal Panic! (or FMP!) carved its throne in eternal stone through 4 seasons. Will we be graced by the fifth season, or was 2018 the end of a journey for the anime?
What Happened So Far in Full Metal Panic!?
In the alternate reality FMP! is set, the Soviet Union is still around and the Cold War did not stop in 1991, still raging on into the 21st century. The constant tensions between the East and the West stimulated the weapons development race and new types of technology emerged such as the Slave Arms (mecha) in the mid-1980s used by military forces around the world. Unknown to the general public, Black Technology is one of those new forms of advanced knowledge allowing the creation of high-end equipment only used by a select few. Behind Black Technology are the Whispered, a group of people with an innate and profound understanding of technology way more developed than your average human being. An ability highly sought after by different military and political groups in the know of their existence. In the midst of all this chaos, a paramilitary organization named Mithril made it its ultimate goal to ensure stability and peace wherever they can extend their reach. Mithril is a neutral force under its own authority and composed of mercenaries from different countries. Using an exclusive arsenal of weapons way above anything the world knows at the time, they also protect the Whispered from being exploited by nefarious forces.
The 17-year-old Sergeant Sousuke Sagara, a Slave Arm specialist working for Mithril, is sent undercover at Jindai High School to protect the 16-year-old Whisperer Kaname Chidori, herself oblivious to her own power. A most challenging mission for our protagonist whose only experience in social interactions involve battlefields, wars and military operations. Now forced to live as a normal high school student while not neglecting his position as a bodyguard, Sousuke will be supported by his two comrades-in-arms Melissa Mao and Kurz Weber. Including the independent and hotheaded Chidori is not making things easier for him, suspecting him to be a stalker and slapping him around when exasperated by his antics. As Sousuke tries to fit in in civilian life, the terrorist organization Amalgam slowly starts to expose its insidious plans and starts by trying to kidnap Chidori. A plan thwarted by the young Sergeant, but an event that will force him to reconnect with a piece of his violent past in the shape of his archnemesis, Gaudon. This is only the beginning of an excruciating ordeal that will pit Mithril against Amalgam and throw Chidori in Sousuke’s ruthless world, as a budding relationship blossoms between the two.
What Is Going on With Xebec?
Full Metal Panic! was supposed to start airing in 2001, but it was canceled after and because 9/11 and the series would see its first episode on television only a year later. The show ran for 4 seasons in total, all produced by three different studios: Full Metal Panic! in 2002 by Gonzo (24 episodes), FMP? Fumoffu and FMP! The Second Raid in 2003 and 2005 by Kyoto Animation (12 episodes & 13 episodes) and FMP! Invisible Victory in 2018 by Xebec (12 episodes).
Whether you are into mecha or not does not matter here. FMP! has something for everyone. The anime cleverly mixes action, mecha, romance and comedy. There is a time for each of these and the timing is seamless in its execution. The mecha battles are intense, and the comedy bits are placed in a way that does not disrupt the scene’s action or tone. Serious moments can be bloody and pretty dark (even more so in season 4) and the tension is well preserved during those scenes, projecting the importance of what is at stake and the deadly danger the characters put themselves through. Plenty of the comedy is caused by Sousuke’s ignorance regarding the banality of life. His perception of situations is perpetually considered militaristic. He has no experience in how humans are supposed to interact when guns and knives are not involved.
A condom? Sir, the future of water bottles is here. Holding a student at point-blank range in the male bathroom? You spell it “camaraderie,” buster. A friendly competition against the karate club? You said “guns,” I heard “guns.” Add Chidori’s reactions to his antics, and you obtain a whole manzai routine with its boke or tsukkomi combo perfectly established. The humorous situations do not feel forced, and the chemistry between the two main characters makes it easier for the viewers to see how their relationship slowly changes: Chidori being more patient before slapping him, her reactions to other female characters around him, or Sousuke’s protectiveness feeling softer and more intimate.
The romantic side of things takes less space than the other genres used. It is displayed through small reactions, visual hints, and bits of conversation but never too focused on. The anime is never too explicit in conveying the attraction Sousuke and Chidori feel for each other, which does not impede its evolution. At some point, it is just impossible to miss the moments hinting at the real status of their relationship. Those three elements (the high school jinks, the mecha, fighting scenes, and the romance) are balanced and never try to steal the spotlight from each other, avoiding the disjointedness found in several anime trying to be too many different things.
The characters are inspired by archetypes seen elsewhere, but their background and work in their writing give them a personality and recognizable traits. Sousuke with his 24/7 serious face and tone even in completely ridiculous instances quickly cements his lack of social skills. This side of him is never taken too far though, avoiding to turn him into a walking cliché. The reasons behind his behaviour are thoroughly explained and rather than being used as excuses, they serve a tale rooted in realism. In that sense, Sousuke shares some traits with Yuuji Kazami, the Grisaia visual novel franchise anime protagonist: both have lived a life of violence since their youngest age and are now thrown into the quiet and normal civilian life.
The only difference is that Yuuji actually wishes for an ordinary life and is trying from the beginning to understand his entourage in his new school while questioning his own identity and how he is about to redefine himself, which will take some time for Sousuke to get there. Nonetheless, both characters experience some trouble when trying to relate to other people (shown in a funny and lighthearted way for Sousuke and in a more emotional and cynical way for Yuuji – even if the latter is the source of several hilarious exchanges with the girls around him).
In the case of Chidori, it is easy to see that the young woman is clearly a tsundere. Yet, for Shoji Gatoh, the light novel’s author, she needed to be strong not only in character, but also in her resolve without sacrificing her feminine side. Chidori is not a damsel in distress, she will not wait to be saved. That is how she ends up supporting Sousuke more often than not. When she turns aggressive, it is merely the result of her irritation toward his lack of logic and -sometimes- irresponsible decisions in simple situations. Chidori does not follow the cliché tsundere blueprint: being violent for the sake of violence while exposing her immaturity because she did not do it for you, baka! Not at all. Chidori does not stand for disrespect and nonsense and will blast all individuals trying to follow that road.
The rest of the cast is as likeable and properly worked on. They are not just individuals to be used at the right moment to serve the plot. They all provide something personal in the dynamics created between all the characters, as it evolves at a natural pace.
The animation throughout the different seasons is pretty solid. The series started in 2002, makings it easy to see the differences with modern animation techniques compared to season 4. The CG models are the ones taking the most hits due to technology drastically getting better on this side. However, season 1 still holds pretty well even nowaday, demonstrating Gonzo’s savoir-faire. The next 2 seasons served as Kyoto Animation’s grand entrance on the stage and showed the industry that the small studio was a big player too. KyoAni brings its fluid animation and clear and neat visuals to the table. Xebec maintains the quality viewers were used to until then by keeping the original character designs, choreographing crisp and sharp battles and avoiding shortcuts by overusing still and solo shots.
Through the 4 seasons, the environments are diversified and the palette of colours respect the tone of the scenes: vivid and bright during the normal day life and gloomy for the more violent scenes. Xebec Studio forever closed its doors in 2019 with its staff being absorbed in Production I.G. Its assets were shared between Sunrise and Production I.G. with the latter in possession of Xebec’s past productions.
What Do We Know About Full Metal Panic! Season 5 So Far?
Xebec does not exist anymore, and Production I.G. does not seem interested in reviving the anime.
What Are Fans Saying About Full Metal Panic! Season 5?
Fans are still pretty active on the Internet, including old fans and the new ones. Season 4 was released in 2018 which is still pretty recent. Thus, FMP! is enjoying some revival for older seasons.
There is not much talk on Season 5, considering that the studio that owned the copyright disappeared, and the license is in the hands of a studio busy with other newer projects. The fans still have the light novels to catch up on the story after Invisible Victory as well as the manga. They share the usual fanarts, funny videos (since the anime is littered with those), and show their Slave Arms figures. FMP! has a subreddit and is often tagged on Twitter. The anime received high scores for all its seasons on MAL and IMDB.
Will There Be Full Metal Panic! Season 5?
FMP! started as a light novel series published from September 18, 1998 to August 20, 2010 after 12 volumes. It is written by Shoji Gatoh and illustrated by Shiki Douji. A collection of short stories was compiled into 11 volumes from December 17, 1998 to August 20, 2011. Gatoh also created a spinoff set 10 years after the original story and titled Full Metal Panic! Another. It ran for 12 volumes from August 20, 2011 to February 20, 2016. On the same date, a side story for FMP! Another was also released.
The successful title was also adapted into several manga: Full Metal Panic! (November 2003 – April 2006, 9 volumes), FMP! Overload (June 2005 – May 2006, 5 volumes), FMP! Surplus (June 2003, oneshot), FMP! Sigma (July 2005 – September 2013, 19 volumes), FMP! Another (March 2012 – August 2014, 6 volumes), FMP! 0 -ZERO- (Septembre 2013 – June 2015, 5 volumes) and FMP! Another Sigma (February – November 2015, 2 volumes). Funimation has licensed all 4 seasons on Blu-ray and they can all be found on Amazon.
It is obvious that, being so popular, FMP! would benefit from a large merchandising. There are a lot of goodies for all budgets: t-shirts, figures, fanbooks, plushies, mugs, phone cases, etc. And it looks like Tessa is a big favorite! The graph on Google Trends is actually pretty constant with its ups and downs. Which might mean that newcomers are still discovering the series, checking if there is a Season 5 in production and giving up after seeing the answers to their question.
When Will Full Metal Panic! Season 5 Be Released?
No date is available.
What Can We Expect in Season 5 of Full Metal Panic!?
It is difficult to predict if Full Metal Panic! will ever get a fifth season. After all, there was a 13-year gap between S3 and S4. Xebec might have disappeared, that does not change the fact that the copyright for the series is not just floating somewhere: Production I.G. owns it and is a reputed animation studio.
Season 4 ended on a significant cliffhanger which suggests that, at the time, a new season might have been considered. Viewers are eager to know how Sousuke will save Chidori and how Amalgam will treat her during her “stay” with them!