Full Genre Mash-Up
Wblends familiar tropes with new twists and wildly shifts moods over three engaging seasons.
Review by Charles Solomon.
riter Shouji Gatou and director Koichi Chigira somehow blend the disparate elements of mecha battles, magical girls, slapstick comedy and a teenage romcom in the entertaining series Full Metal Panic! (2002). Although the winning comedy-adventure scored a hit in both Japan and America, it zigzags wildly in tone and content. The first and third seasons are more dramatic and violent, while the second “Fumoffu” segment is just plain silly.
High school student and class representative Kaname Chidori may be a “Whispered,” an individual who possesses formidable psychic powers. The KGB and even more sinister organizations want to exploit those powers, so the anti-terrorist mercenary corps Mithril dispatches a mismatched trio of officers to protect her: Melissa Mao, Sousuke Sagara and Kurz Weber.
Sousuke tries to blend in at Jindai High, but his efforts to pass as just another kid make a fish out of water look calm. Raised by Mithril in wartorn Helmajistan, Sousuke has been trained in guerilla combat since he was eight. He’s a skilled, deadly fighter when he needs to be. But his military bearing, hair-trigger reflexes and terminal literal-mindedness invariably land him in trouble with Kaname.
Assertive, independent and capable of initiating action, Kaname represents a new breed of magical girl. She doesn’t whine like Hitomi in Escaflowne or bumble like Serena in Sailor Moon. A scream seems to be her normal tone of voice, and she’s quite capable of giving Sou- suke a hit upside the head when he commits his umpteenth faux pas.
Season one builds to a deadly confrontation when the Helmajistani terrorist Gauron commandeers the Mithril submarine Tuatha de Danaan. The telepathic bond between Commander Teletha “Tess” Testarossa and Kaname enables them to recapture control of the powerful vessel. Sousuke leads the counterattack, which builds to a mano-a-mano duel with Gauron. In the climactic mecha knife fight, Sousuke also draws on Kaname’s psi powers. Chigira juxtaposes that duel with impressive CG scenes of the Danaan breaching like a humpback whale.
From Hamster to Hero For the second season, Fumoffu (2003), the filmmakers dropped the mecha and magical girl elements to focus on the mismatched romance between Kaname and Sousuke, with hilarious results. Sousuke infiltrates a local amusement park by disguising himself in a plush walk-around suit of their mascot Bonta-kun, who looks like a giant hamster. His hard-hitting martial arts attacks make a wonderfully absurd foil for the character’s super-cuteness: Imagine Pikachu playing Rambo. When nearsighted karate champion Issei quarrels with Sousuke, they accidentally punch out the janitor during their fight. Ordered by the school president to assist their victim while he recovers, they nearly destroy the school in a bout of competitive nurturing.
The darker third season, Full Metal Panic! Second Raid (2005), picks up about two months after the first adventure and ignores the farcical comedy of Fumoffu. Gauron, the murderous terrorist Sousuke battled aboard the Danaan, reappears in China. Director Yasuhiro Takemoto sets a major mecha battle in a tunnel beneath the Yangtze River to create a sequence that is simultaneously dynamic and claustrophobic. As the threat from Gauron grows more dire, the Mithril commanders order Sousuke to pilot the super- mecha Arbalest; the sinister-sounding Wraith will take over protecting Kaname.
For the first time in his life, Sousuke has to make a choice: obey orders, as he always has; or follow the first genuine emotions he’s experienced. Kaname uses every trick she knows — including a few she learned from Sousuke — to outwit Wraith and expose the assassin who’s stalking her. Sousuke confronts the sadistic Gauron and his own twisted past as a child soldier in a largely deserted Hong Kong. After Kaname knocks some sense into his head (literally and figuratively), Sousuke emerges as the hero the crisis demands. He rides to the rescue in a nick of time, piloting a mecha that levels everything in its path.
As the voice of Sousuke, Chris Patton shifts from despair to righteous fury to hilarious confusion; as Kaname, Luci Christian matches him mood swing for mood swing. They rank as the most fractious anime couple since Ranma Saotome met Akane Tendo in Ranma ½ — and the most fun. [
The House of Mouse is offering a delightful smorgasbord of shorts this month with this new high-def collection. The twodisc set contains an assortment of Oscar winners and fan favorites from the last 15 years, as well as brand new extras including an inside look at Disney shorts production, plus filmmaker intros and interviews. The @ DisneyAnimation: A Short Story on Shorts behind-the-scenes featurette is hosted by actor T.J. Miller ( Big Hero 6’ s Fred) and includes a roundtable with the brilliant creatives behind the shorts on this release.
The films — and filmmakers appearing in their intros — are: 2015’s Frozen Fever (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho, Aimee Scribner), 2014’s Oscar-winning Feast (Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed), 2013’s Oscar-nominated Get a Horse! (Dorothy McKim, Eric Goldberg, Adam Green), 2012’s Oscar-winning Paperman (Reed, John Kahrs), 2012’s Tangled Ever After (Nathan Greno, Scribner, Mendelson and Bill Melendez, the twodisc set contains 11 Emmy winners and nominees remastered in brilliant Ultra HD transfers.
The collection includes You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown; She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown; It’s Magic, Charlie Brown; Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown; Is this Goodbye, Char- bies Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck — while Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martian are in pursuit, with designs on the perfume-slash-invisibility spray.
Produced and directed by Jeff Siergey ( Mike Tyson Mysteries, The Looney Tunes Show), the movie features the voices of Fred Armisen, Jeff Bergman, find themselves lost in a strange forest. With the help of a talking bluebird named Beatrice and an assortment of bizarre characters, the duo try to find their way home while evading a mysterious menace known as the Beast.
In addition to the 10-episode adventure — which features the voices of Elijah Wood, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Isaak, Christopher Lloyd, John Cleese and others — the DVD comes with an assortment of special features. Delve further into Greg and Wirt’s journey through the Unknown with Behind Over the Garden Wall, deleted animatics, commentaries, composer’s cut, alternate title cards and, of course, McHale’s award-winning Tome of the Unknown. [Release date: Sept. 8]