In 1998, Shoji Gatou’s second novel series Full Metal Panic! began serializing in Fujimi Shobo’s Dragon Magazine before being published in their Fantasy Bunko label. This work became popular and so Kadokawa Shoten’s producer Atsushi Ito began work to have it made into an animated series. He was able to get two more adaptations created following the first series’s conclusion before the main novel series ended in 2011. In October 2013, Kadokawa celebrated the 15th anniversary of the novels by publishing a special Blu-ray Box that contained all 3 anime adaptations of the series. I’ll be reviewing that box while commenting on some of the previous releases.
Full Metal Panic! (season 1) was partly financed by the TV station WOWOW in Japan and ran on it from January 2002 until June 2002 after being postponed from a Fall broadcast due to the September 11th hijackings. The second adaptation, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, was partly financed by Fuji Television and ran on it from August 2003-November 2003. Kadokawa partnered with WOWOW again for a sequel to the first season called Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, which ran on WOWOW from July 2005-October 2005. Each series was released on DVD initially with separate Blu-ray boxes being released in 2008 following Kadokawa purchasing timeslots to re-air each series throughout the year.
This “All Stories” Blu-ray box is a re-release of those three boxes in one package. The previous releases were in a digipak containing 5 BDs, 2 BD+1CD, and 3BD+1DVD discs respectively while Kadokawa has remade those discs into 10 BDs and 2 CDs for this set. Season 1 is a re-pressing of the 4 main feature discs released before with new menus and disc art. Fumoffu is a re-pressing of its two BDs excluding the textless OP/ED with new menus and disc art. The Second Raid is newly authored (though not encoded) to have 5 episodes on 2 discs with the remaining 4 on another disc. All previous bonus features (textless OP/ED, TV commercials, bonus footage, Hong Kong Location Scouting, interviews, and excluding the image gallery from S1’s BD) are re-authored onto a bonus disc. There are two drama CDs included: a re-pressing of the collection of shorts from the Fumoffu DVDs that was with its BD-Box, and a re-pressing of the bonus CD with the TSR OVA DVD release.
Each series has its own amaray case containing all relevant discs with the final amaray case holding all the bonus discs. A bonus booklet fills the rest of the box.
I’ve contributed two posts on my thoughts for Fumoffu and TSR having re-watched them for my KyoAni re-watch. In short, the former holds up very well on multiple viewings (I’ve honestly lost count on how many times I’ve seen it), but the latter doesn’t work as well when you know what’s coming. In contrast to both of those, I found myself more engaged with the first season than I thought I would be. Outside of the original Helmajistan arc, it’s a very good mixture of seriousness and humor that’s lost in the two “sequels.” I’d still recommend this series to anyone who hasn’t seen it; FMP is a very solid series with a good “ending” in TSR.
Video-wise, Kadokawa encoded these episodes in 1080i, which is generally not used for Western releases (because most encoders at those companies put out subpar releases with those settings). This is generally due to the OPs being 30 fps compared to the standard 24 fps for most TV anime. Having seen the releases from Funimation, who encoded the episodes at 24 fps to make it a 1080p release, it’s a great improvement for the OPs and the video looks better. Having said that, it’s still an upscale and has some issues, especially in Fumoffu’s student council room due to the lighting. I didn’t notice the banding issues as much with this release, though some scenes like the Danaan’s motion scenes have it.
There are two audio tracks provided: a Linear PCM Japanese track in stereo (S1/Fumoffu) or in 5.1 (TSR) and a 5.1 Dolby HD English track (all). The commentaries for TSR are kept in a Dolby Digital 2.0 format, but they’re meant to be sound, not kept in lossless. I’m honestly happy with both tracks as they work in their own way. When playing the disc in a BD-player/software, the English track has mandatory Japanese subtitles (to the English dub, not to the Japanese audio) and cannot be toggled on/off without accessing either the top menu or the pop-up menu. Of course, there are alternatives, which is how I know for certain the subtitles reference the English audio and not the Japanese.
Bonus feature-wise, this set compiles together the bonus features from all the previous blu-ray boxes onto one disc. This is accomplished by encoding everything (except the Gatou & Koichi Chigira interview and TSR textless opening/ending) at 720×480 (displayed at 640×480 or 852×480). I cannot say for certain if the previous boxes had these specific encodes or not (except the location scouting since that was on a bonus DVD with the TSR set). It’s a fantastic amount of extras that help add to the value of the set. I’m still amused by the location scouting commentary, which remains a huge recommendation for any FMP fan/viewer. Most of these are kept on the NA Funimation releases, except for the Fumoffu DVD promotional video shown in stores.
The booklet contains information about the construction (arcs and broadcast dates) for each of the main series as well as the OVA. Each episode is given a brief synopsis along with an image. Inter-spliced between productions are character designs along with some costumes worn throughout the series (highlighted for which ones they’re worn in). At the end, we have details and specs for the various mecha for the series (including one Bonta-kun). The final page gives the script, storyboards, episode director, and animation director credits for each episode.
Overall, I was very very very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this set. It’s a great purchase for any FMP fan and the sheer amount of bonus material makes this the “must-buy” for anyone who hasn’t picked up the JP sets before, especially with the previous boxes out of print.