Full Metal Panic!: Fighting Boy Meets Girl

By Shouji Gatou and Shikidouji. Released in Japan by Fujimi Shobo. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.

I am, of course, very familiar with this series already. I even read this book many years ago, back when it was first released by Tokyopop. But that doesn’t really matter, because about 1/4 into the book I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend. The story of “average” high school girl Kaname Chidori and her encounter with mercenary and socially inept goober Sousuke Sagara has already had five novels out in North America (before Tokyopop dropped it), several manga adaptations (all of which are very out of print), and several anime series, which I think are actually still available to watch on Funimation and the like. All this for a series whose first book came out twenty-one years ago. It’s not the best thing ever, but it’s fun and makes you smile, and (as always with this author) the action scenes are first-rate. And of course it has Kaname, one of the top three ‘angry girls’ of the Golden Age of Fandom, and the only one fans eventually forgave.

Yes, that’s right, we get all-new cover art too, as J-Novel Club is using the updated Japanese release. For those who don’t know of this series, Sousuke is, as I noted, a mercenary with a group called MITHRIL, who is not affiliated with anyone but basically rides around in a cool submarine and fights terrorists. One day he and his two fellow mercs are given a mission to protect Kaname, a seemingly ordinary high school student, though they don’t know why they’re protecting her. Sousuke thus has to infiltrate the high school as a new transfer student. Sadly, he’s been a soldier his entire life, starting as a young child, and so… well, let’s just say hijinks ensue. Things turn serious when their field trip plane is hijacked by the enemy, though, and Kaname is taken away to have experiments run on her that show she’s not as normal as everyone thought. Can Sousuke rescue her? And will she ever stop yelling at him?

The thing that struck me on this reread was, despite Sousuke’s ineptness when it comes to being a high school student, how quickly Kaname was drawn to him. She’s clearly attracted right away, and despite his being… well, Sousuke, seems to be gradually falling for him, to the point that the author has to put up an obstacle to make sure she’s lost all respect for him by the time the books gets to the serious bits. The subtitle of the novel shows it’s as much a romance as an action movie, and since Tessa only has a minor role in this first volume, there’s nothing stopping the two of them from growing closer through being under fire. The other thing that struck me was how much military jargon was in this book. The author says he changed a few named and made things a bit more “futuristic”, but that doesn’t stop many descriptions of Labors… erm, Arm Slaves as they rampage through the jungle and beat each other up.

To sum up, this is a fun action series with two interesting lead characters. Kaname gets mad at Sousuke constantly but the author is very careful to show exactly why he deserves it (intentionally or no), and Sousuke’s stoicism was (at the time) a nice change from the typical male harem schlub. This is a series worth revisiting, and I’m very happy it was rescued.

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