Full Metal Panic!: Trembling Into the Blue

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

This third book in the series serves as the climax of the first season of the anime, and thus is quite well-remembered. It takes place mostly on the Tuatha de Danaan, as unfortunately Sousuke inviting Kaname to spend time on a south sea island is thwarted by the plot: terrorists are attacking US Special Forces, supposedly for ecology reasons, but in reality it’s all related (as indeed everything in this series is) to Tessa’s brother, still unseen but controlling things from afar (apparently giving orders while having sex too, in case we didn’t dislike him already) and Gauron, who it turns out- surprise! – is not as dead as first thought. Combine this with some evil moles within Tessa’s own people, and you have the basis for another action movie, which is what FMP does best. Unfortunately, Kaname is upset thinking that Sousuke is only with her out of a sense of duty, and Sousuke is still having trouble dealing with his Very Special AS, so they need to get past mental burdens before the day can be saved.

After briefly appearing to be more of a femme fatale in the second book, Tessa slides into the girl we know and love here, who loves Sousuke but has a sneaking suspicion that ship has sailed, and more importantly is more devoted to her ship and crew. She gets to be extra badass here, helped by Kaname, who finally gets to learn more about what she is and how it’s both valuable and incredibly dangerous. The rest of the crew are mostly just names, with the exception of our designated traitors and designated victims of said traitors. Their identities are fairly obvious as they’re the ones who are constantly moaning and bitching about being in MITHRIL while on this mission, and (unlike Kurz) are easily swayed by money and/or racism. And then there’s Gauron, far more competent than any of them but again seemingly just in this for the lulz rather than any sort of agenda. Fortunately, he’s blown up AND drowned at the end of the book, and I’m sure we’ll never see him again.

There are some funny parts of this book, rest assured. The first fifth or so is hilarious, going from Sousuke’s festival fortress to the way that they have to board the Tuatha de Danaan, which seems designed solely to be animated. And I won’t even get into Kaname and Tessa both singing Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine. Which I’m fairly certain was NOT in the anime. But once the terrorists arrive, the mood quickly turns serious. You’re especially reminded that neither Kaname nor Sousuke are quite what the other one thinks of them: Kaname is beset with self-doubt and hesitation, belying the idea that she’s always the confident “hits him all the time” tsundere. And Sousuke screws up a LOT in this book, to the point where Kurz punches him in the face for making Kaname cry. He’s certainly not the stoic superman Kaname thinks he is. They’re made for each other, honestly.

All in all, an excellent addition to the series, and fans of the anime will want to read this to see what else was left out besides James Brown. Next time we get the series’ first two-parter. Oh yes, and thank you, Elizabeth Ellis, for keeping the iconic “everything is gonna happy” from Kaname’s “I’m good at English but not great” message to the crew.

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