Full Metal Panic!: Dancing Very Merry Christmas

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

Well, this is, to a certain extent, somewhat lighter in tone than the previous book. But only just, and the author apologizes afterwards for having far fewer wacky hijinks than he promised last time. That said, we also get a funeral in this book, as Tessa’s chances in the romance sweepstakes finally die as Sousuke says to her face that he loves Kaname and likes her more than Tessa. Note he does not actually say this to Kaname – they’re edging closer to being a couple, and have what may be the sweetest ending in the series to date, but this is not really about Kaname (birthday: Christmas Eve), it’s about Tessa (birthday: Christmas Eve), who may share Kaname’s brain at times thanks to the Whispered but cannot be her. Which honestly is all for the best, as seeing her try to help on this cruise ship mission and be the sad dojikko in snow is really pathetic. Hopefully getting rejected by Sousuke can allow her to relocate her inner badass.

Kyoko is on the cover, and to be fair gets a little more to do than usual. The class, after their school trip got hijacked by terrorists, have been invited on a Christmas Eve banquet about a luxury cruise ship. Meanwhile, Sousuke and MITHRIL are trying to track down AMALGAM based on Gauron’s last words, which (after a nice action sequence where Sousuke takes a missile to the chest) leads them… to the same cruise ship, which it turns out is a giant trap to capture Kaname, who really has had a series of very bad days in these books so far. Especially given it’s her birthday. To stop things, MITHRIL pretend to be terrorists attacking the boat themselves. Unfortunately, various things go wrong, from a gung-ho wannabe hero to robot killer weapons to Tessa getting captured and taken away by plane. Fortunately, Sousuke has reconciled with Al… mostly… and is here to save the day again.

The book’s strengths are many. It really is, despite the drama, far more upbeat than the downer of the previous two. Kaname beats up Sousuke once, but otherwise is starting to think before she acts, and is also starting to use her Whispered abilities far better to help the others. The action sequences are top notch, crying out to be animated (sadly, it wasn’t, being the only early volume to get an audio CD adaptation) and helping the reader gloss over some of the more ludicrous aspects by having Sousuke and Al refer to “Christmas miracles”. It has a stunning cliffhanger, which I won’t spoil, and shows off the seemingly nebbish Mardukas as a hidden badass. The books one big flaw is Killy B. Sailor (a Navy man!), who not only has the most ludicrous name in all of anime, but is also an idiot who should not be rewarded for his extremely stupid actions. He’s a parody of action heroes, but I felt he was one part of the book that wasn’t funny.

Despite that, this is a strong volume in the series, and definitely recommended to anime fans as they won’t have seen it, and light novel fans, as it’s the first FMP! novel not done by Tokyopop 10 years ago.

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