Full Metal Panic!: Rampaging One Night Stand

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

The FMP! novels mostly seem to have the same conceit for their titles: a Japanese word, followed by an English phrase. (OK, I think “Fighting Boy Meets Girl” was all English.) This is translated for the benefit of the English-speaking reader, and can, of course, lead to thwarted expectations. There are no one night stands as the word is commonly used in this book. The title refers to the fact that the main action in the book takes place over the course of one evening. And there certainly is a lot of rampaging, as the premise involves a huge, skyscraper-sized AS called the “Behemoth”, which is awkward but unstoppable, especially when piloted by Takuma, a troubled young man who is also somewhat mentally unbalanced. Things aren’t helped by the fact that, due to various attacks by Takuma’s terrorist friends, Sousuke’s commanding officer, Tessa, is forced to hide out in his apartment. And much as the action is interesting, it was Tessa meeting Kaname that provided the best part of this book.

Last time I mentioned that Kaname is a rare “angry girl heroine” who fans actually love, and Tessa is along the same lines, the “nice girl” rival character who, while not disliked by fans, has almost no one shipping her and Sousuke instead of Kaname. This book helps to show why, as I had forgotten how much it contrasts Tessa’s excellent command skills (and her abilities as a Whispered, something only hinted at in this book) and Tessa’s mediocre-to-poor skills as a girl falling in love. Indeed, the “nice girl” part of her is absent a lot of the time, as her pretending not to be Sousuke’s commanding officer in order to piss Kaname off is rather mean (and she has to apologize for it later), and she and Kaname have far more of an antagonist stance with each other than I’d remembered from when I first experienced this years ago. Heck, Tessa even declares her rivalry to Kaname at the end. Add to this her feelings about her brother Leonard, and she’s a fascinatingly complex character.

As for Kaname, use of her Whispered abilities are kept to a minimum here, meaning she spends most of the time as the bright, refreshing normal girl. As with the first book, she’s alternating between being attracted to Sousuke and finding him the most aggravating person in the world. This is not helped by his attempting to apologize to her by offering her heroin, so she can sell it for money. Yes, this is an actual thing that he does, and I’m pretty positive the anime cut that. Sousuke, while still doing things like this, has at least developed a finely-honed “Kaname is about to get really angry” sense, though most of the time – like when Tessa comes out of his shower while Kaname is there – there is nothing whatsoever he can do about it. That said, the “which of the two ladies do you like better?” choice offered by the villains doesn’t even register with him, as he makes the choice based solely on combat reasons.

Unlike a lot of action series with a romantic sideplot, most people read or watch FMP! for the romance. They won’t be disappointed with this one, a solid second volume that establishes a love triangle but also makes it clear who the winner will be.

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.