Full Metal Panic! comes from two distinct sources: a series of novels, which focus on paramilitary anti-terrorist organisation Mithril and the mecha battles that flow from their efforts to maintain peace and order in the world; and a more comedic manga side which revolves around the high-school lives of Kaname Chidori and her Mithril-assigned protector, Sousuke Sagara. The first season tries to mix both sides of the idea into one animated series - and it's probably a testament to how well that worked (or didn't) that the two sequels that spun off from it both picked one of those aspects and stuck with it, FUMOFFU! taking the comedy role (and we'll look at that in a moment) and Second Raid taking the mecha. Sometimes, when you try to give the audience the best of both worlds, you just end up annoying everyone. The setup is good, though. Mithril is headed by child prodigy Teletha "Tessa" Testarossa - no more than 16, and she's already captain of the organisation's state-of-the-art submarine, the de Danaan, a ship she designed herself. Her abilities come from her being a Whispered, a person with an innate understanding of "black technology". No-one knows where or why the Whispered got their abilities and knowledge, but the level of technology they're able to create and work with is far beyond what modern science can produce (as a quick comparison of the de Danaan and the other submarines featured in the show will prove), and that makes them very valuable.
No prizes for guessing, then, that Kaname is also one of the Whispered, and once Mithril become aware of this, Sergeant Sousuke Sagara is sent to Japan to be her protector. He's been involved in the military, first through civil wars and then Mithril, since he was a kid, so when he gets to Japan and takes up his role as a normal high-school kid, he finds it almost impossible to fit in - it's a world so alien to what he's always known that he has great problems adjusting, and his military over-reaction to just about any perceived threat to Kaname, no matter how small, becomes the bedrock for the show's comedy side. This is where FMP! really shines - the interactions between Kaname and Sousuke (and later Tessa, when she visits Japan - she has something of a crush on Sousuke, you see) are just pure comedy gold and the real highlight of the series. Problem is, producers GONZO have opted to focus on the more action-based side of the series. This introduces series villain Gauron, someone who Sagara has dealt with in the past and who has proven himself to be a formidable foe. He's a mercenary, willing to take on any job as long as the price is right, and he's currently trying to gather up the Whispered - his employers have a number of experiments they'd like to carry out in the hope of gaining their knowledge. Mithril isn't about to let the power of the Whispered get into the hands of any potential terrorists, and so they set about defeating Gauron and his plans.
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