FULL METAL PANIC! Invisible Victory – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Kaname’s a popular girl at her high school, but it’s her popularity off campus that’s the problem. Unbeknownst to Kaname, terrorists are plotting her abduction, believing she possesses the abilities of the “Whispered.” That’s where Sousuke enters the picture. He’s a soldier from Mithril, a secret counter-terrorist unit—and he’s going undercover at Kaname’s school to try and keep her safe. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory opens with guns blazing. The first four episodes mark a franchise high, with a rapid pace of action, tension and developments that culminate in what I’d consider the series’ single greatest anime moment to this point (discounting Fumoffu since that’s all comedy rather than action.) All this said, Invisible Victory isn’t without its problems.
Those who hold disdain for 3D in their anime are going to find more disappointing here than just the decision to render the AS Mechs of the series in detailed 3D. While I maintain that the 3D Mecha art works wonderfully, fully detailed with tons of fluid motion to really capture the scale and impressive nature of AS combat, 3D is used to a less than praise worthy effect in other areas. There’s one particular sequence, a frantic car chase, that utilizes 3D for not just the car models, but much of the road way, and surrounding buildings. These objects lack the delicate detail of the AS models, looking far less impressive and entirely at odd with the rest of the 2D content. This sequence stands out as a black mark (although moves fast enough less picky viewers might not be too bothered) on an otherwise solid four episodes, likely to jar audiences troubled by the usage of 3D Animation. It’s a small blip in those first four episodes though, surrounded by such strong content otherwise that it’s easily not even the series biggest issue.
More pressing is Invisible Victory’s grind to a halt after Episode 4. Episodes 5 and 6 are downgrades from the earlier arc, lacking that fast pacing, replaced with weak new additions to the cast: Nami, a scrappy AS ring competitor and Michel Lemon, a western photographer. As part of Sousuke’s efforts to save Kaname from our current baddies he ends up partnering with these two to gain a name in the local AS fighting ring. However, neither character is all that well fleshed out, both feeling more like warm bodies to further Sousuke towards his goals, rather than fully-formed and engaging characters in their own right.
The other problem is this ‘second arc’ takes awhile to get going, and while part of that is in establishing a new status quo in the wake of the first four episodes, the show isn’t forthcoming with details, allowing the viewer to wander around with these new, uninteresting characters, and only gradually come to understand what they have to do with anything revolving around Sousuke and Kaname, and the greater story at large.
It’s not that Invisible Victory gets bad after Episode 4, but it does suffer a significant step down from its high octane beginning. Part of the trouble also stems from a dip in animation quality. While the 3D mechs continue to hold up well, thanks in part to pure model consistency, the 2D animation really begins to falter, periodically producing off-model shots of Sousuke where he only passingly resembles himself.
Still though, Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory is a worthy continuation of the franchise. As someone who recently rewatched the older entries, and found them lacking, Invisible Victory still feels like a step above what’s been offered previously, making for a fun, long-awaited continuation. I’m currently hoping however that the series can get out of this unfortunate lull and back to what really made Invisible Victory such a delight when Spring began.