「オン・マイ・オウン」 (On Mai Oun)
“On My Own”
Why is that, in so many romantic comedies, the main couple don’t get together until the very end of the story even though it’s clear that they were made for each other? Why is it, that a long-running anime will tease us with the will-they-or-won’t-they throughout the entire season despite obvious chemistry and then end without resolution? There are many reasons for the infuriating tail-chasing anime romances usually subject us to, but it’s probably mostly because it sells. In the world of episodic storytelling these — whether it’s volumes of light novel, chapters of manga, or weeks of anime — it’s accepted wisdom that nothing gets audiences coming back for more quite like these kinds of tantric relationships. We are whipped dogs, basically, lapping up every step of the development and getting unreasonably excited whenever we’re thrown a bone. If they actually give us the big payoff, what will they have left to feed us with? The confession scene is where the fireworks are, anyway; everything after is just messiness. Actually exploring the ups and downs of a normal relationship is usually too much touchy-feely baggage for most shows. That’s why, when the main couple gets together and you can’t end the story right there, there’s only one thing to do: break them apart again.
That’s what made this episode so hard to watch for me: it was set up so thoroughly for pain and heartbreak. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the source, you may have noticed that all signs pointed to failure. There’s the fact that Kaname and Sousuke explain their plan in full before the execute it, and we know that ever nothing goes according to plan. There’s the symbolism of hands again, making the hand-holding scene in episode 01 one big metaphor. And there’s that Al and Kaname can basically see the future and more or less spoil the ending anyway. So when smarmy bastard ex machina dropped form the sky and ruined everything I hope none of you were too surprised. Every hero has a point in the journey where they are at the lowest and things looks bleakest, and Full Metal Panic! seems very insistent on driving home that feeling of utter defeat. The symbolism isn’t exactly subtle here. The bad guys get to lord over the good guys, the silver-haired man-child wins the entire pot, and we all leave with a bad taste in our mouths.
It’s a bit of an extreme move if FMP! just wanted an excuse to break up the main couple. Sure, since Kaname and Sousuke have managed to get together, but there’s still quite a bit of FMP! left, they need to be split up again. To severely misquote Romance of the Three Kingdoms, couples long united must divide. I get that. Again, standard romantic comedy practice, and FMP! was always, in part, a romantic comedy. But Invisible Victory is not just breaking up Kaname and Sousuke, it’s breaking everything. It’s as if all we’ve come to know and love from the earlier seasons of FMP! have got to go. Sousuke and Kaname are separated. Mithril is dismantled. The school is exploded. Even the comedy has been jettisoned as Hayashimizu takes the usual Fumoffu gag seriously and Sousuke’s classmates finally take him to task over what kind of dangerous individual he has never pretended not to be. So it’s not just about pulling about Kaname and Sousuke apart; I mean, she got kidnapped all the time, but this time it’s different. The entire premise behind their relationship is dead. The romantic comedy is over. Whatever mash of genres FMP! was before, now it is something different. Invisible Victory has swept out all the old and is now ushering in the new.
At least we had one last moment of triumph from the Mithril side, so that we may hold our heads high as we step tentatively into whatever FMP! will be now. I am reminded of CLANNAD ~After Story~, which didn’t really start until 10 episodes deep. These first four episodes of Invisible Victory were similarly only to drop the curtain on the FMP! of more than a decade ago. And now, for something completely different. I’ll see you here for the start of that next week.