「WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE」
Aaand we’re back. Enjoyed the recap episode last week? Yeah, me neither. Sometimes there’s a good reason for recap episodes. Long-running shows entering a new arc and just received a marketing push towards new viewers may want to slip in some recap. Shows targeted younger audiences usually recap by the week because young attention spans are goldfish-short. But we’re only four episodes into Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory and if the producers truly don’t think we can retain 80 minutes of information over a month then I am frankly insulted. If they were recapping the the previous seasons of FMP!, I can understand that; those were more than a decade ago and Invisible Victory started at a sprint without a pause for retrospection, so maybe turning back now to get everybody on the same page would be worthwhile. But, nope, the Invisible Victory recap only recapped Invisible Victory i.e. not much. So, yeah, there’s really no good reason for it. In the absence of good reasons, though, there are bad ones. When an anime resorts to an out-of-place recap episode like we got, it’s usually a sign of a production hiccup. Or rather, less of a production hiccup and more production vomiting all over itself. Nobody wants a recap episode, least of all the staff who are responsible for their art. Mere hiccups can be smoothed over over, and even if there’s some still scenes or derpy far-shots most studios try to push out an episode by any means. When all we have is a recap episode, when there’s not even enough to show on TV for 20 minutes, you just know that there was a disaster. If that’s true here, that’s rather disappointing for FMP!, which has all sorts of expectations behind it yet still can’t manage to muster in Invisible Victory the same aesthetic appeal of a fledgling Kyoto Animation managed in The Second Raid. But one recap episode does not doom us completely. Remember Girls und Panzer? That was plagued by management issues, but in the end it was still, and still is, a fan-favourite money spinner. Hopefully for Invisible Victory it was just Golden Week in Japan screwing with our anime and not any terminal production difficulty. And if it really is the latter, hopefully Invisible Victory manages to keep its pants on for at least the rest of the season and spare us another embarrassment. It’s a good show, I’d hate to see it implode suddenly.
Well, let’s push the negative thoughts aside and hype ourselves for this fresh arc of FMP!. And we can get no fresher for FMP! because, after four episodes sweeping out the the old, it’s now in with the new. We’re not even in Japan any more! What’s this place? Why are we here? Who are these people? If you haven’t watched the previous FMP! or are feeling forgetful after 13 years, perhaps you might be afraid that you’ve lost track of a subplot or a bunch of minor characters, but rest assured that they’re all new. Despite this revolution, though, FMP! is not entirely reinventing itself, and has retained enough familiar motifs to keep us comfortable. For one, Sousuke is still here, though perhaps sleeping less soundly than he did in Japan. The mecha are still here, just gaudier (and sponsered by Bandai Namco. Heh.), though perhaps ‘Crossbow’ is just a tad too cheeky. And while I’m fairly sure there’s no actual city called Namsac we can tell straight away it’s a hive of scum of villainy where we can set a season of Black Lagoon. Everything is fresh, but easy to grok. Even the new cast are curiously and likely deliberately familiar. Blondie (Tsuda Kenjiro) makes for a convincing Weber-in-glasses. And Nami is definitely our Kaname substitute, the inheritor of the, ‘I’m not an amateur, I’m a specialist’ line from Sousuke, damsel in distress, and our new designated cheescake. I like her already (hard not to. Pony!). I’m sure we’ll get more of her circumstances as we go.
Nami’s likeability will have to carry for a while as we get settled into all this newness. Change is always difficult but it’s been flagged for a while and it’s best that we roll with it as it comes. And it’s not like Sousuke has given up on the past. Even though he can’t rule out that he’s being hunted by Mithril, he’s still going around introducing himself by his real name and entering into flashy mecha tournaments. In a lesser story I might have chalked this up as just sloppiness, but I have respect for the writing of FMP! and the usually cagey Sousuke must have a greater design here. He’s deliberately attracting attention. Be sure that he’s hanging out in this backwater for a reason.