「腐敗のまどろみ」 (Fuhai no Madoromi)
Big week in Full Metal Panic!. This episode, for one brief, shining moment, we got: 2D mecha! Yeah, okay, said mecha was more a twisted heap of metal than giant robot, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m not an anime purist who thinks CGI is nothing less than new age heresy, but the 2D is what I grew up with and I do miss it sometimes, especially for FMP! where the 2D mecha were done pretty well. I think Invisible Victory and its jump 3D — it goes right back to it when the Crossbow is up and moving and the model is usable again — should be a reminder of how cost-inefficient anime production is. The artists are evidently still capable of drawing detailed mecha, but the actual animation — making those mecha move — is dear in man-hours. Actually, animating anything takes a lot of time, but I guess they can get away with 3D easiest with mecha, so that’s what they do.
The mecha aren’t really the main point of this episode, though. Sure, there’s this big bad mecha tournament going on, but was there any doubt that Sousuke wouldn’t be crushing everybody? This is just some amateur tournament while Sousuke, as he likes to remind us, is a specialist. I would frankly be insulted if he lost to that rabble, even if he’s stuck with an old frog-bot. So, since the outcome is a given, let’s just montage our way through all that. It should have been obvious, I think, that Sousuke was hunting bigger game. As I mentioned last week, there must be a reason why he’s drawing so much attention to himself. Sure, he seems to have a surprising sentimental streak, but his entire shtick is constant paranoia. Painting your mech in Arbalest colours can be nothing but openly taunting Amalgam, and what do you know, here they are. It’s a familiar face, no less, and considering how much of a ruthless bastard he was the first time his arrival can’t be good news. But for Sousuke, this was probably exactly what he wanted. He’s a man with a mission, and we all know Sousuke is one to kick down even the gates of hell for the mission.
But Sousuke faces a problem that many edgy anti-heroes run into eventually: he’s happy. I call it the Batman Problem, because it’s in the Batman mythos where I see it expressed the most clearly. Batman, as you no doubt know, is driven by the murder of his parents. Childhood trauma and vengeance-by-proxy keeps him on his crusade against crime. Sof if he ever finds happiness and fufilment, he loses his entire character motivation. And so, he’s never allowed to be happy — and the best writers for Batman explore how he never allows himself to be. Contrast Superman, who as a beckon of positive virtues is allowed his Lois Lanes. Batman, on the other hand, has his affairs with heroes and villains alike but never settles into a fufilling relationship. Now, Sousuke faces a dilemma, too. Nami is a good girl, and has obvious affections for Sousuke. She was the blatant Kaname stand-in, but could easily be a Kaname replacement. Sousuke could have settled down with her, become a professional mecha sportsman, and probably do pretty well out of it. But he doesn’t. He can’t. Yes, Kaname went with Male!Testerossa by her own will, Mithril has been destroyed, and Sousuke was just a mercenary. This isn’t his war anymore. But that’s precisely why he can’t allow himself to be happy. All he has to keep him on his mission is the resentment and the hurt and the loss. The pain keeps him going. Amalgam. Happiness is dangerous.
That’s the fundamental conflict of Sousuke throughout all of FMP!: his identity as a cold-blooded supersoldier and his rightful happiness as a normal teenager. His Batman vs his Bruce Wayne. For Batman, though, Bruce Wayne is always a mask. It isn’t real. Hopefully, Sousuke’s story will find a less tragic note.