「前へ、前へ」 (Mae e, Mae e)
I hate ragging on about this seemingly every other week, but Full Metal Panic has not been doing well. As some of you may already know, episodes 11-12 of Invisible Victory are going to be delayed and will be broadcast as a single double-length special 18 July. This is somewhat disheartening news but not exactly surprising. Evidently, the two recap episodes we got were not exactly planned, and now strict TV schedules have forced the final two episodes of Invisible Victory to be bumped back. And perhaps this is welcome news for the team over at Xebec; they certainly need the time. I should have cited Girls und Panzer before, which was also a management disaster during its TV broadcast but ultimately produced a pretty good show and a financial success. It remains a fan favourite and its sins have been forgiven. But unfortunately, it seems that even with the extra time Xebec can’t reliably produce good looking anime. This episode, the one we’ve been left with, must mark a particular low point in the art and animation than no amount of random bra–service can salvage. More than Girls und Panzer I’m reminded of Bakemonogatari, which was a production horror story half the time and had the visuals to match. It was quite successful despite, but it was also a very dialogue-centric show and could get away with a lot of cut corners and even downright failures so long as characters kept talking. Invisible Victory can’t really pull those tricks. Which is a crying shame, because visuals aside Invisible Victory is still pretty solid. Basic composition is fine, the plot is still chugging along apace, and there are still moments where I am engaged, even gripped. But then factor in any sort of motion and suddenly it’s all too difficult to maintain. Say what you want about The Second Raid, but even at its lowest it was still, even by today’s standards, a fairly good looking show. Would FMP have garnered the fans it did if it looked mediocre, even fugly? I wouldn’t bet money on it.
It doesn’t help that we’re currently at a low point in FMP, when Sousuke is a mess, all the protagonists are crashing, and there’s no mecha action. At least Sousuke kills a guy and that’s supposed to maintain our attention for the next 20 minutes but the poor sap was too badly animated to even stop, drop, and roll so the impact fizzles. There’s a very delicate balance between action and drama that Invisible Victory needs to maintain, interweaving the highs and the lows, but with the production issues there aren’t enough highs and too many lows. Sure, tehre’s a bit of comic relief in the form of a crazy person, but I don’t feel that it was enough to balance out the overall angst. It’s unfortunate that FMP is staggering at this point because narratively it’s just about prepared to ramp up again, with the preparation of the new ARX and some paths to combating Amalgam opened. Instead, we’re distracted by distracted by a lot of superficial flaws that taint the rest of the anime.
Well, this is what we’re going to have to hold onto for bit more than half a month. I would rather not wait, especially considering the cliffhanger of Kalinin apparently turning heel, but if we’ve got to do it let’s try to be positive about it. Perhaps the two weeks and change will be enough for Xebec, and we can at least get something glorious for what should be an approaching triumphant arc in FMP.