Full Metal Panic! (フルメタル・パニック! Furumetaru Panikku!, often abbreviated to FMP!) is a series of light novels written by Shoji Gatoh and illustrated by Shiki Douji. The series follows Sousuke
Sagara, a member of the covert anti-terrorist mercenary group Mithril, tasked with protecting Kaname
Chidori, a spirited Japanese high school girl.
Individual chapters are published on Monthly Dragon Magazine, followed by a paperback compilation released by Kadokawa Shoten's Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. The novels are split between stories focusing on Sousuke's mission as a soldier of Mithril and comedic side stories centered on his life at Jindai High School.
Full Metal Panic! has been adapted to other media a number of times, including an animated television series by Gonzo in 2002.
Full Metal Panic! is written by Shoji Gatoh and illustrated by Shiki Douji, serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Dragon Magazine since 1998.
The main story develops its characters carefully, and is the shadow or "unusual" events of the protagonist's life. These stories feature the mercenary group Mithril, their mobile base/submarine, called the TDD-1 Tuatha De Danaan, giant humanoid powered suits called Arm Slaves, and the various missions to which Sousuke Sagara is assigned. A highlight of the series is a serious and semi-realistic view of humanoid robotic weapons on the battlefield. The Arm Slave has significant consideration in its portrayal, with explanations given for its power source, operations, maintenance and pilot user interface. The existence of such advanced weaponry and equipment is explained through Black Technology.
The comedic segments are the contrasting "normal life" portrayal of a high school student in Tokyo. These segments are in stark contrast to the more serious main story; explosions are symbolic and humorous, and no death results from these visual gags, while in the main story characters are heavily injured and/or perish when hit by a bullet.
This has led to two discrete series of books within the narrative: the collected short stories, and the full novels. As of April 2007, there have been nine novels and ten short story collections published. There is also a significant number of short stories that have not yet been published in a collection, making the stories difficult to find outside back issues of the magazine. The main storyline is still continuing, with the latest novel, Approaching Nick of Time, released on February 2008. Shoji Gatoh has recently stated in his blog that the next novel will be the "climax" of the series, meaning it could possibly be the final novel of the series. However, there is no specific details, release date or name for the moment. It will probably begin production next year.
The author's handling and balance between the serious character-driven plot of the full plot arcs, contrasted with the caricature portrayal of the same characters in the comedy arcs, is one of the most lauded aspects of the series.
The series is set in a parallel world, based upon actual world events around the late 20th century to the early 21st century. The story begins in Heisei 10 (1999 AD), where the Cold War has yet to end. China has split into a north and south, with Hong Kong being split much like Berlin. The major differences are:
• China has split into the People's Liberation Committee (North China) and the Democratic Chinese Alliance (South China) along the Yangtze River. Kowloon is North Chinese territory, while Hong Kong Island is held by South Chinese forces. Combat in Hong Kong is prohibited by terms of a recent peace treaty.
• A nuclear warhead was used in the 1991 Gulf War. This triggered the Fifth Middle East War.
• Following the beginning of the fifth Middle East war, the Soviet Union successfully reinvaded Afghanistan (Helmajistan).
• Mikhail Gorbachev was assassinated, and the Perestroika was halted.
• Significantly different military technology such as Arm Slaves and Black Technology.
Other subtle differences differentiate the fictional world. Common changes are in the Japanese names, as they use homonyms to the names of real life locations. The fictional Jindai (陣代) High School is based on the real life Jindai (神代) High School in Chofu, Tokyo. The closest station to the real life Jindai High School is the Senkawa station, changed from 仙川 to 泉川. The Japanese calendar of Heisei era name is altered from 平成 to 平政. Other geography and names of location in the fictional Tokyo remain identical to reality.
These overt divergences in history form the backdrop of the plot, while the less obvious divergences and cause of these differences form the many intriguing mysteries within the narrative.
series originally aired in 2002, produced by Gonzo Digimation, after its real premiere date was canceled because of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The series was licensed for North American release in 2003 by ADV Films, and the Manga
released by ADV Manga. The first three of the novels form the basis for the Full Metal Panic! anime.
The animated series follows the events and relationships surrounding Sousuke Sagara, a professional soldier of a covert, international, anti-terrorist mercenary group named Mithril, and Kaname Chidori, a spirited Japanese high school student that, unbeknownst to her, is more than she seems.
Due to his Japanese heritage and young age, Sgt. Sousuke Sagara is selected to go undercover as a transfer student and secretly remain Kaname's undetected bodyguard. With orders only to protect her from abduction by an unknown hostile force, neither Sousuke nor his two fellow Mithril soldiers assigned to the mission—Sgt. Kurz Weber
and Sgt. Major Melissa
Mao—are told any further details except to remain undetected and avoid drawing attention to their charge.
Lina Inverse from the TV and manga series Slayers also makes a short appearance on the cover of Dragon Magazine in the first episode of the anime, and is the third magazine taken off the submarine.