What to Expect from Full Metal Panic Season 4

The light novel author, the voice cast and fans gather for a group photo.
The light novel author, the voice cast and fans gather for a group photo.

The shounen light novel company Fantasia Bunko held a Thanksgiving 2015 event in Tokyo on Saturday 24th October 2015. Fans were not expecting that the light novel author of Full Metal Panic (hereby called FMP!) Shoji Gatou and the producer of the anime Atsushi Itou would announce a new television series to complete the main story line. Due to the number of false announcements over the past ten years the near universal reaction has been skepticism and double takes. It takes a few moments of chasing up references before the true celebrations begin. As evident by the poster and the fact the Japanese voice cast of FMP! was part of the event, the series will continue the original time line and not adapt the spin off sequel FMP! Another which is still being written. Apparently the FMP! sequel is estimated to be completed within the next five years, hopefully sooner rather than later. Many fans are not familiar with the light novel franchise so the speculations that surround the new series are broad. The purpose of this article is to help narrow down what we do know about the production material and what sort of choices to expect.

Those who do not know a lot about FMP may be wondering what the story is about and why this news is important in anime fandom. IMDB’s summary for the first series is as follows:

“Sousuke Sagara, a member of a covert anti-terrorist private military organization known as Mithril, is tasked with protecting Kaname Chidori, a spirited Japanese high school girl.”

Is FMP one of those rusty old shows like Voltron that visually or story wise has not stood the test of time? The fact that new fans are emerging and many recent reviews view the series in a positive light imply that it does. Theron Martin from Anime News Network described the first series as not being ‘classic’ but “highly entertaining”. The interactions between the two lead characters are amusing (Nfarious Reviews, 2015) and create a “a layered parfait of action and comedy with sci-fi sprinkled on top” which is worth a watch (Tonthat, 2010). Even when the higher quality sequel and spin off came out, a very common criticism was that there were many questions unanswered. A fourth season is extremely exciting because it can complete the material and has the potential to finally put these complaints to rest – on the assumption the story is executed in a powerful way. Considering that the light novels only get darker and a lot of the major questions are answered, the likelihood of this happening is decent, with only minor plausibility or loose ends getting in the way. A strong fourth season could bring FMP into the status of classic, bring forth a resurgence of the fandom and make it stand once and for all with other highly respected mecha anime franchises.

It has only been a month and message boards have exploded with potential series names. One of the more amusing ones proposed as a joke is FMP: Vertical shaft as on reddit. Many familiar with the anime suggest “The Third Raid”, although this seems unlikely given the series pattern of picking a unique name with each installment. While chapter and volume names for the light novels often correspond to specific episodes these are not likely to be used for a title. Given the manga adaption of the light novels is titled FMP! Sigma, this seems like a name which could be used, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if the animation studio came up with an entirely new name. Speculating about the title is therefore a largely fruitless discussion, but there are other aspects like potential animation studios which is more interesting.

Full Metal Panic Trailer FUNimation Ver.

Who Will Animate the New Series?

FMP! has had an inconsistent production run. The first series animated by GONZO has been painfully accurately described by Glass Reflection as a “military comedy-esque anime with light sprinkles of romance that you will probably never notice.” The animation quality for the series varied greatly from scene to scene and has been criticized for the repetitive submarine CG and does not impress nowadays because of the use of stills. Kyoto Animation very clearly separated the comedy and drama aspects of the franchise into two shows: Fumoffu (2003) and The Second Raid (2005), removing common complaints of filler and confused goals. Kyoto Animation’s approach to the material was incredibly successful and the studio have since maintained a fantastic reputation world wide for their attention to detail and high quality animation. Rebecca Silverman did a review earlier in November for Fumoffu, claiming that the series has stood the test of time. More than most franchises, there has been a very obvious divide between the quality of FMP and subsequent seasons.

Gonzo's FMP had inconsistent animation quality.
Gonzo’s FMP had inconsistent animation quality.

A popular blog post by Full Metal Panic News claimed that the animation studio has been confirmed to be Tokyo based, but tracing back translated version of the original Japanese news sources implies that, like Anime News Network claimed, the information is not available yet. In fact, many Japanese bloggers have the same questions as Western fans. The animation studio is still to be confirmed, and this announcement will be a critical as it will give a very strong indicator of what level of quality the series will be. Although fans of the GONZO adaption of FMP! exist from preferring the mixed tone of the series, many in the West are praying for Kyoto Animation’s involvement. The opinions of the Japanese fanbase seems evenly mixed as many seem to have seen the first series but not the sequels.

It is worth examining the likelihood of particular studios working on FMP! season four. Not a surprise to most, the chances of a previous FMP! studio taking the project is high. GONZO is not out of the question since the FMP! creator has ties with the studio. He composed and wrote the series The Tower of Druaga (2008), a project that the FMP! director was also involved in. The studio has a large resume with three Tokyo based offices and currently holds 43 employees. Depending on the schedule, the studio sometimes airs three series a season, sometimes reaching six shows a year. This pattern seems to have reduced this decade with a rough estimate of two series being produced over a twelve month period, which might mean that GONZO is taking more time on its projects.

Due to the inconsistent animation quality that GONZO is infamous for, there are mixed reactions to the idea of GONZO being the main powerhouse. Their better work lies in shows like Full Metal Panic, Last Exile, Kaleido Star and Welcome to the NHK, but even these have dips in frame rates. FMP! season four could potentially be one of the company’s best work if they directed all effort toward the project, but whether that is the case remains to be seen as GONZO has largely fallen off the anime radar in recent years. The most recent hit was Strike Witches, not exactly a jaw dropping series. Other categories which level similar visual quality to GONZO are Madhouse and Sunrise, although these are less likely to be candidates since Shoji Gatou has not worked for them.

Shoji Gatou's most recent project with Kyoto Animation was Amagi Brilliant Park, and contained a mascot from FMP Fumoffu.
Shoji Gatou’s most recent project with Kyoto Animation was Amagi Brilliant Park, and contained a mascot from FMP Fumoffu.

What will be a relief of many, including myself, the FMP! creator has had a far closer involvement with Kyoto Animation and this has been a continuous relationship. Not only was he closely part of the FMP! adaptions at the time of their release, Gatou continued to lend his writing talent on episodes of the company’s more successful titles like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star and Hyouka. His more recent creation effort was with Amagi Brilliant Park last year with the help of another Full Metal Panic director. Perhaps Gatou did this deliberately with the intention of his FMP! baby being nurtured by this prolific studio, with GONZO as a safety net in case plans fell through. Other studios that may produce the series to a quality standard could be A-1 Pictures, BONES, Ufotable or Trigger, but considering the lack of a working relationship the chances are low. I personally have my fingers nervously crossed for Kyoto Animation and Animate TV encourages readers to be hopeful and look forward to the release of new information, a much needed positive attitude on the elaborate internet.

How Will They Adapt the Source Material?

The adaption of the source material is where the bulk of the FMP! season four argument becomes more constructive, although so many fans are unfamiliar with the manga or light novels there lacks an in depth examination of what could be realistically achieved. In brief non spoiler terms, the remaining light novels explain all mysteries to do with the Whispered, Tessa and Leonard Testarossa, the big enemy is defeated, and there is a resolution to the Kaname/Sousuke romance which has been building up since the light novel beginning in 1998. Apart from this, there are a variety of fights and conflicts, similar to what fans are familiar with in the previous seasons, making the series a dark, action packed, emotional ride. However, there is one big speed hump in the planning stages of season four. There are more light novels left to adapt than what any of the anime have covered so far, and since major story points are resolved, a lot of the material is relevant.

The Sousuke and Kaname romance subplot is resolved in the light novels.
The Sousuke and Kaname romance subplot is resolved in the light novels.

To get some leverage on what this could mean it is useful to examine the method of adaption for the previous series that were plot based. FMP! adapted the first three light novels (Fighting Boy Meets Girl, One Night Stand and Into the Blue) into 24 episodes. The Tokyopop publications have five chapters each with a prologue and epilogue across 300 pages of large font writing, adding to around eighteen chapters in total. This means around 1.5 chapters were adapted per episode. The Second Raid adapted two light novels, Ending Day by Day part 1 and 2, across 13 episodes, around twelve chapters of material. As a result one episode corresponded to a chapter, with a few sections removed. The pacing in The Second Raid is far more concise than FMP! and added to the entertainment value, so trimming the edges of the remaining FMP! story is likely to result in a higher quality, more engaging screenplay to animate. Since the material of the remaining light novels only gets darker from where The Second Raid left off, there will be little need to create another spin off like Fumoffu. The only FMP! side story that was released post The Second Raid was “Seriously dangerous narrow escape from death?” in 2011. This has the potential to be a side story OVA but not take the place of an entire series.

Where does this leave FMP! season four? There are seven light novels remaining around the similar length of previous installments, around 42 chapters. If Kyoto Animation receives the project and used a similar tactic to adapting the Ending Day by Day novels, we would be looking at three seasons of thirteen episodes. This could be a highly effective way of distributing the material without destroying the execution in the process. It wouldn’t be out of Kyoto Animations realm. K-On, Free! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya have two thirteen episode seasons and a movie. This format could work for FMP! Season four. However, if the writers wanted to condense the material further it may be possible to do so in 26 episodes. This is the format suggested by many fans on message boards. The light novels quite frequently describe what is occurring from the perspectives of multiple characters, including the antagonists, so it may be possible to remove excess material from these scenes. Kaname gets kidnapped a number of times which may be possible to condense too, but this would require a larger restructuring of the original material.

Shoji adapted four light novels into 22 episodes in Hyouka, proving he is more than capable of appropriately scripting the remaining FMP! light novels.
Shoji adapted four light novels into 22 episodes in Hyouka, proving he is more than capable of appropriately scripting the remaining FMP! light novels.

Gatou is working on FMP! with the original anime director so if anybody knows where to remove material, it is them. The series creator worked on the series composition for Hyouka which adapted four light novels into 22 episodes. Although the structure of Hyouka is quite episodic in comparison, it displays Gatou’s ability to pick and choose what is relevant to the overall story. It is possible an announcement on season four took so long because of the difficult task to formulate an adaption structure which would do the material justice was so daunting and lengthy. Of course, it also helps that the light novels only ended in 2010, a fact most fans forgot when they were busy demanding a fourth season.

Soundtrack and Other Production Issues

The old Japanese voice cast for FMP!, Satsuki Yukino and Tomokazu Seki are almost definitely going to reprise their roles given they were present when the project was announced in Tokyo. The composer present throughout all FMP! anime was Toshihiko Sahashi, who according to his official website is still active in the industry. The singer Mikuni Shimokawa who has worked almost exclusively on anime opening and ending theme songs is also still making music. Her last anime work was the fourth Fairy Tail ending song in 2010 and her 10th Anniversary album called Heavenly released in 2009. She got married in 2012 which could explain her inactivity in anime in the past few years. However, Shimokawa is an indispensable asset to FMP! songs, as important as Wada Koji is to the Digimon franchise. Although if for whatever reason she was not available to take part in the project, there are a number of other popular female artists that share a similar pop/rock style and would be suitable to replace her. Such artists may be supercell, Chochou and Aimer. However, chances are high that these staff members will return for the fourth season.

それが、愛でしょう

From the moment the announcement was made, Western fans agonized over how an English dub would proceed given it may be up to five years until the anime is released. Many were concerned of whether Luci Christian or Chris Patton would reprise their roles as the two leads, Kaname Chidori and Sousuke Sagara. There were some legal proceedings in Funimation a number of years ago and it was rumored that Chris Patton left the company for this reason. However, getchman on the Anime News Network forums states this is not the case, “He talked about this on his Facebook page a while back. The lawsuit had nothing to do with it. He just couldn’t commit to the 8 hour round trip between Houston and Dallas. He was getting drowsy far too often on his way home on the highway and in the interest of his safety, decided to stop going to Funi for roles.” At least in Chris’s case, he has expressed interest in reprising the role of Sousuke so the chances of him putting in the extra effort to play an old favorite is likely, on the assumption he hasn’t retired by the time the show comes out. Luci Christian, Alison Keith, Vic Mignogna and Hilary Haag are still active in the anime voice acting community so their involvement seems guaranteed. It will largely depend on how quickly the series is released.

When the series will be released is the next big question. It is as critical as the animation studio that will be attached to the project since it has implications for the number of the old staff that can be recruited. Since the project has been moving along behind the scenes since 2011 one hopes the project won’t be delayed or put on hiatuses. Last year Kyoto Animation completed four animation projects so it is possible the release could be sooner rather than later depending on how quickly announcements on the next parts of the project are made. Myriad Colors Phantom World is the next Kyoto Animation project announced for January next year. It will be based off a light novel from 2013 which recieved an award from Kyoto Animation. No other series have been announced by the studio yet.

Overall, with the information we have so far there is a high chance that FMP!’s fourth season will be adapted by either Kyoto Animation or Gonzo. While the animation studio may be largely speculation at this point other aspects of the production like the soundtrack are likely to include the original, much loved staff from previous seasons on the assumption the production moves quickly. With Shoji Gatou and Atsushi Itou on the project the screenplay adaption will likely do the material justice no matter how the books are divided. This is a long awaited announcement that is likely to bring in a new flurry of fans as the release grows nearer and interest in the franchise re-surges.

Works Cited

Animate TV. (2015). It is not a half-hearted animated! “Full Metal Panic! “Rainy day new animated strategy in progress!? [translated]. Retrieved 22nd November 2015 from: https://translate.google.com.au/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://www.animate.tv/news/details.php%3Fid%3D1445655002&prev=search

Anime News Network. (2015). Full Metal Panic! Novels Inspire New Anime Adaptation. Retrieved 21st November 2015 from: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2015-10-24/full-metal-panic-novels-inspire-new-anime-adaptation/.94580

Glass Reflection. (2013). GR Anime Review: Full Metal Panic [Re-Uploaded] (Youtube video). Retrieved 22nd November 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5e0vxX_0qpE

Full Metal Panic News. (2015). New Full Metal Panic! Anime Project Confirmed! Retrieved 21st November 2015 from: http://fullmetalpanicnews.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/new-full-metal-panic-anime-project.html#more

Gonzo. (2015). Profile. [translated]. Retrieved 22nd November 2015 from: http://www.gonzo.co.jp/company/profile/

Mantan Web. (2015). フルメタル・パニック!:人気ラノベの新作アニメが制作決定 [translated]. Retrieved 22nd November 2015 from: http://mantan-web.jp/2015/10/24/20151024dog00m200004000c.html

Martin, T. (2010). Full Metal Panic! Blu-Ray – The Complete Series [review]. Anime News Network. Retrieved 30th November 2015 from: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/full-metal-panic/blu-ray-the-complete-series

Nfarious Reviews (2015). Full Metal Panic! – Anime Review. Retrieved 30th November 2015 from: http://nefariousreviews.com/2015/04/23/full-metal-panic-anime-review/

Silverman, R. (2015). Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu: BD+DVD – The Complete Series [Anime Classics] Review. Anime News Network. Retrieved 22nd November 2015 from: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/full-metal-panic-fumoffu/bd-dvd-the-complete-series-anime-classics/.95153

SubculWalker. (2015). [Full Metal Panic! ] New animated production in progress! The illustrations drawn also published! [translated]. Retrieved 22nd November 2015 from: http://subculwalker.com/archives/21116/

Tonthat, T. (2010). Anime Review: Full Metal Panic. The Escapist Magazine. Retrieved 30th November 2015 from: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/editorials/reviews/anime/8408-Anime-Review-Full-Metal-Panic

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Edited by Ryan Errington.

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37 Comments

  1. Tatijana

    This is super exciting news since I recently decided to watch these. Previously I’ve only seen a couple episodes… like I dunno 10ish years ago? Haha.

  2. I was really into Full Metal Panic way back in the day. I even read all the light novels, manga and watched every episode of ever anime adaptation. I hope they bring back all the original seiyuus/voice actors.

  3. One of the gateway anime for me. So many memories…

  4. Irmgard
    0

    Full Metal Panic is so underrated! I can’t wait!

  5. I’m going to turn into the school janitor if they don’t bring Mikuni Shimokawa back to do the OPs and EDs. My dearest Full Metal Panic! series will never be complete without her songs. Please bring her back.

  6. All I have to say it is ABOUT FKING TIME!

  7. I think this has the potential to be one of the most engaging, gripping series going if they get it right and don’t cut or rush the story.

  8. Candelaria
    0

    I think its time that i watch the original full metal panic anime, been on my backlog for a long time.

  9. I- i really don’t want to hype too much, but it’s hard to control myself because i just like the series so much (even tho obviously it had it’s flaws and season 1 wasn’t too perfect). Just…don’t mess this up please, i was waiting for some new FMP anime info for few years.

  10. Hyun Dunning
    0

    Ahhhh, what a great show. I’m excited. The 90’s are truly coming back.

  11. I saw this show when I tried going to anime club during college. I didn’t really understand why everyone else liked it.

    • Jordan

      Like with anything FMP may not be your cup of tea. That being said, The Kyoto Animation sequels are much better than the original series.

  12. Grossman
    0

    Thank you for sharing this with us. The best part is: it’ll cover FMP! Sigma.

  13. Hopefully they give us a full ending.

  14. Sook Gooch
    0

    I think I’m stoked about this mostly out of nostalgia. Hope it’s a GOOD continuance of the series.

  15. I don’t even know how to feel about this since I’ve had the mindset of this never happening, but I think you summed it up really well. Thanks for the excellent article.

  16. This got announced as I was just in the middle of re-watching all the seasons!

    Honestly speaking, FMP to me was a stellar series that flawlessly integrated high school comedy with serious mecha action. While detractors cite the “mood whiplash” as a complaint, I attest that the juxtaposition of the two scenarios is the series’ charm that works to its benefit. By allowing us to grow attached to the endearing characters through the comedy, the serious parts leave an even stronger impact.

    The mechas are some of the best designed ones that I’ve seen to-date that work exceedingly well in combat. I would argue that their realistic, real-robot humanoid designs just add to the wonder and visual spectacle of the rather super-robot-esque reality defying abilities.

    All in all, I cannot wait to see the continuation of the story that I’ve been waiting for years for.

  17. Thank the gods they’re doing it while the original voice cast is still alive and active (I think?).

  18. I liked this one, good character development at the end and overall charming. Wonder if its going to be like the third or second season.

  19. Paola Paulson
    0

    I hope Luci Christian and Chris Patton will return in the English dub.

  20. I’m glad I started watching it this year its so awesome

  21. Wonder if Tessa’s brother will be the primary antagonist of this new series?

    • Jordan

      There is an answer to that. If you want broad spoilers just Google “Full Metal Panic light novel summaries”.

  22. CaffCaff
    0

    Loved this anime back in the day, was probably one of my favorites. Dunno how it has held up now, but I have alot of great memories and nostalgia of this series.

  23. One of the gateway anime for me. So many memories…

  24. The only reason I bothered to even watch the series was for knowing the characters for Fumoffu, which was my only interest in the series.

  25. Well,let start watching the anime again,don’t remember anything,but i remember i enjoyed it!

  26. Nicholas Fifis
    0

    For the first, I can honestly say this gave me goosebumps. The thought of FMP! returning for even just one more season makes me as giddy as a Kurtz at the first sight of Kaname.

    • Ann Heart
      1

      same here! I’m glad its confirmed they’re working on it and hoping it’ll be release asap!

  27. Ann Heart
    0

    thanks for posting this! I do love all FMP episodes and I’m a big fan of SousukexKaname love fever! I finished reading the manga so I’m really looking forward for the new anime to showcase their love confession scene and how they will make the much awaited ending kiss! Hoping that Luci and Chris will remain lead dubbers while Mikuni on themes!

  28. Just finished watching the series today and felt pretty depressed that there’s no more before encountering this news. Can’t imagine how hard it is for the original fans waiting 10 years for this sequel. This news is a godsend!

  29. Other studios that may produce the series to a quality standard could be …. Ufotable or Trigger. lel good joke, great article btw 😀 pretty pumped for more FMP

  30. It won’t be Kyoto Animation. They’re never closed about if they’re working on an anime project or not. Same thing happened when the “Nagato” anime was announced, but didn’t have a animation studio tied to it. People thought it would be KyoAni, but it wasn’t. Kyoto Animation had been busy with Phantom World, A Silent Voice, and Hibike! Euphonium S2 during 2016.

    Then they have announced to also animate Violet Evergarden too, which is going to take a lot of effort, which will air in 2017 most likely.

    KyoAni really only animates their own in-house stories, such as Free, Kyoukai, Phantom World, etc. They really only animate novels they don’t own once in while, cause it’s a story that can actually end.

    KyoAni doing this show in this time of day, would be nearly impossible with all that already being said. I personally believe that it’ll be a small animation studio, seeing as bigger animation studio’s don’t “continue” stories.

    After KyoAni releases Violet Evergarden, I’m pretty sure they’re going to animate one of their 2 LN’s they have right now that isn’t animated. It’ll either by Robot Heart Update or Coppelia. It’s been a long time since Coppelia was released, so an anime for it is probably unlikely at this point. But Robot Heart Update recently had a video on KyoAni’s YouTube channel, and it’s pretty much an obvious one to animate, even though it’s a but cliche. There’s also other KyoAni stories, such as Yuuyake, Manzai, Yatara, Santa Clause, Yesterday’s Love is Today’s dream, Fly-High, Yoda-no-Mori, Hoshizora Ni Wa, etc, but those aren’t published, so it’s only if they ever ran out of material to animate, which I highly doubt. Most likely, KyoAni will do Violet Evergarden, Robot Heart, then they’ll either do 1. Do an anime adaption of a novel they DO NOT own, which can be done within 13 episodes and doesn’t need to be continuous. 2. Make a Coppelia anime adaption. Or 3. They’ll probably take at least 2-3 years on Violet Evergarden and Robot Heart, because they do the 1-anime-per-year schedule, and they host an award contest every year, meaning that they’ll have 2 years to be able to get new content from their contests (if it’s good), and probably choose to animate that, if Coppelia is too old now to animate. Pretty sure it was released alongside Chuunibyo’s LN, which was from 2010, and published in 2011.

    This show being animated by KyoAni is quite unlikely. The chances for this show to be done by Kyoto Animation, is as slim as it was for Little Busters! to be animated by Kyoto Animation.

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