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Story:

In an alternate world increased technology has lead to the creation and widespread use of ArmSlaves, giant mecha used for combat. Sousuke Sagara is a crack ArmSlave pilot and top soldier for the anti-terrorist group Mithril. But there’s one dangerous battlefield Sagara hasn’t been sent to yet: a Japanese High School. This is where Sagara must go to guard the happy-go-lucky and popular Kaname Chidori. Needless to say, Chidori doesn’t take too kindly to a guy who’s constantly stalking her. Sagara now has to work his way through the hazards of daily school life, protect Midori from mortal danger, and hope she doesn’t kill him in the process.

Impressions:

I have never seen any incarnation of the Full Metal Panic anime, so this first volume of the light novel series was a fresh start for me. It is a pretty fun book overall. The character dynamics all work well to tell a good story, like the cute Sagara/Chidori relationship and the bitter antagonism between Sagara and Gauron. The book reads like a lite military thriller but never bogs itself down in technical jargon, unlike certain passages in Scrapped Princess. The plot is crisp and moves at a good pace throughout, though is still rather predictable. Don’t expect many surprises. FMP does a good job of explaining its own history without sounding like a textbook, especially with the development of advanced technology in a realistic manner. The translation never comes off as particularly jarring or just plain wrong, which is always nice.

With the cover design Tokyopop finally relinquished their own absurd attempts at modern art and went with the original cover. It’s about time for this. Can actually tell it’s a light novel now. Sadly the designs on the inside aren’t so great, with garishly large bullet holes in the corner of every page. Creates a very unsavory and juvenile effect. Unsuitable for a story mostly about soldiers fighting each other. Sadly no color illustrations, but it seems all the original images were reproduced adequately.

FMP is probably the most high profile release Tokyopop has done yet, so it’s nice to see it done well. There’s still some publishing issues Tokyopop needs to fix with its releases, but they’re getting a bit better with every release. Looks like this is a long series, and based on the strengths of this first volume I’ll definately keep up with it. FMP is a B-movie action adventure the whole way through and it doesn’t try to hide that in anyways. An enjoyable read for most and a must for any FMP or light novel fan.