Review: Full Metal Panic – Ending Day by Day: pt 2 (vol 5)

After being abruptly removed from his mission as Chidori’s bodyguard, Sousuke finds himself unmotivated and regretful in the middle of a warzone–an active terror threat in Hong Kong demanding his attention. Meanwhile, Kaname is missing the intense protection of her soldier classmate in his absence–afraid of her life now being in threat, forcing her to rash and dangerous situations. Both teens are struggling through their seperations in their own ways, whilst the past returns…

Full Metal Panic! Ending Day by Day (Part Two) is the fifth volume of Shouji Gatou’s military light novel series, featuring illustrations by Shikidouji. J-Novel Club releases the English edition translated by Elizabeth Ellis. The ebook was released on digital platforms in December 2019.

As the second half of this story arc, the novel understandably relies on the build up of the previous book. Here, we deal with the aftermath of Mithril removing Sousuke from his posting in Japan and his (relatively) peaceful school life with Kaname. With the abruptness of his departure, a deep chasm is left in both teens lives–pushing their feelings that have grown over the past several months to the forefront, and forcing them to reassess their lives now without each other.

Sousuke continues to struggle with his own self-doubts over piloting the Arbalest; he’s spent a majority of his life fighting wars for other people, and it’s finally taking its toll on the teen. Paired with his removal from Japan, his superior officer’s death, and the general stress of his Mithril’s expectations, the stoic soldier finally reaches his breaking point in Hong Kong, disappearing into the city streets after making another preventable mistake. His self-imposed isolation doesn’t last long though, as a coded message beckons him to a seedy apartment to face the remnants of his past self.

It’s interesting to note that Gatou’s version of the city is split between two factions of power, a la Berlin post-war. Whether or not the geopolitical changes the author decided have any real relevance to the story other than making it easier to write combat without dragging in real-life wars is yet to be seen, but it’s also not hard to see certain inferences either.

Back in Japan, Kaname has come to the realization that Sousuke is very likely gone for good–his phone’s been disconnected, his apartment’s bare, his withdrawal from school submitted. Aside from her heartbreak (to which she curses her avoidance at not telling him the truth), she realises that without a guard like Sousuke she can trust by her side, there’s a very real threat on her life–from Amalgam and Mithril alike. The shadowy Wraith is on her tail, but it’s unsure as to whether they’re friend or foe. In a bout of self-preservation, Kaname decides to lose whomever may be trailing her by hiding in crowds and disappearing off of her usual routes. Her plans seem relatively fruitless though when her own self-doubts start–sure that a trained professional would see right through her preparations. It’s this that prompts our teenage protagonist to hoodwink a drunken office worker into taking her to a love hotel–where she quickly knocks him out and escapes out a window.

The rationale is that Kaname needed a place to check her clothes in case of tracking devices, whilst not looking suspicious (but still unpredictable!) to outside eyes. Even so, there’s an uncomfortableness in the very real risk she puts herself in here–and I’m not thoroughly convinced it was necessary. Before she incapacitates the older man, he’s ready and willing to sleep with the teenager; jumping on her almost immediately once behind closed doors. As a female reader, it’s hard to believe that Kaname would put herself in that sort of danger–even armed, and especially when she’s already on high alert. The tussle is pretty quickly ended, but it’s then immediately followed by her stripping down completely and changing into a bathrobe. It’s a tone-deaf shift between events, made even more aggravating by the fact that we, as an audience, are expected to believe that anyone would willingly try to parkour out a hotel window in only a bathrobe and underwear. I know desperate times call for desperate measures, but it feels like Gatou just wanted the robe for the later bait-and-switch and couldn’t think of any other method. Reading about Kaname taking out an assassin in nothing but her panties doesn’t feel like the powerful moment I think it’s supposed to be–it feels like unwarranted humiliation.

Kaname’s rooftop escape does lead her to discovering those following her though, and fully reveals a character only hinted at before–Leonard Testarossa, Tessa’s twin brother. His ties to Amalgam, and the rocky relationship he has with his sister are obvious, but his motivations towards Kaname as a fellow Whispered are still unclear.

Despite my annoyances with certain choices made at the expense of Kaname here, I do want to acknowledge that this book is the first to push the characters into agency. Kaname risks her life in order to reclaim what has been taken from her; Sousuke stops mindlessly following orders and chooses his own path; even the Arbalest even becomes it’s own independent thinker. The events of the last two books have irrevocably changed these characters, and it will be interesting to see how that will change the dynamic going forward. It is a shame that the rom-com aspect means that we’ll have to wait before either hero admits their romantic feelings; but nor is it surprising from a series from this era.

This book wraps up the stories introduced last time, as well as signalling a significant change for these characters. The character growth also gives Gatou freedom with upcoming arcs so I’m anticipating that it won’t be a complete return to business as usual for our teen protagonists and Mithril. Once again Full Metal Panic! has managed to balance it’s moving parts well, with attempts at nuance in themes. (Although not always successful.)

Gee's Rating: Recommended

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