Full Metal Panic!
Studio: GONZO (Rosario + Vampire, Strike Witches)
Writer: Shoji Gatoh
Genre: Action, Mecha, Romance
First complete run: 2002
Regular episodes: 24
Full Metal Panic! is a difficult anime to place. It does many things well but nothing great. The show, set in contemporary Japan, focuses on a boy named Sousuke, a member of an anti-terrorist group called Mithril. Sousuke, a talented pilot of "Arm Slaves" or mechas, is charged with protecting a rich girl at his high school named Kaname. It's like Agent Cody Banks but with no Hilary Duff and a lot better anyway. The anime has a really pleasant blend of solid action scenes and comedic romance. Sousuke is as talented with an Arm Slave as he is inept at handling Kaname's advances. The action is accomplished with a lot of Sci Fi: Arm Slaves are plausibly explained and during combat they have all kinds of high-tech systems that kick in and malfunction and help to explain what is going on without resorting to fantasy. On the other hand, the romantic interludes are pretty amusing and provide comedic relief to break up the often very intense action.
"Pleasant" is a good description of Full Metal Panic! The score is fun but not great. The characters are amusing but nothing an experienced anime fan won't have already seen before. The various diverse elements of the show's plot are accomplished well, with some depth, but without any sparkle. At only 24 episodes, Full Metal Panic! goes by fast. Its solid blend of action and romantic comedy makes it an easy anime to watch and gives it a broad appeal to people of all ages. Unless you despise mechas, it's really unlikely that you won't like this one. But I'd be surprised if you love it.
Side note: Full Metal Panic! has spawned two short spinoff series. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu focuses more on the romance between Sousuke and Kaname, for those that like that sort of thing. Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid provides a more direct sequel to the original series.