Review: Full Metal Panic – Dancing Very Merry Christmas (vol 6)

An evening aboard the elegant Pacific Chrysalis should be a fun and exciting time for Kaname and her classmates, especially on Christmas–which is coincidentally also the teenage girl’s birthday. But when Sousuke regretfully can’t attended the festivities with his friends, and a group of armed terrorists siege the ship for undisclosed reasons, this holiday quickly turns into a war zone.

The sixth volume, Full Metal Panic! Dancing Very Merry Christmas, of the series by Shouji Gatou’s and illustrated by Shikidouji is available in English via J-Novel Club. Translation is once again provided by Elizabeth Ellis and has been available to buy digitally since March 2020. A physical release will be included in the January 2021 omnibus of books 4 to 6.

All seems to be going well for the students of Kaname’s school—despite the disastrous events of the first novel ruining the class’s overseas trip, the school is being offered a generous all-expenses-paid night of fun by the Pacific Crysalis cruise. Eager to provide some relief to the students amidst a very odd school year, the school agrees and arrangements are made for the second-year students to celebrate Christmas on the luxury cruise ship.

For most Japanese teens the 24th is a day for romance (or commiseration between single friends), but for Kaname it also means she’s another year older. Excited at the prospect of spending the day with her bodyguard, but unwilling to seem too eager about it, she needles Sousuke about what they should do whilst onboard—only to be caught out when he admits he can’t go because of prior plans. Upset and suspicious (especially once she discovers that said “prior plans” are an on-base party at Mithril), the teenage girl tries to ignore her hurt and just focus on spending time with the rest of the class.

The Pacific Chrysalis is an uniquely luxurious cruise ship—almost like a floating city full of stores, amusement park rides, and a overly-hospitable crew. Even the captain himself, Harris, greets Kaname by name; a friendly inquiry to her enjoyment and safety.

Also taking a vacation cruise is Commander Killy B Sailor; an American Navy officer in charge of the Pasadena submarine (which readers may remember from a previous skirmish). He and his beleaguered companion Marcy Takenaka are on the ship in a futile attempt to ignore Sailor’s marriage breakdown and midlife crisis—a weary and sad counterpoint to the youthful exuberance of the high school students.

Things seem to be going well until dinner is called, and a group of masked gunmen (and one sunglasses-wearing maid) take the dining room full of guests and Captain Harris hostage. Now being so used to hostage situations, Kaname can’t help but notice the familiar voice behind the mask and goes to challenge the ‘terrorist’ directly. What she finds is Sousuke and the rest of Mithril behind the plot, proactively chasing down an Amalgam scheme for the first time. The guns aren’t real, but we later learn that the danger onboard very much is…just not from Sergent Sagara and his comrades.

Gatou manages to balance the humor and serious aspects well in this novel, acting as a lighter chapter without losing the overall more serious tone the series has built until now. Killy B Sailor makes for an interesting and funny addition to the piece: a satire on the action movie trope of the ‘lone hero saving the day’, and the self-importance men who idolize that ideal uphold.

This book also firmly cinches the back-and-forth possibility of romantic rivalry between Kaname and Tessa—both turning 17 on the 24th, both harboring feelings for the straightforward Sousuke. Reaching this finality at the halfway point of the series is refreshing, and as Gatou explains in his afterword, FMP! was never meant to be a harem-style of story.

Dancing Very Merry Christmas is the calm before the storm, leaving readers with a lighter plot as the author shifts into the endgame. Despite the less serious first half, and smaller stakes, that doesn’t mean that the book is lacking any of Full Metal Panic‘s patented action set pieces or dangerous situations. Fans of the series are sure to enjoy this interlude in the larger narrative between Mithril and Amalgam

Gee’s Rating: Recommended

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