The end of the school year is fast approaching, and with it marks a turning of the tide. With student council president Hayashimizu no longer in charge, he warns Sousuke and Kaname that he will no longer be able to protect or distract the student body from the dangerous misadventures the two seem to attract. Little do the teens know that Amalgam is preparing for a coordinated attack—pushing them into their worst fight yet.
We’ve reached the second half of Full Metal Panic! with volume 7, Continuing On My Own. Written by Shouji Gatou and with illustrations by Shikidouji, with Elizabeth Ellis translating for J-Novel Club. The ebook was released in June 2020, with plans for a physical release in 2021.
Gatou had mentioned in Author’s Notes previously that he was planning for Full Metal Panic! to conclude with its 8th or 9th volume. Whilst thanks to hindsight we know that the series would indeed continue until it’s 12th book, it’s important knowledge to keep in mind when discussing this particular novel. This is by far the worst strife our characters have found themselves in, and the Mithril threat finally bubbles over in a tangible way.
But before we get into that, we’re treated to a satisfying moment of fulfillment for the more romantic of readers, as our two protagonists walk home together, hand in hand—the relationship is not quite there yet, but the mutual feelings are obvious and finally admitted by both parties. It’s a small but sweet respite before the disaster starts almost immediately. As soon as Kaname arrives at her apartment (inviting Sousuke up for a homemade meal) it’s not empty as expected. The two come face to face with Leonard Testarossa, Tessa’s twin brother and a member of Amalgam, who offers Kaname the option to leave with him quietly. Of course the teenage girl refuses, but it means that she and Sousuke have to leave as soon as they can—planning to take an escape route to Mithril’s Merida Island base.
Meanwhile, a historic ‘electromagnetic earthquake’ solar wind event is about to hit the Earth, affecting communications and preventing our heroes from contacting those who can help. During the comms blackout, Amalgam takes the opportunity to start their full-scale attack on the group—attacking their offices and bases across the globe; including, of course, the Merida Island base with Tessa and her crew. This isn’t a fun or exciting skirmish; the stakes are high and people will, and do, die. Even in the most serious parts of previous novels the tension was always undercut with the expectation that good will succeed. Here, we feel the bleak despair of Tessa knowing she’s sending her subordinates into a hopeless situation—knowing that many, if not all, of those going to fight won’t come back. Many will die, and there’s nothing she can do to avoid it. Three Behemoth ASes launch their attack, and Mithril is outgunned and undermanned—no hope for support from anywhere else to swoop in and save the day.
Back in Tokyo, Sousuke and Kaname are trying to outpace their pursuers with stolen cars and unpredictable movements, but the other group won’t play fair. Threatening Jindai High and its students directly means that the two are faced with a difficult choice on what to do and who to save; the quiet streets of the city quickly turning into a war zone, and the fear Kaname now feels for the boy soldier who doesn’t flinch at the violence and destruction and death for their sake. It makes her reflect on her own position: how much danger has followed her since discovering she’s a Whispered, and how her continued ‘normal life’ has put the people around her in danger over the past year. Obviously this isn’t something she’s ignored in the past, but with Sousuke’s guard and the tireless protection from Mithril previously the danger was never so real as when she’s watching a suburban street burn, innocent passerby bleeding out in the streets from stray gunfire. As Sousuke goes to rescue her best friend from being held hostage, its clear to her that the two of them can’t win this together. She has one option to stop the chaos, so takes it—a quiet farewell to the boy she loves.
And thus the book ends. Now alone, Sousuke realizes his own powerlessness—and vows to restore the normal everydays his presence destroyed. His only aim is to fix things, at the cost of himself; even if his classmates now hate him, and the girl he loves is afraid of the side she never knew. Reconciling the violent and deadly child soldier of his past with his newer solace as a high school student is something Sousuke has been struggling with throughout the series, but now the story really seems to be giving him the opportunity to find his true self. He’s a product of his past, but also a product of his future—what that means for the next book will have to be seen.
Continuing On My Own is the opening chapter to the series’ darker second half. Although Full Metal Panic! has never hidden away from the harsh realities of warfare and death, the quickness with escalation here just emphasizes the finality of the books to come. For those who were slightly disappointed in the previous book, this one’s definitely worth a look!
Gee’s Rating: Highly Recommended