Reviewby Paul Fargo, Jul 20th 2004
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
Studio Gonzo's 2002 series Full Metal Panic! ultimately went on to become a rather popular series both here and in Japan. Adapted from the novels and manga by Shoji Gatou, the series has been hailed as an exceptional mix of action, comedy, and even a touch of romance. The following year, plans were made for a second season that would take the series in a slightly different direction, but still manage to keep up the same all-around quality as the first. Recently announced for domestic release by ADV Films, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu should prove to be just as popular and well-received as its celebrated predecessor.
Although Fumoffu can be considered a second season to Full Metal Panic!, it's not exactly a continuation. Rather, it's more akin to an alternate universe, or a collection of side stories taking place between story arcs of the first season. Revolving around teenage mercenary Sousuke Sagara's futile attempts to adjust to civilian life at Jindai High School, Fumoffu completely scraps the action and drama found in the first FMP! in favor of fast-paced comedic misadventure. Largely episodic in nature, the series alternates between full thirty minute episodes and fifteen minute half-episodes, all focusing on Sousuke putting his own militaristic spin on such everyday (and not-so-everyday) activities as art class, rugby, a day at the beach, and even kidnappings and local Yakuza rivalries. Of course, always by his side is friend and suggested love interest Kaname Chidori, who manages to prevent Sousuke from going too far in his antics while raising plenty of hell on her own. These two prove to be an ideal comic pair, as the interplay between them provides much of the rapid, well-written humor that drives the series.
But while Sousuke and Chidori are undoubtedly Fumoffu's central focus, a wide collection of new and returning characters all come together to aid in the relentless onslaught of hilarity. Returning from Full Metal Panic!, military otaku Shinji, free spirit Mizuki, and Chidori's best friend Kyouko all get increased exposure and a bit more fleshing out as characters, though they still remain very much in the background through much of the series. The new additions to the cast fare better in terms of development for the most part, as a few get full episodes devoted to them. Most notable of these new characters are Issei Tsubaki, a nearsighted martial arts specialist who becomes Sousuke's rival, and the duo of Atsunobu Hayashimizu and Ren Mikihara. As student council president and secretary respectively, Atsunobu and Ren set Sousuke and Chidori off on many of their misadventures, and even tag along on a few. These newcomers are all very likeable characters, and prove to be welcome additions to the cast. Unfortunately, with Fumoffu's turn away from the first season's mech action, the fan favorite Mithril members - Tessa, Kurz, and Melissa - are absent for all but two episodes of the series. A bit of a shortcoming, but the already strong cast manages to more than make up for their absence.
Like its predecessor, Fumoffu is top quality in terms of animation and design. Not losing a step, Kyoto Animation picks up where Studio Gonzo left off and make the series quite a visual treat. Character designs remain untouched from Full Metal Panic!, staying very attractive and surprisingly detailed for a TV series. The animation is very smooth, and effectively combines two-dimensional cel and three-dimensional computer techniques; it could be argued that Full Metal Panic! was one of Gonzo's crowning achievements animation-wise, and Fumoffu manages to keep up that level of quality. While not perfect, it's hard to find any genuine faults in the series' appearance.
Musically, Fumoffu is not quite as stunning as it is visually, but works wonders nonetheless. Toshihiko Sahashi reprises his role as composer from the first FMP!, and brings a nearly identical atmosphere to this season as he did the last. Like Fumoffu itself, Sahashi's score lacks much of the tense action, but still keeps the lighthearted tone and military influence that'd sound just as at home in an episode of The A-Team. The opening and ending themes, both by Mikuni Shimokawa, are very suited to the show, and make for excellent listening experiences on their own, as well. Fumoffu's musical presence isn't the strongest or most groundbreaking, but it does its job and does it well.
Being a character-driven comedy, Fumoffu needs a standout voice acting cast to truly deliver. And fortunately, it's certainly not without that. All of the returning characters are reprised by their original seiyuu, who put in another all-around outstanding set of performances. Satsuki Yukino practically steals the show as Chidori; her voice fits the character so perfectly it's almost frightening. Tomokazu Seki's Sousuke provides the ideal counter to her more lively portrayal, as his deadly serious delivery is just too good to be ignored. The new characters are also competently managed, with the most notable role being Rie Tanaka's portrayal of the soft-spoken Ren Mikihara. With such a well-rounded voice acting cast, Fumoffu's already strong collection of characters shines all the brighter.
All in all, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a genuinely solid effort and a thoroughly hilarious comedy spinoff. Fans of the first season and newcomers to Full Metal Panic! alike will be certain to find something enjoyable in this series when it's released by ADV in the near future. With its excellent visuals, effective musical score, lively characters, and superb voice acting, Fumoffu is the sort of series that's genuinely difficult to hate. Definitely check it out.
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A+
Music : B
+ Incredibly funny, strong cast of characters, wonderful visuals.
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