Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Hijinks ensue at Jindai Tokyo Municipal High School as Sousuke continues his single-minded military overkill responses to just about everything in his day-to-day life as Kaname's ongoing secret protector. Kaname, for her part, continues her sometimes-violent and oft-futile efforts to rein Sousuke in. In this volume the pair must deal with potential love interest for both, a kidnap attempt on Kaname, a trip to the beach, and a P.E. teacher who seems to have it out for Sousuke, among other things. On their side is the powerful Student Body President.
Though the original Full Metal Panic! series was entertaining and sometimes very funny, it had problems finding a proper balance between its comedic, action, and dramatic elements. This time around the creators have dumped the drama, mecha elements, and most serious action in favor of an exclusive focus on what was always the best and most effective part of the original series: the dynamics of Sousuke's personality in a normal setting, his relationship with Kaname, and Kaname's behavior concerning Sousuke. The result is one of the funniest (and, just as importantly, one of the most consistently funny) volumes of anime since Excel Saga completed its run. Nearly every joke works, and one does not need more than a passing familiarity with the original series to appreciate most of them.
There's not much to say about the plot for Fumoffu, because there isn't one. The first two episodes are composed of paired, but not necessarily related, half-episode vignettes, while the third is a full-episode stand-alone “beach” episode. That's fine, though, because this way none of these shorter stories outstay their comedic welcome. Some are a little more serious than others, but none can be taken too seriously.
Although this series is technically a sequel to the original, there's been no story continuation beyond Sousuke's ongoing assignment to protect Kaname. Character continuity between the two series has, so far, been limited to Sousuke, Kaname, Kaname's pigtailed, camera-crazy friend Kyoko, and Sousuke's classmate Shinji. Teletha Testerossa is heard on the phone in one episode but does not appear in person in this volume. She is featured prominently in both the opener and closer, though, so it's likely that she will appear later on. A couple of other characters from the original also appear in the opener so they are likely to pop up at some point. Of new characters, the reserved and proper student body President Atsunobu Hayashimizu is a delight. The fact that he actually sees eye-to-eye with Sousuke on some matters is amusing in of itself, as are the constantly-changing messages on his fans. The school principal, who is apparently willing to overlook an awful lot, is another nice addition among recurring characters, as is Mikihara, Atsunobu's assistant, who seems like the classic anime “nice girl” but may surprise you at times. Of guest appearances so far, the highlight has been health and P.E. teacher Mr. Kogure, who appears in episode 2 and has it out for Sousuke, although Sousuke, of course, mistakes his attitude and behavior for that of a drill instructor and thus highly respects him.
The heavily digitally-supported artistry for FMP was always a strong point of the original series, and this follow-up is no different. Character designs are crisp and appealing, though they also tend to be very generic except for Kaname and, to a lesser extent, Mikihara (who, oddly, has a longer school skirt than other girls). The character designer also seems to have some odd ideas about torso proportioning on female characters in bathing suits, but it's not a big distraction and at least the girls aren't unrealistically busty. The digital coloring uses a palette that's bright but not overkill, while both backgrounds and explosion effects are very well-rendered. The animation, produced by Kyoto Animation, is very sharp and fully exploits Kaname's very animated features. The artistry and animation of the opener is equally good, while the closer features chibi versions of all the regular cast members marching across the screen.
The musical scoring repeats some of the lighter themes from the original series while adding in solid new J-pop opening and closing numbers, and in general capably supports the comedy and action (Does anyone else think that the musical theme used in the main menu sounds an awful lot like the theme music for the '80s U.S. TV series “A-Team,” though?). The English dub is also strong, especially the performances of the two leads, with all the voice actors of the carry-over characters reprising their original roles. While Luci Christian closely mimics the styling of Kaname's Japanese performance, as do most of the supporting roles, Chris Patton uses a unique and distinctive cadence in his rendition of Sousuke. The style is different from that used by the lower-pitched seiyuu, but it is effective and suits the humor well enough that I prefer it to the original performance. Minor and supporting roles, all voiced by ADV regulars, are also well done. The English script stays reasonably close to the subtitles except where adjustments are needed to account for differences in slang and the way some jokes don't carry through translation; Atsunobu's translation of Sousuke's words to a gang member in episode one are a particularly good example of this. Let's compare:
(Subtitle) “Listen, bitch. You couldn't beat me in more than a billion years, got it?”
(Dub) “Now, listen, you punk. There's no way you'd beat me. Now step off, 'cause you ain't even got one chance in a billion, you loser biatch.”
As close as it could be? Nah. But it basically means the same thing, is just as effective, and is much funnier than a more literal translation would have been.
Extras on the DVD for this volume include standards like a clean opener and closer, company previews, and character artwork. Also present are the original Japanese TV spots and “The Mysteries of Fumoffu,” which has some interesting behind-the-scenes commentary, such as a description of why the first couple of episodes of Fumoffu didn't air on Japanese TV the same way they show up on DVD. And, to continue a recent ADV trend, a “next volume preview” is presented, which is also keyed to play automatically after the last episode. In place of liner notes is a fold-out Bonta-kun board game, which contains substantial spoiler info, so it might be best saved until after you've seen all three episodes.
With Fumoffu, the Full Metal Panic! franchise achieves its full comedic potential while maintaining a high level of technical and artistic merit. Those looking for more Arm Slave action and a continuation of the story elements from the first series will have to wait until the recently-announced third series comes out, but really, if you were a fan of the original then how could you be disappointed with this volume? I recommend it even for those who haven't followed the series so far.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Tremendously funny, good English dub, looks great.
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