Here's a salute to bygone American anime companies, we knew ye well.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 27th 2005
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
DVD 2: Full Metal Fracas!
With military nut Sousuke around, even the most ordinary of activities at Jindai Tokyo Municipal High School becomes decidedly less than ordinary, whether it's serving as a model for an art class project or delivering an eviction notice to a club whose clubhouse is slated for demolition. Kaname, as usual, does her best to keep him in line, but he continues to be a prime source of frustration. And yet, even Sousuke does have his endearing moments... But what does it actually take to scare him, given his belief that he can overwhelm nearly any threat with superior firepower?
Much of the comedy in Fumoffu is built around Sousuke's single-minded misinterpretation of situations and his ridiculous military overreaction to perceived threats. While one would think this might get old after a while, the humor is still as effective as ever at the end of this volume. The true magic here is that, while you may know that Sousuke is going to do something to mess up the situation, it's much harder to predict exactly how he's going to do it. This volume offers up a new weapon (of sorts) to Sousuke: the Bonta-kun costume, which is amazingly expressive for being a theme park mascot's outfit. (Bonta-kun, the stuffed bear Kaname has possessed since the earliest stages of the original series, can only say “Fumoffu,” hence the title of this series.) Exactly how Sousuke can manipulate weapons or even effectively move in the costume is unclear, but its two appearances in this volume are two of its comedic highlights. As always, Sousuke continues to be the perfect foil for the ever-exasperated Kaname, who seems to be a magnet for trouble. Despite the amount of aggravation Sousuke causes her, one has to wonder how she'd survive high school without him—and I mean that literally.
Each of the three episodes of this volume is divided into two mini-stories, some related to each other, some not. “The Hamburger Hill of Art,” the mini-story involving Sousuke serving as the model for an art class sketching project, is pretty much self-descriptive if one understands the Vietnam War reference in the title, while “The Single-Minded Stakeout” brings out Bonta-kun for the first time. In “The Pure Yet Impure Grappler” and “Tresspassing on Good Faith” Sousuke butts heads with Issei Subaki, the Karate Club captain, while helping Kaname deal with an eviction notice to the Karate Club and “helping” an injured school janitor who turns out to be an unstoppable monster. In “The Hard Sell Fetish” a purported costumed sex offender must be dealt with when he attacks some of the girls, while Sousuke tries to avoid being recognized by a traffic officer self-assigned to the case (the same psycho officer who tried to chase him and Kaname down in episode 2); despite the subject matter, this story is nowhere near as serious as it sounds, and indeed much weirder. The volume wraps up with “The Patient of Darkness,” in which Kaname and her friends visit an abandoned, burnt-out, and supposedly haunted hospital in an effort to find out what, exactly, it takes to scare Sousuke. (SIDE NOTE: Abandoned, ruined hospitals which remain for years without demolition must be common in Japan because this isn't the first series I've seen which uses this specific gimmick. Either that, or there's a single one which keeps getting used by different companies.) Disappointingly, Student Body President Atsunobu and his assistant Ren, whom I found to be the most entertaining supporting characters in the first volume, only make a single brief appearance in this one.
The artistry for this volume, as with the first, is heavily digital, with a bright, but not garish, color scheme and distinctive character designs. This gives the series a sharp, cutting-edge look which is a definite improvement over the original series—and it was no slouch on artwork for its time, either. Unlike the first series, which had a fair amount of (mild) fanservice, or the first volume, which had a bit of it, this volume's artwork is fanservice-free. The problem with body proportioning in the character designs, which I mentioned in my review of the first volume, seems to have been resolved—or else a situation that could show it off just didn't come up this volume, it's hard to say. Heavier use of common animation shortcuts is evident throughout this volume, though action scenes are still well-rendered.
The opener and closer are both delights in both the artistic and musical senses; the opener especially is worth repeat viewings. The musical scoring capably supports the story and artistry but is not otherwise remarkable. ADV's English dub also continues to be strong. Though Lucy Christian does a fine job with Kaname and most of the supporting cast proves capable (see if you can ID the long-time VA who voices Bonta-kun; those who know English VAs will probably be surprised), the pivotal performance continues to be Chris Patton's cadenced, deadpan rendition of Sousuke. Granted, his voice and style doesn't match well to that of the original seiyuu, but no one who even mildly tolerates dubs is going to care; it's a great performance, and the English dub would be so much less funny without Patton's styling. Also especially impressive was Jason Douglas's ability to match the original seiyuu word-for-word in a couple of extremely fast-paced bits of dialogue as Mr. Mizuhoshi in episode 4—and you could even still make out what he was saying! The English script stays much tighter to the subtitles in this volume than it did in the previous one, though this volume also has a lot less slang and street lingo, too.
The insert in this volume is a July 2005-June 2006 Bonta-kun-themed mini-calendar. Extras on the DVD itself included typical entries like company previews, a preview of volume 3, clean opener and closer, and character artwork. Less typical, but not unusual, is the inclusion of an original Japanese preview. The most distinctive feature is the Mysteries of FUMOFFU written commentary, but this time around it's only two pages long, mostly inane, and features at least one gross factual inaccuracy. Noticeably lacking in the DVD menus are skip-to-chapter screens for each episode.
The second volume of Fumoffu doesn't strike any bold new ground, but it doesn't need to, either. It takes its central gimmicks and executes them very well, producing another strong entry in a very entertaining series. Great artistry, excellent theme songs, lots of laughs, and a touch of romance – what more could you ask for from an anime comedy? (Well, okay, there's no fanservice, but still. . .)
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Very funny, great artistry, excellent English dub.
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