Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
The Jindai Municipal High School's rugby team, once a top-rate unit, is in danger of being disbanded because they've turned into pathetic wimps unable to even make a good showing in a match. It's up to new member Sousuke and new team manager Kaname to whip them into shape – but that will require drastic measures! Later, Captain Testarossa decides to take a two-week vacation while the Tuatha de Danaan is being refitted. Her choice of holiday? Enter Kaname and Sousuke's school as a “foreign exhange student!” Getting close to the mortified Sousuke is her ultimate goal, which puts her at odds with Kaname and threatens to be too much stress for Sousuke. A trip to a spa resort may be just the ticket for everyone, and one would think everything would be safe with Melissa Mao along for good measure. But Kurz Weber is also coming along, and his interests are certainly not high-minded.
Fans of the original FMP can rejoice because all of the core MITHRIL members – Kurz, Melissa, Kalinin, Commander Mardukas – who haven't already appeared make their first substantive appearances in this volume, as does the Tuatha de Danaan. The appearance that most FMP fans have probably been most eagerly anticipating, though, is that of Teletha, and the creators do not disappoint; we get to see quite a bit of her in this volume (yes, you can take that both ways), as she is the focus of episodes 8 and 9. The trade-off for Teletha's comically disruptive presence is the lack of any new appearances by Bonta-kun or the crazed police woman, though Next Volume previews show that both will be back for the concluding volume. Student Body President Atsunobu is, once again, woefully underused, but at least this time we do get to see a lot more of his very pretty right-hand woman Ren (and yes, you can take that both ways, too).
One would naturally think that the appearances of the MITHRIL crew would be the highlight of the volume, but that honor actually goes to the rugby episode (episode 7), which is one of the most over-the-top, laugh-out-loud funny episodes of anything I've seen in quite some time. I would challenge anyone not to giggle when Sousuke starts swearing up a storm at his “recruits” drill sergeant-style, which is all the more funny because of Sousuke's deadpan delivery and the silly sound effect the Japanese sound editors came up with to use in censoring all the dirty words. Some of it is clearly an homage to the American movie Full Metal Jacket, while I would swear that one brief scene in another episode is an homage to the semi-obscure early '80s American sci-fi flick The Last Starfighter. Numerous different genres of anime, from sports to mecha (specifically Gundam Seed) to war stories, are also lampooned to one degree or another.
While the high artistic quality, excellent animation, appealing character designs, and complementary music seen in previous volumes continue, the structure of the storytelling has changed a bit. The half-episode stories which dominated the earlier two volumes have been replaced by a full episode stand-alone story and the two-parter focusing on Teletha. Both stories work well enough because the pace keeps rolling along and the humor is laid on thick. Little of the content is truly new or original; many of these hijinks are simply new versions of scenes we've seen many times before. What saves them from mindless drudgery here is the execution. Sousuke's obsessive behavior and the sharp, clever writing (such as Teletha's innocent comments at one point which could certainly be interpreted an entirely different way by a dirty mind) continue to maintain the series at a high comic level and have yet to get old.
No commentary about this volume would be complete without mentioning the oodles of fan service in episodes 8 and especially 9. All of the prominent female characters appear in some degree of undress (or undressing) in one or both episodes, and we get quite good looks at the figures of most of them. That we never technically see anything does, in fact, become one of the bigger jokes; the artists seem to delight in tantalizing viewers with well-placed obstructions. We also get our first look at Tessa in a school uniform, which could be a type of fan service for some.
The English dub continues to be excellent. All of the actors for roles which first appear in this volume fit either their roles or the original performances – and usually both - perfectly; what English VA other than Hilary Haag could properly do Tessa in her ditzy mode, for instance? The rugby team members are a little more obviously gay-sounding in the dub than they are in the original Japanese, but that did seem to be what the Japanese performances were implying. Chris Patton does a great job of infusing his performance of Sousuke with the right degree of stress and desperation to match the way his character looked in various scenes in episode 8, and as noted before, his drill sergeant bits in episode 7 are a riot. While the original seiyuu also did a good job in both cases, the English performance is the better one. The English script used is as tight as it could possibly be and still be in English; I had to watch most of an episode before I was convinced that there was just enough variance that I wasn't watching “dubtitles.” Even the humor and swearing is carried straight through, unlike in previous volumes.
ADV spruces up the offering by including another addition of the “Mysteries of Fumoffu” written commentary, in addition to character artwork focusing on supporting characters and a typical complement of promos, company trailers, and clean opener/closer. The insert this time is a Bonta-kun-themed eye chart.
With nine episodes down and three to go, Fumoffu continues to sustain a high level of humor, production merits, and entertainment value. While not quite as sharp and original as earlier volumes, this one won't disappoint. Unlike with previous volumes, though, a good familiarity with the original series is required to fully appreciate two of these three episodes.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Great (and very accurate) English dub, fan-fave guests shots, lots of humor
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