Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
BD+DVD - The Complete Series [Anime Classics]
Taking place after the events of the first TV series Full Metal Panic, Fumoffu is the softer, sillier side of Shoji Gatoh's series about a teen super soldier sent to protect a Japanese high school girl. Living in Tokyo and attending high school with Kaname Chidori, Sousuke Sagara is totally out of his element, assuming that love letters are bombs and refitting plush mascot costumes into serious weaponry. There's never a dull moment as Kaname tries to keep him from wreaking havoc on, well, everything and Sousuke himself struggles both to acclimate and to fulfill his mission of protecting Kaname...and maybe to figure out that he likes her?
Welcome back to 2003! Funimation's rescue of Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, a series originally licensed and dubbed by ADV in 2005, is just as much fun as it ever was, although it must be said that the character designs look a little dated. Based on Shoji Gatoh's light novels (four of which were translated into English by Tokyopop back in the day), this gag version of the military comedy is focused on hero Sousuke Sagara's day-to-day misadventures as he tries to fit in at Kaname Chidori's high school, where he has enrolled to protect her. There is no mention of mecha battles, the Whispered, Tessa's brother, or any of the other darker elements that make up the first series and The Second Raid, just a much sillier and more romantic take on the overall series' conceit. While you absolutely do have to have seen the first TV season to appreciate, or in some cases even get, this, it's a fun twelve episodes that makes for a nice break in-between the more serious seasons, and well worth revisiting on blu ray.
Overall the show is a mix of sweet and funny, eschewing the more dramatic elements of the other TV seasons. The story takes place almost entirely at school, with a beach trip and a few about town episodes to round things out. Sousuke is adorably inept at life in general, and there's a bit of a feeling that for Kaname this is a little like taking care of a very smart dog: he can get himself into plenty of creative trouble, but then he just sort of stays there in the mess, not quite sure how to react. As the series goes on, the absurdity increases, going from the aforementioned love letter/bomb confusion to the entire class hunting down and tying up Sousuke on an art class field trip in episode four. Equally bizarre and entertaining is Sousuke's interpretation of how to flirt and how to train a rugby team – the censored dialogue is creative and quite funny. The rugby episode also has elements of a sports show parody, something not unique to it: episode five feels very much like it could be making direct fun of Ranma ½ and episode six lampoons the fairy tale The Boy Who Left Home to Learn About Fear. I would call the final episode a parody of School-Live!, but that's clearly impossible – however if you've seen that 2015 show, you'll really appreciate Fumoffu's episode twelve.
While Fumoffu is much lighter than either Full Metal Panic! or The Second Raid, it still does have hints of those darker elements in the symbolism of the opening theme, which is not only beautifully animated but also a pretty good song. In the opening we see Kaname and Sousuke alone, in the rain, preparing for their days – Kaname on her own in Tokyo and Sousuke on a tropical battlefield. Neither look particularly happy until the scene shifts to the two of them walking to school together. The rain has stopped, fairly recently, since we see puddles, but both are clearly happier now that they are together. This isn't the most subtle of symbolisms, but it does make for a good link to the series on either side of Fumoffu, particularly the much darker The Second Raid.
Characters from the first series do make brief appearances here, with Tessa coming to school on a vacation for two episodes. The first of these I find to be one of the weakest in the series, largely because once Tessa comes in the story reverts to the old harem dynamic of both she and Kaname fighting over Sousuke when he is clearly only interested in Kaname and made very, very uncomfortable by his superior officer's advances. (Shouldn't that be illegal? Or does it not count since Mithril is a private organization?) Given Kaname's role as one of the few level-headed heroines in anime not prone to extremes of jealousy or random slapping, this is all the more obnoxious. Tessa herself feels played for fanservice rather than being the strong commander we know she is, and while it is nice for her to have time to be herself, it's also really quite annoying to have to deal with her. With her appearance we also get Mao and Kurz, with the latter making more of an impression in his episode as he leads Ono-D and Kazama on a peeping expedition. (Although Sousuke's nightmare about the EXO in a Tessa wig and dress is also pretty memorable.)
Funimation's new release retains ADV's original dub, which is decent except for the fact that name mispronunciations abound, with the biggest issue being “Chidori” being said as “chih-dori” rather than “chee-dori.” I tend to prefer the Japanese cast, most notably Tomokazu Seki as Sousuke and Shinichiro Miki as Kurz, but if the names don't bother you, both are watchable. There are no real extras to speak of, just original ads, trailers, and clean opening and closing themes.
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is ultimately a show that holds up. There are markers of its 2003 vintage in the use of separate cameras and phones and the way censorship is handled – better, in my opinion, with strategically placed items instead of fog or light bars – but none of that takes away from the fact that this is a fun, funny series with good music and animation. If you're new to the franchise, do make sure to watch this one after the first season, and if you just never got around to buying it, now's your chance.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Still very funny with parodies of itself and other shows. Kaname is sort of a breath of fresh air as a heroine, Sousuke is adorably inept. Opening theme is particularly good.
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