Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

FULL METAL PANIC? FUMOFFU

Watched via DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a spin-off series comprised of all the filler short stories from Full Metal Panic! Rather than shove them all into the second season and have the show jump around in tone, they gave the quirkier episodes their very own identity. I love this idea as it transforms the series into two very different personalities. The second season gets pretty deep into science fiction and conspiracy elements, while Fumoffu embraces the zanier aspects of high school life for the characters. Granted I did enjoy the first season with the two together, but I think it helps the flow of the story telling a lot to separate them out.

Now that we’ve covered theme, there is the timing, which is the awkward part of this short series. Each episode illustrates about two short stories, and they all end up with the same punch line. Sagara Sousuke is always misinterpreting an event as life threatening, goes over the top to protect Chidori Kaname, then embarrasses the hell out of her and messes up big time. While that is my favorite aspect of the series (note, I’m not really a sci-fi fan) it gets to be overwhelming if you are marathoning the series. It would have been nice just to see a little more plot development throughout to make it more worthwhile as a stand alone project, but I think it does fine enough the way it is already. I love comedy, and Fumoffu is a master of comedic timing and punch lines.

On the other hand, I’ve never had a problem marathoning Fumoffu, especially when the series was fresher to me. I love the Sousuke-centric gags, and I find it nice to have a whole season devoted to hijinks without worrying about plot. It makes it that much nicer when all of The Second Raid is serious.

PLOT: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a companion series to Full Metal Panic! and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. While it takes place in the same universe, in between those series, Fumoffu is all fluff and no substance. So, while there are references to Kaname being a Whispered and Sousuke protecting her, the main point of Fumoffu is to make you laugh your socks off instead of being terrified of what could happen to your beloved characters.

Honestly, Fumoffu’s a nice change of pace from the first series. Fumoffu’s stories are mostly based on short stories that accompany the original light novel series, and giving them their own series works out better than mixing the light novel stories and the short stories the way the first season did. With Fumoffu, the viewer can just focus on enjoying the wackier aspects of the universe, and the stories can get as wacky as they see fit.

Fumoffu’s comprised of stand-alone stories that feature the same characters and might happen chronologically. For the first half, the episodes tend to have two stories each, but towards the end the show favors full-episode stories, and there’s a two-parter with the funniest storyline of the set. As for the stories, Fumoffu’s a damn funny series. Every episode’s enough to make me laugh, and some of them have me rolling on the floor. My favorite’s the hot springs episode, but there are so many ridiculous situations that let Kaname and Sousuke really let loose. Because it’s so funny, I find Fumoffu to have pretty good rewatch value, especially for it I’m having a bad day and need a pick-me-up.

I know what you mean, I re-watched an episode or two for this review (on Anime News Network) to see the animation quality, and now I’m itching to finish the whole series again.

SETTING: Fumoffu is essentially the romantic comedy version of FMP!, meaning we get the opportunity to see more of Sousuke’s high school life, without interruption from national terrorists. Throughout the series, Sousuke is constantly running into typical school events and “red flags”, which normally occur in a high school drama. Because of his militaristic up-bringing, he fails to understand his social surroundings, and reacts in violent ways to situations as trivial as receiving a love letter.

I always loved Sousuke’s character and how he is forced to recondition himself after a hard childhood. Fumoffu focuses on that reconditioning, and exploits it to go above-and-beyond the typical realms of comedy in a high school romance.

This series is constantly bringing new humor to tropes that are way over used. There are of course episodes which cover the standard love confession, hot spring, beach, haunted building, and more. What makes it shine is that Sousuke changes the context to the setting, and makes us, the viewer, aware of these tropes from a different vantage point. Which results in some of the best high school comedy I’ve seen from an anime series.

SETTING: Fumoffu takes place at Jindai High School, since it focuses on the non-military-shenanigans of our heroes. With that school focus, the show can give viewers an even better look at how poorly Sousuke fits in and how he misunderstands the basics of a normal high school life. For example, one of the gags involves Sousuke receiving a love letter, but the letter gets blown up because he has his shoe locker rigged to prevent tampering. Each episode seems a little more ridiculous than the last, but that’s all because there are so many ways to make a joke from Sousuke in everyday life. He’s just so bad at acting normal and understanding what to do.

For some episodes, Fumoffu will take a trip to standard locations for high school series. For instance, there’s a beach episode and a hot springs episode, and both play with standard tropes and up the ante. Fumoffu has a distinct edge over most high school gag series, since Sousuke allows them to do much more over-the-top jokes. Sure, lots of series have jokes about the boys peeping on girls at a hot spring, but only Fumoffu has characters with the equipment and know-how for a military-type assault on the girls’ side of the hot spring. For that reason alone, Fumoffu is one of my favorite series—the clash of high school tropes and Sousuke’s military mind is too ridiculous to miss.

CHARACTERS: Since Fumoffu is a spin-off comedy of a much more serious series, there isn’t the typical character development you’d see in FMP! There still is some development, but it’s very gradual, and rather insubstantial. I think the creators wanted fans to feel that this series was all bonus material. This means fans don’t necessarily need to watch Fumoffu to retain the experience of the original anime series. Any character development has essentially no lasting affect on the second season of FMP! With that said, there are still many wonderful character experiences you’d miss out on by passing up this show.

Just like Crystal states, the main cast is limited in growth, while the secondary cast is elaborated on. This also means a lot of great world building where we get to see how Sousuke adapts to and changes the world around him. We see a lot of this in how he interacts with the administration and student council. Ever wonder how on earth Sousuke isn’t locked up for blowing up the school in every way possible? Fumoffu helps us suspend disbelief by giving us answers to some of the more illogical aspects, while making it simultaneously a joke. For example, when an administrator asks why they put up with Sousuke, they hint that the school received large amounts of money to take him in. While the school looks the other way to his crazy antics, the student council president finds his outrageous behaviors commendable for their strategic qualities. All of it goes to show that Sousuke isn’t all that bad, and has a chance at building a new life (can you say transfer student trope?). If Kaname would just let loose a bit, we might even have ourselves a high school romance. Of course that’s all saved for the main storyline.

I relish seeing more reactions to Sousuke in Fumoffu, especially because you know Mithril has to pull a lot of strings to keep him in that school. Even though it’s mostly comic, those aspects flesh out the show and make Sousuke’s charade more believable.

CHARACTERS: Since Fumoffu is a comedy series, there isn’t much in the way of character development, especially because that’s the bread and butter of the world’s serious storylines. Instead, viewers are treated to more jokes about the same character traits with just a little added background.

Because of that, Kaname and Sousuke’s unresolved sexual tension stays that way throughout this series. One episode provides some background on Kaname’s romantic past and shows Sousuke floundering at the thought of her liking someone else, but there’s little beyond that. Furthermore, Tessa shows up for a while and wants to fight for Sousuke’s affections in a high school setting, but predictably that goes nowhere.

The upside of the need to keep the characters in the same place is that the secondary characters get a lot more focus in this series than before. Kaname and Sousuke’s friends, like Kyoko and Shinji, get more screen time, as do other classmates like Ono-D and Mizuki. The student council president Hayashimizu and his secretary also make appearances, bringing in how Sousuke manages with getting away with blowing up the school every other week. The student council characters are some of my favorites in this universe, and I love getting to spend time with them, even if they don’t see much development. They play their roles very well, even if you’re already familiar with the character types.

I was actually rather surprised with how this series incorporates tropes. Usually I find all the pandering to be really annoying, but the parody in Fumoffu in conjunction with Sousuke’s behaviors, really just takes it all to a new level where I can appreciate them all over again. Even the ridiculous little school gangs and kidnappings got me giggling.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Usually comedy series always lack a distinct budget that’ll allow for the comedic aspects to really shine. Fumoffu on the other hand has an excellent budget. Not only do we get killer zingers, but the action to back them up. For example, when Sousuke forgets Kaname’s notebook at home, we are treated to an action packed race through time to get the notebook and bring it back successfully. There’s even a police car chase, complete with over-the-top driving down stairs and sideways through alleys. The studio really gave a lot of thoughtful consideration to the series and how it was all laid out and animated. Maybe it’s all for advertising the main anime, but I really appreciated seeing nice action footage in a comedy for once.

A different studio took over since the first series, so the characters have a slightly changed appearance. Mostly it just helps to modernize and soften the sharpness of their facial features. Everyone’s facial features look pretty much the same, but topped off with widely different hair. You know, the usual treatment. Actually, I think the characters really improved through their new designs.

Sousuke

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: For a comedy series, Fumoffu has great animation, especially considering its age. Kyoto Animation took over for Gainax, and they make sure that everything looks consistently good. Sure, the animation’s not the level of later KyoAni shows, but the characters are consistently on model and the actions consistently look good, which means a lot for a comedy series. Plus, there are moments when the animation can pull out the stops and show off the animators’ skills, like when Sousuke uses his Bonta-kun suit. It’s enough to whet your appetite for a full-fledged mecha series, which makes it that much better to move on to The Second Raid.

As for the character designs, the style’s close enough to the first series that it isn’t a jarring transition, but the sharp edges have been softened a little to modernize them and present a softer side to the universe. New characters are pleasantly distinct, as well, with my favorite being that Bonta-kun suit. It’s such a ridiculous concept that works out well, and the show provides just the right touches, like the scar on its cheek to show when Sousuke’s wearing it. So cute!

OVERALL: What makes Fumoffu such a strong comedy series are its ties to the more serious main story. Without the conspiracy and drama, I wouldn’t have cared so much about the shenanigans of Sousuke’s everyday life. I think that’s where a lot of other comedy fails. We never have that build up to really care about what happens to the characters. Unfortunately, that also means that to truly enjoy the zany humor of Fumoffu, you have to be at least someone familiar with the main story. That’s all right, it’s one of my favorite series, and I think it’s well worth the watch as well. If you’re already familiar with the original story, then I’d highly suggest watching this season. It has some of my favorite episodes from the whole franchise. Then, once you’ve watched this series, you’ll be charged and ready for more with the Second Raid!

OVERALL: As far as comedy anime series go, Fumoffu might be my favorite for going in a unique direction and playing the characters so well against each other. It certainly has a lot of rewatch value for me and repeatedly draws me back, which is more than I can say for other shows like Azumanga Daioh or Lucky Star. While I’m fine having watched Azumanga Daioh once, I want to return to my favorite episodes of Fumoffu for some truly over-the-top hijinks. If you can’t stand Sousuke’s shenanigans or prefer four-panel-style humor, Fumoffu might not do it for you, but I think anyone who wants a funny series should check it out. You should have some familiarity with the premise of Full Metal Panic, but that can be easily looked up if you don’t want to commit to watching the first season. Watch Fumoffu and fall in love with its humor, or I’ll sic Bonta-kun on you!

FINAL SCORE: (9/10) FINAL SCORE: (9/10)
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One thought on “Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

  1. Ah, Fumoffu was such good fun when I watched it many years ago on TV. Then it was again when I brought it on DVD. Maybe I should go watch it sometime so–oh wait, backlog, backlog ;-;

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