Wednesday 19 December 2012

Anime REVIEW: Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

Full Metal Panic Fumoffu Kaname & Sousuke

As one of the biggest problems with the first Full Metal Panic season was its constant fluctuation between serious and comedic, the second instalment of the franchise makes sure this doesn't happen again. 2003's Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a 12 episode series which ditches the military/mecha aspects in favour of focussing purely on the relationship between high school student Kaname and military sergeant Sousuke, partticularly the latter's inability to use common sense amidst a high-school background. Unlike the first season which was made by Gonzo, Fumoffu was the first full length series animated by Kyoto Animation (which would move on to do Haruhi, Lucky Star and K-On!, among others).

Unlike the first season which featured an ongoing plot with various story arcs, each episode of Fumoffu (with the exception of episodes eight and nine) are completely standalone, with many of them split into two shorter stories. Plots range from standard high school anime fare such as club drama, dating angst and the obligatory beach episode. Without Sousuke, it would sound like every other generic anime of its type. What sets it apart is Sousuke, who continues to apply military logic to everyday situations just like we saw in the first Full Metal Panic season. From blowing up lockers to bringing biological warfare into class, there isn't a dull moment when Sousuke is left to his own devices - much to the dismay of Kaname. But unfortunately, once again Full Metal Panic's brand of humour proves inconsistent. The first episode is excellent - we see Sousuke go on a stakeout to after mistaking a love letter to be a terrorist threat, followed by him addressing a hostage situation by kidnapper the kidnapper's brother! After such a strong start, it's disappointing to see each episode become more mediocre than the last, with only brief moments of humour to prop them up.

Sousuke solves an arcade game by shooting it.
This is actually the answer to a lot of problems in the show

With the focus so squarely on Sousuke and Kaname, Fumoffu doesn't have a great deal of time for any other characters. Kaname's friends Kyoko, Mizuki and Ren, Shinji and teacher Eri Kagurazaka all make regular appearances, but have next to nothing in terms of episode focus. If you were hoping to see Mithril soldiers and first season regulars Tessa, Kurz and Mao you'll also find yourself disappointed as they only show up for two of the series' 12 episode run. New characters introduced include the calm and collected Student council president Atsunobo, and Issei Tsubaki - leader of the school's karate club and rival to Sousuke. Both have plenty of potential, but never really go anywhere.

Tessa's appearance in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu
Don't expect to see many old favourites often

So before we finish, where does the "Fumoffu" come from? With this series featuring no Arm Slaves or mecha action whatsoever, it turns to the cute and cuddly side of things for a mascot...with a different. The phrase comes from Bonta-kun, a theme park mascot whom Sousuke (in one of the series' most memorable sequences) takes the identity of to secretly protect Kaname. Later, the suit returns and has been modified into what is essentially a mini Arm Slave capable of only saying "Fumoffu" over and over...hence the title. The Bonta-kun segments usually offer a higher dosage of action, injecting a much needed bit of life in the show to keep it going.

Full Metal Panic Fumoffu's mascot Bonta-kun
Fu-mo-ffu M*********r

Just like the previous season's comedy antics, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a show that starts on a high and then progressively gets worse as it goes along. Each episode is guaranteed at least one laugh out loud moment but the plots themselves are cliché and largely forgettable, while both the original side cast and new characters are completely underused in favour of Sousuke (who is the only reason people should really be watching anyway), Kaname and the one-shot characters. It would be interesting the see how Full Metal Panic fares as a straight-up military show, because as a straight comedy it leaves a lot to be desired.

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