Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Friday, March 17, 2006
Release Date: Monday, January 16, 2006

What They Say
Kaname and Sousuke are back in action! And this time, the battleground is the school ground! High-yield explosives and hilarity come together with a bang as the somber soldier and his unwitting target brave everything from lovesick "terrorists" to an unforgiving teacher who is bent on revenge.

But as good as he is with guns, Sousuke is one clueless commando when it comes to girls - especially Kaname! Don't miss the hilarious antics of everyone's favourite military maniac - and Jin High's most fiery female - as the full-throttle action begins!

Episodes Comprise
1 - The Man from the South / A Hostage with No Compromises
2 - Hostility Passing-By / A Fruitless Lunchtime
3 - Summer Illusion of Steel

The Review!
Take Full Metal Panic!, remove all the military / Arm Slave action & ramp up the comedy. What are you left with? According to Bonta-kun, "FUMOFFU!"

Audio is presented in English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. The soundtrack is nice a clear, with good use made of the left & right channels to position what's happening on-screen. While FUMOFFU doesn't do "action" in quite the same way as the original FMP! Series, there are some scenes (like the bike chase in episode 2) where the show's really able to use the soundtrack to full effect. Dialogue is easy to pick out, and there were no apparent problems.

Where the audio shines, the video sadly lets us down. The series is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format, with heavy use made of bright colours to bring a really lively feel to show that's perfectly in keeping with the feel of the series. The animation itself is very smooth and a decent amount of detail is used in the backgrounds. Unfortunately, there's a lot of cross-colouration on fine lines – enough so that it becomes a distraction at quite a few points in the show. This would have been one stunning-looking show were it not for this problem, so it's a real let-down.

This release has a very nice fan-service cover, featuring Kaname and Kyoko posing in their swimsuits at the beach – definitely a nice change from the original series' mecha artwork. The back cover has a few shots from the show along with the usual blurb & technical information. Inside is the "Bonta-kun Board Game" – a basic game based on Sousuke's mayhem in the series.

When the menu first appears it's almost a repeat of the menus from the original FMP! series - until a chibi-Sousuke starts marching across the bottom of the screen. FUMOFFU's "A-Team"-style theme plays in the background, with menu options provided for direct access to each episode, a preview clip for volume two, and for the language and extras submenus. Selecting an episode triggers a transition animation featuring Bonta-kun, but other than that working through the menus is quick and easy. I do quite like the way the menus maintain the link with the first Full Metal Panic! Series while stamping FUMOFFU's comedy feel on them.

There's a fairly typical set of extras on this disc, beginning the creditless opening and closing sequences (including the episode 1 opening scene – there was no opening song on this episode), a selection of original Japanese TV trailers and a 2-minute slideshow of character artwork. There's also a text-only "Mysteries of FUMOFFU" feature, which has some trivia about the series, including how the name was settled on and details of the problems the series had during its original TV run in Japan. All interesting enough, but there's nothing here that really stands out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
One thing that always bothered me about the original Full Metal Panic! Series was that it never seemed sure if it wanted to be a serious action series or a comedy, which left the whole thing feeling just a little disjointed. FUMOFFU looks to correct that issue, by jettisoning anything remotely serious and concentrating solely on the fun stuff – so it's back to high school for Kaname and Sousuke, and not an Arm Slave in sight.

Comedy this frenetic works best in bite-sized chunks, so the first two episodes on the disc are both made up of two 10-minutes shorts. First up is Sousuke having to deal with a love-letter from one of the most attractive girls in school – although to his military mind, it's a death threat that requires being treated with utmost caution, meaning high-explosives, camouflage gear and sniper rifles are bound to be involved. Kaname's on hand to try and keep him right, but you really do wonder why she bothers sometimes. Similarly over-the-top treatment is handed out when Sousuke deals with a kidnap threat against Kaname, has to run the school snack stall and makes the almost lethal mistake of leaving Kana's Japanese Classics notes at home.

Obviously, the whole comedy aspect comes from Sousuke being completely out of his depth in high school – he's been fighting wars of one sort or another since he was a kid, so dealing with normal people in a normal setting is so completely abnormal to him that he has absolutely no concept of how to react, and just sticks to what he knows best – explosives and guns. If an everyday incident can be interpreted in both a threatening or non-threatening way, guess which way he goes. There are some rare flashes of common-sense in there – for example, the way he deals with Kana's kidnapper by persuading the kidnapper's little brother to help him out – but for the most part it's just slapstick comedy that hovers right on the edge of believability.

The final episode is a full-length beach story that slows the pace down a little and gives a hint at the romantic undertones between Kana and Sousuke. Kana's gone to the trouble of buying a new bikini for the trip, but when Sousuke seems to not even notice it spoils her usually cheerful outlook on life. While Sousuke won't pay her any attention, though, someone else at the beach will – poor little rich kid Masatami, who spies Kana from a distance, falls instantly in love, and sends his butler to bring her to him. Curious about who her mysterious admirer is, Kana agrees to go and meet him – but when Sousuke notices she's gone, he heads straight into "Kaname's been kidnapped!" mode again.

For the most part, this is typical beach fan-service of the sort that most anime fans will have seen plenty of before but never seem to tire of. It slips back into the usual Sousuke-mayhem routine towards the end as the mission to "rescue" Kana gets underway & Masatami and his staff turn out to be a lot more psychotic that they originally appeared – all great fun.

One thing that's worth noting presentation-wise is the TLC that seems to have gone into the animation for this series – there are some scenes that would be just stunning to look at were it not for the cross-colouration issues that the masters seem to have introduced. Episode 2's race to get back to school before Japanese Classics begins is a good example, and there are other scenes throughout the disc that are similarly detailed.

One thing you can't accuse FUMOFFU of having is any sort of real depth – this is light-hearted action-comedy, pure and simple, with a little undercurrent of potential romance between Kana and Sousuke to add to the appeal. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best, though, and FUMOFFU is a good example of that.

In Summary:
I'll admit that comedy is more subjective than most other forms of entertainment, and what one person finds funny will most likely turn another off completely – but FUMOFFU, for me at least, hits all the right buttons right from the start and just keeps going, with very little on the disc that doesn't raise a smile in one way or another. Issues with the video quality take the shine off a little, but overall this is a release that's very hard not to enjoy.

Japanese 2.0,English 5.1,English Subtitles,Bonta-kun Board Game,The Mysteries of FUMOFFU,Clean opening & Closing sequences,Original Japanese TV Spots,Character Artwork

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU