Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU

Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     May 03, 2005
Release Date: May 10, 2005



What They Say
Sousuke and Kaname 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. A day at the beach turns sour after Sousuke misses the point one too many times (and even fails to notice Kaname’s new bikini). Then, when Kaname is suddenly kidnapped, it’s up to our dense hero to devise a daring rescue!

The Review!
After the first season that played a good mix of action and comedy, the series returns for more fun but keeps the focus pretty much just on that.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Having followed the first season of the show in this format it only felt right to continue with the cast we've known. The stereo mix for the show is fairly standard for this kind of series in that it does have some good action sequences where things do stand out and a good bit of directionality, but a lot of the show is also just dialogue, though with plenty of varying levels as characters go from whispering to yelling, and it's all coming across very well here. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The materials here prove to be extremely frustrating in the end because the majority of things here are simply gorgeous. The first three episodes, the second in particular, is just filled with such beautiful and lush colors and fluid animation that the evident cross coloration that shows up in the character designs, generally along hairlines, is so frustrating because it does detract from things. This would have been a gorgeous transfer if not for that which is likely inherent in the source material itself. The rest of the transfer just shines though with great colors, no visible color gradation issues or blocking in backgrounds.

Packaging:
The covers are going for the fanservice approach to be sure here whereas the original series was heavy on the Arm Slave focus. This volume kicks things off with a shot of Kaname and friend at the beach so we get the beautiful blue sky and water here but plenty of skin due to small bathing suits. As a real plus though, they've done well to not really heavily endow Kaname so even in a skimpy outfit she doesn't look obscene but rather simply attractive. The back cover plays with a particular character in terms of layout design and has a few shots from the show laid around the other areas such as the summary, the discs features and the technical/production section. While there's little here that's actually set horizontal, it's all easy to read and easy to find the key technical information. The insert is rather cute as it folds out to four panels and is a board game based on things from the show.

The first volume is also released in a disc + box release designed to hold all four volumes of the show. The box is of the solid chipboard variety and its background colors features several of my favorite shades of blue and is highly attractive. One panel has a shot of Kaname, Tessa and another girls all wearing their school uniforms but wielding big violent weaponry while the other main panel has Tessa again along with two other friends of Kaname's, again wielding the big guns. Kaname and Sousuke get the side panel to themselves though and it's a cute shot overall. This is a good looking hard box with some bright colorful artwork and neat designs.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty similar in design and feel to the original series though again it feels like it's a bit lighter in color and tone as well as the addition of a small super-deformed Sousuke walking around once in awhile as the music plays along. The angular listings of the selections makes reading some of it a bit awkward at times but otherwise it's pretty well designed and I like the consistency of it from the first series. Access times are nice and fast and it's easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played properly.

Extras:
The extras for the opening volume are likely to be replicated on the rest of the series as well as it's made up mostly of the standards. The main unique piece is the first one, entitled Mysteries of Fumoffu. This goes into brief detail about the odd airing schedule of the show and how particular episodes were left out and re-arranged due to societal events of the time that would have caused the show to be subjected to a lot of unwanted attention. In addition to the text section, we get the standard clean opening and closing sequences, some commercials from before the show aired and a round of characters sketches. Decent solid extras but nothing that's really out of this world.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Always a tough thing to pull off well, the first series of Full Metal Panic! did a good job overall of providing a mix of action and adventure while combining it with some high school comedy and general slice of life comedy moments as well. Though it ended up being more focused on the action and adventure as it went on, the other elements were still there and had been an important part of the foundation of the series. Fumoffu, which runs a fair bit shorter and mostly in half-length episode stories, opts to play up the comedy almost exclusively.

The central focus of Fumoffu is on the school and life comedy moments with Sousuke guarding Kaname from whatever threats may come for her since she's one of the Whispered, a plot device that's been pretty much ignored for some time but keeps Sousuke around. This has Sousuke as the fish out of water kind of thing where the young man who has spent his life either fighting to survive in the wild badlands of the Middle East or as an operative for the secretive mercenary group that the first season was so focused on. So when he's assigned to guard Kaname, he has to become something of a civilian, something he's never been and has no real point of reference for. While normally these kinds of things can be annoying because it's hard to suspend disbelief after awhile, I keep finding it believable to some extent with Sousuke considering how little real world contact he has.

Some of the things he does, no, not quite so believable. Take the first episode for example where another classmate has fallen for Sousuke so she leaves a love letter in his shoe locker at the front of the school. When he arrives, he notices a hair out of place in front of his locker so he quickly rolls out some plastique and wire and explodes the entire area, destroying numerous lockers and injuring others. Even better, when he gets what's left of the letter, he pieces together the sentences so they're not expressions of love but rather expressions of violence. That was beautiful in and of itself since it again showcases perfectly how his mindset works. Kaname continues to smack him around over it though and tries to explain what a love letter is but it just leads to more silliness since he's a tough nut to crack on things like this.

One episode that stands out really well on this set is when Sousuke borrows Kaname's notes on Japanese Classics, an area where he's really struggling once again because of his mindset. Where things go wrong is when he forgets to bring her notes back in on the day they're due and she goes completely ballistic on him and they race off to get them and have all sorts of wacky adventures on the way. This episode is fairly routine really, but it stands out so strongly visually because of the lush animation and just how well animated it is as well as the designs and the almost snarky comedic bits that are mixed into it. Watching them race along on the bike or the way Kaname throws Sousuke under a truck, it's just so smoothly done and well timed comically that it's very memorable and still brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Another area that I like about this show is something that came up in the beach episode where most of the regular gang heads down there for some fun in the sun. Sousuke of course is the source of trouble, such as when they go to do the smack the watermelon open game and he pulls out a high powered rifle and explodes the thing. What really stood out for me in this piece is what they did with Kaname in keeping her proportions very much within the bounds of reality. The lead characters are typically well endowed, unless small breasts are intended to be a regular joke for them, and Kaname would probably be quite well endowed when you add in that it's pretty much a standard for any series these days. But even with the skimpiest of bathing suits, she's still kept just right and it's not something that's done badly. They even avoided doing a lot of really fanservice heavy shots of her and the others during the entire beach piece.

In Summary:
While comedy shows can be really hard to pull people in since what some find funny others don't, Fumoffu is just good fun simple comedy to me and it's very enjoyable. It's not high art, but it's fun to see the characters taken from the darkness of the first season and to give them a chance to just have fun and go wild. What gets surprising about it is just how gorgeous the animation is for most of it since it'd be easier to expect it to be of lower quality since they're just going for the comedy. Fumoffu doesn't hold back in this area or very many other areas and just has fun with its characters. If you liked that element of the first season you'll probably enjoy this as well.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,“Mysteries of FUMOFFU” booklet, Original Japanese TV spots,Character artwork,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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