It’s always sad when an anime series ends. But for the creators of Full Metal Panic!, it was so sad that they made a whole new series! Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu! isn’t really a sequel, but is rather a spin-off showing bits of whacky humor as Sagara Sousuke struggles to live a normal life. As always for the military otaku/elite mercenary, he applies his martial logic to everyday situations, which results in classmate Chidori Kaname getting on his case. Between surviving a haunted hospital, beating up an entire karate club, and learning how to flirt, Sousuke also manages to pick up a few lessons on life and love.
The series is divided into several chapters, and each episode contains one or two of them. They are self-contained stories that can fit into the main plot, and expand on the humorous side of Full Metal Panic!. That’s right, all that craziness with the Lambda Driver and Black Technology takes a back seat to laughs. Perhaps it treats its subject matter with a bit too much superficiality, but at least there’s no pretense to a “higher” purpose. Comedy is the focal point, and although most of the gags are of the fish-out-of-water variety, they work well.
One thing that could possibly hinder the onset of laughter is the host of culture-specific references that might not be universally understood. Make no mistake, though – you don’t have to be a fan of Full Metal Panic! to enjoy Fumoffu. There’s plenty of slapstick, plenty of absurdity, and plenty of outright weirdness in the series. All of it is carried with absolutely no dignity, and that’s where the warm charm comes in.
Fumoffu is indicative of the direction future Kyoto Animation works will take. The vignette format, self-referential humor, and quick pace seem to be Kyoto staples. As applied in this show, these techniques cause the episodes to feel very uniform. But at least there is a high level of commitment to this particular brand of comedy, so that the jokes maintain some amount of funniness, even if it’s the fiftieth time you’ve seen the series.
What the series does best of all, and what makes it remarkably better than its predecessor, is its devotion to the love/hate relationship between Kaname and Sousuke. Showing the (relatively) ordinary life at Jindai High is a nice change of pace, especially considering that Full Metal Panic wasn’t completely successful at blending it in with military action. With a more focused intention, the story is much better able to expand on one of its strong points.
Given the disconnect between this series and the original, there’s no real reason or consequence behind character development. Accordingly, most of the cast is portrayed consistently throughout the episodes. The only true thing of interest in this area is the expansion of the interaction between Kaname and Sousuke. This time around, there is a bit of an inversion of their roles. Instead of playing up Sousuke as the protector, he is now much more of an over-militant loose cannon, whose instincts must be moderated by Kaname. This is the main source of comedic tension, as the contrast between their sensibilities are much more apparent in a school setting.
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu! went above and beyond the technical excellence of its predecessor, probably because of the shortness of the series. The action scenes rock more, the sounds come alive, and all the colors are especially vibrant. Some shots look like they were composed for an art exhibition (always a good thing for anime). Unfortunately, the DVD image quality isn’t up to par – the picture isn’t what I’d call crisp.
The voice cast from the original series returns, and they do a fine job with the material – especially Yukino Satsuki as Kaname, who I’ve been an admirer of. I also Seki Tomokazu’s deadpan interpretation of Sousuke, which is so in line with his character. The soundtrack is rather pleasant too. Some of the background music sounds inspired by, of all things, the theme to The A-Team. Shimokawa Mikuni’s opening and ending songs are top notch as well.