Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu – Complete DVD Collection (review)

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With over a month to go before the third volume of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu hits store shelves in North America, an older Kyoto Animation series flew into my radar screens and earned a place on my anime video shelves. Today the spotlight falls on ADV’s Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu complete DVD collection.

Standard warning: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION (from the original DVD blurb)

“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 favorite military maniac – and Jindai High’s most fiery female – as the full-throttle action begins!”

SET PACKAGING

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The sturdy DVD slipcase sports bright, colourful illustrations on two sides (as well as the spine). One panel (shown above) features series protagonists Chidori Kaname and Sagara Sousuke, who share space on the other side with most of the recurring characters and the teddy-bear mascot Bonta-kun.

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The images are set against a rich blue background that works very nicely with the more varied colours of the character illustrations. All in all, the composition is quite impressive and makes the slipcase highly suitable for shelf display.

DVD PACKAGING

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The DVD jackets feature Chidori and three other female characters in various poses. Advanced combat equipment + girls in high-school uniforms = total win.

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The slick design extends to the back of each DVD case.

DVD CONTENTS

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Each of the three discs contains four episodes. Standard dialogue options – English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0. English subtitles are supplied by default when the Japanese soundtrack is selected, but these could be turned off using your DVD remote (there’s no subtitle-free option on the disc itself). I have no complaints about the sound quality and the subtitles are generally okay, although a number of brief spoken lines and some fairly prominent inscriptions were left untranslated (which can be quite frustrating at times but, on the whole, does not significantly detract from the viewing experience).

There isn’t much in the way of special features – which is really just my polite way of saying there aren’t any. (Credits and promo trailers for other series obviously don’t count.) Not that I’m complaining, mind. This is a thinpak release after all, and since I ended up getting all twelve episodes for just US$44.99 (not including postage and taxes) instead of paying US$26.99 for each of the four regular-issue DVDs, you won’t catch me shedding tears over anything they might have jettisoned from the original version.

I HAVEN’T SEEN THE FIRST FMP SERIES, SO WHY THE HECK DID I BUY THIS?

Since any foreign DVD purchase constitutes a substantial investment on my part (think of the transoceanic shipping costs and import duties as well as the retail price), I always do a lot of research before I click the “Add to Cart” button. That means raiding blog pages and fan sites, skimming through comments posted by other purchasers, digging up reviews on reputable online information sources – in short, gathering enough data to support an informed decision. This particular acquisition required more research than most because I had never seen a single episode of Full Metal Panic!, the first anime series in the FMP franchise (Fumoffu is the second, although it’s not exactly a “sequel” in the usual sense – more on this later). This naturally meant that I didn’t have a proper background on any the characters or the FMP franchise as a whole, so I created one from scratch by reading the relevant ANN and Wikipedia articles (ignoring any detailed episode summaries, of course) and later working my way through other references, taking care to avoid parts of reviews or write-ups that might contain major spoilers.

Of course, my complete ignorance of Full Metal Panic! was also one of my biggest concerns. It’s only natural to think that one must avoid sequels without having first seen the franchise progenitor, and my initial research revealed that Fumoffu was a successor instead of a fully independent series. But as I dug deeper, I began to form the opinion that while Fumoffu really was a follow-on to something else, it wasn’t a sequel in the usual sense. Consider the following:

  • Wikipedia contributors described Fumoffu as a “companion series” to Full Metal Panic!, highlighting the fact that it was “markedly different in tone” and that it “features none of the mecha combat and political intrigue which characterized much of the original”.
  • Theron Martin (whose review was published on ANN) wrote: “Those looking for more Arm Slave action and a continuation of the story elements from the first series will have to wait until the recently-announced third series comes out, but really, if you were a fan of the original then how could you be disappointed with this volume? I recommend it even for those who haven’t followed the series so far” [boldface added].
  • Some of the most enthusiastic reviews I read were written by people who, like me, had never seen Fumoffu‘s predecessor but did not view this as an impediment to their enjoyment of the series.
  • Many fans of the first series insisted that Full Metal Panic!, while highly recommended, was not an absolute prerequisite.
  • Such was the consensus among the sources I consulted, although there was also some agreement that it would still be best to watch the first series before jumping into the second. (For the record, I think they’re right. If you don’t share my aversion to mecha, I strongly suggest that you put Fumoffu on hold until you finish Full Metal Panic!.)

    In short: while not completely independent, Fumoffu comes pretty close to being a stand-alone series. I suppose the strongest evidence for this is the fact that after all my research – and after having seen close to half of Fumoffu – I have yet to encounter any major spoilers for Full Metal Panic!. Right now I still don’t know exactly what happened in the first series or how it’s linked to the second. In a way, that’s a good thing: if I ever decide to pick up Full Metal Panic! I can watch it without the fear that key plot points may have already been given away.

    OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The animation quality is top notch (typical Kyoto Animation work – sharp, clean and crisp), although this four-year-old series does show its age in a few places. The Japanese voice actors did a splendid job breathing life into their characters, and here I’d like to cite Seki Tomokazu’s excellent work in particular; his stoic, deadpan delivery truly does justice to the role of the ramrod-straight Sagara Sousuke. Yukino Satsuki also shines in her brilliant performance as the sharp-talking, harisen-wielding heroine Chidori Kaname.

    I loved Fumoffu‘s opening theme, even though it showed little of the show’s over-the-top boisterousness. The song’s gentle pacing and light, dulcet tone (well suited for easy listening) was vaguely reminiscent of the OP to Kino no Tabi. The companion animation sequence seemed a bit overloaded here and there, but was quite good overall.

    Now for Fumoffu‘s strongest point: humour. The series is practically swimming in laugh-out loud comedy. It jumps out at you from almost anywhere, the gags flying in thick and fast and often with no time wasted on elaborate set ups. I think it’s a real credit to the series that all of its characters have a part to play in creating Fumoffu‘s special brand of humour, although in my view a large chunk of the fun – at least in the first half, which is about as far as I’ve gone as of the moment – is generated by a titanic clash of personalities: namely, Sagara Sousuke against practically everyone else. Take a normal high school where people cope with life in all the usual ways, from writing love letters to engaging in fist fights; throw in a battle-hardened soldier whose solution to just about any problem, big or small, involves some kind of heavy combat weapon – and what you get is a highly volatile mix that’s primed to explode with white-hot hilarity. In this world, Chidori is both a fire bucket and lighted match, with the highly entertaining interplay between her and Sousuke fuelling the fast-paced action that makes Fumoffu such a delight to watch.

    Final verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

    OTHER REVIEWS

    Series preview by Paul Fargo (on Anime News Network)
    Review of the first regular-issue DVD by Theron Martin (also on Anime News Network)

    8 Responses

    1. Haha, oh God yes. I love this series to death and I would really want to get it on DVD, except, you know, I have Php 9,600 worth of figures coming in (2 on Sep/Oct, another on Nov/Dec).

    2. heh, yeh Fumoffu was a brilliant piece of Comedy. if you liked this, I would really recommend FMP season 1, while it was more serious (obviously) than Fomoffu, it was well worth it I reckon.

    3. Kinda sucks, since I can’t, for the life of me, find torrents for it. I doubt it’d hold my attention for long though, since I already saw FMP! The Second Raid.

    4. I bet you laughed till you nearly died of cramps watching FMP Fumoffu.

      LOL

    5. @Zeroblade: We’re in the same boat, my friend – at least where money troubles are concerned. Apart from Haruhi 3, I have six SHnY character CDs coming within a few weeks (I already have Nagato, Tsuruya-san and Asakura so I’m getting everyone else) plus a figurine that may or may not arrive in August. On top of that, Byousoku 5cm’s North American DVD release is scheduled for December, and I’m also planning to get a copy of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa; of course, Haruhi 4 should come out later in the year so I’ll need to keep an eye out for it; then there are my usual book/manga acquisitions to consider, and then there’s the iPhone in 2008 . . .

      Aaaargh, there’s just no end to it all!

      BTW, how was FMP:TSR?

      @Jan: Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind! I’ve read some good things about FMP1 so it’s a definite possibility. The mecha part of it is still something of an obstacle, but since I love the main characters of Fumoffu it’s probably worth a shot.

      @doubleblader: Oh yeah, I’d say your description’s pretty accurate. Just thinking of Episode 5 (the one with the club eviction) is enough to send me sniggering in the middle of work.

    6. Personally, the iPhone’s way too expensive, but that’s just my hate for Apple products (that I have to pay for). Oh, and TSR was awesome. Full of action. Definitely recommended.

      I was marathoning Fumoffu! in the middle of the night, so I had to hold back all my laughter behind a towel. It was morning when he said that “koppe pan” line, and I ended up waking my brother and parents thanks to that.

    7. I marathoned the all of the 3 series within 4 days lol.

      Basically,anything that’s FMP is addictive ^^

    8. adorei
      parabéns trabalho profissional

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