Full Metal Panic! was a show of two halves. At times it was an action-filled mecha drama featuring the freelance anti-terrorist organisation Mithril battling kidnappers, terrorists and numerous other bad guys; at others it was a high school comedy in which one of Mithril’s agents is sent into a high school to protect an unknowing student from a foreign military threat. The two disparate elements never worked together as well as they might and as a result FMP! ended up as a rather uneven series.
Enter FMP? FUMOFFU, a spin-off series that concentrates on Sergeant Sousuke Sagara’s mission to protect strong-willed Kaname Chidori, along with the mayhem that ensues. I must admit that the more serious side of FMP! was the more enjoyable, and didn’t really think that the schoolyard slapstick aspect would be enough to carry the show on its own. How wrong I was.
The great thing about FUMOFFU is also the source of my initial reservations: there are no terrorists, no mention of the Whispered and Black Technology and not an arm Slave in sight. It is a straightforward comedy series that concentrates purely on the day-to-day escapades of a military nut and his long-suffering classmate and nothing more; with the heavier themes out of the picture completely the more playful side of FMP has room to move and can run riot without any interference. Without what was, for the most part, a separate story, this aspect to the show proves to be very funny indeed.
The main reason why FUMOFFU works so well is that Sousuke is trained purely as a military operative: while his methods of dealing with problems are perfectly suited to the battlefield they stand out like a sore thumb in a civilian high school. His completely calm and deadpan attitude to coping with everyday events in an unexpected manner provide most of the comedy, which works considerably better than it could ever be expected to. You find someone has opened your locker: do you check inside to find out why? Or rig it with plastic explosive and remove the perceived ‘threat’ in a ‘controlled’ explosion, which just happens to annihilate the cloakroom?
Such outrageous adventures take place in short 10-15 minute story arcs which, apart from episode three, make for two separate sketches per episode. Each is long enough to deliver the laughs without outstaying their welcome, which is a potential shortcoming of many frantic and zany-style comedy shows. We are presented with vengeful teachers, mislaid homework assignments, misunderstood school crushes and many others besides; all are laugh-out-loud funny because of the totally inappropriate but well-intentioned way in which Sousuke goes about dealing with everyday life.
In previous FMP! episodes Kaname was fiery to the point of being obnoxious and irritating; here, her irate reactions are perfectly understandable and the dialogue between her and Sousuke works perfectly. There are very few signs of their relationship developing at this stage (the first disc only includes three episodes unfortunately) but that isn’t really the show’s focus.
Because FUMOFFU has little in common with the larger plot of the original series it can be enjoyed by viewers who haven’t even seen a FMP! episode before. The mecha action and drama aspects have been left out entirely to leave a consistently laugh-out-loud series that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a bit of daft high school comedy. Three episodes are scarcely enough!
||8 out of 10
||Fri, 14 Apr 2006