Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu! Vol. 1: Full Metal Pandemonium
I was always a fan of the original Full Metal Panic! series, and I found the storyline and action sequences fairly enjoyable, despite their archetypal tendencies. However, the most enjoyable aspect of the series for me was the more comedic focus. Watching Sousuke attempt to adapt into the real world after spending all his life in the military was extremely enjoyable and refreshing to see in a show so action-oriented. The fact remained, though, that the show was primarily about mecha battles and military conflict, with a little romance between Sousuke and Kaname occasionally kindling on the side.
However, the tables have been completely turned with Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!. Instead of having a linear storyline that continues through thirteen or twenty-six episodes, the show is told through mostly unrelated mini episodes dedicated to what made the first show so enjoyable: the hilarious hijinks that ensue as Sousuke attempts to fit into the real world while trying to protect Kaname.
The majority of the cast from the original Full Metal Panic! returns, although this time they mostly appear in slightly lighter roles, since this is not a drama-focused show, and for the most part, it's interesting to see how they behave in such light-hearted scenarios. For those who are unfamiliar, Sousuke and Kaname are the main characters, and the basis of the show is him trying to protect her from unnamed military forces who wish to use her mysterious psychic powers.
Most of the comedy here is slapstick, and because of its quick and clever execution, it is for the most part absolutely hilarious, leading the pack for the funniest anime release of 2005 thus far. I couldn't stop laughing when Sousuke actually shot an arcade machine because he believed it posed a threat, or when he rigged explosives because of a mysterious letter that had been placed in his locker (which he later finds out was a love letter).
Fumoffu!'s production values are generally on par with those of its 'prequel,' with well-designed, albeit fairly cartoony characters and bright colors. The animation is impressively smooth, especially considering the number of action sequences. There is a bit of CG used, but not to an excessive degree, or even as much as that of the original Full Metal Panic!. The soundtrack is nothing special, and the same goes for the sound effects. Both the English and Japanese-language voice-acting is fantastic, thanks in part to the over-the-top nature of the show. I personally preferred the original Japanese language track because of its rapid-fire delivery.
In terms of the actual DVD release, ADV Films has really dropped the ball here. At three episodes, paying thirty dollars for a new release seems ridiculous, and if you ask me as a consumer, I'd say that it's not a good way to get me into a new series. There are a few extras, including a Bonta-kun board game that no one will ever play at all, and 'the mysteries for Fumoffu' digital booklet that isn't nice to look at and feels kind of clunky. However, the original Japanese TV spots and character artwork are nice. The cover art is pretty, emphasizing the show's beautiful use of bright colors and the illustrious Kaname.
The video quality of the DVD itself isn't anything special, and I've noticed a few too many forum rants about overall bad video quality, although I didn't notice it myself. However, it should be noted that I'm not obsessive about things like this. Let's just hope ADV Films gets it right next time.
Overall, Fumoffu! just didn't deliver in terms of value. I'm almost struggling to give it a four, and this is based mostly on the strength of the entertainment that the show provides, and not ADV Films' terrible and complete disregard for how to get a newcomer to buy the first volume of a new series. Perhaps if it had even four episodes and some halfway decent extras I would give it a five. Hopefully, volume two will be better.
But who am I to complain? DVDs in Japan with similar episode counts cost fifty dollars and up.
If you're looking for some big laughs and don't mind the low episode count, then Fumoffu! is an awesome choice. Highly recommended, despite the value.