Rewatching the first season of Full Metal Panic for my 2002 retrospective list gave me the bug. I was only supposed to watch the first season for now, but I had those next two seasons there looking at me. Just there, asking to be watched. There would be more Tessa in them. I couldn’t resist. So, unscheduled, here’s a review of Fumoffu.
For a lot of people, their favourite parts of Full Metal Panic were the goofy side stories involving Sagara blowing stuff up in a school environment and Kaname getting mad at him for doing so. To appease that fanbase, and to keep the main storyline more serious and consistent in tone, they took a whole bunch of those stories and compiled them into season 1.5: Full Metal Panic Fumoffu. While it helps to have the experience of the main story to know the characters, Fumoffu works perfectly fine as a stand alone dumb comedy, such is the disconnect between it and FMP regular.
The issue is about 75% of the joke of Fumoffu is Sagara shooting something and then Kaname getting angry and hitting him for doing that. That joke wasn’t particularly funny in FMP regular, and repeating it 100 times does little to improve it. If anything, it also starts to degrade the joke of Sagara’s military fetishism, because the jokes become so predictable. I wouldn’t have thought that solving every problem by shooting someone in the face would ever lose its charm, but I’m sure even an avalanche of kittens would eventually grow tiresome.
The new characters don’t add much to the story either. The nature of Fumoffu means the jokes have little in the way of depth or weight, and what’s there comes as baggage from the main series. Even when they bring over characters from the main FMP, they lose a lot in transition to goofy comedy. Tessa in particular is pathetic in Fumoffu. There’s no real satire on display here, when almost all the jokes are slapstick of someone applying military logic to real life situations. It’s the lazy webcomic artist method of humour. Apply video game logic to real life situations with hilarious consequences.
So, repetitive jokes and bland characters. “But I heard Fumoffu was really good” I pretend to hear you say. “And you really like Full Metal Panic, so what’s going on here”? Well, my theory here is that it comes down to selective memory. What I described above is about 75-80% of Fumoffu. The remaining part of Fumoffu is a bit more diverse and a touch insane.
My current running theory is the guys tasked with writing and storyboarding Fumoffu were locked in a room together and told they couldn’t leave until the entire show had been planned out. For the most part they just made a generic romcom with a military nerd lead. However, as they were forced to spend so much time together, slowly they started to go mad. When the producers finally opened the door to let them out, they were a shrivelled gang of deranged lunatics, talking about trapping prostitutes in cages, repeatedly shouting quotes from Full Metal Jacket at each other, and with one guy huddled in a corner muttering the word ‘pony’ under his breath over and over again.
When you start breaking down the themes and layers behind these jokes, this side of Fumoffu does not have nice things to say about humanity, nor the people who made this show. Humans will crawl over each others dead bodies, whether fuelled by hunger, lust or simple self-preservation instinct. Practically every episode involves someone threatening to sexually assault Kaname, and in the case of things like the Pony episode, you get the feeling the sympathy lies with the Pony man. The tone frequently swaps into slasher horror-mode, and the results are as frightening as they are funny. It’s hugely imaginative, laugh out loud funny, and the kind of humour that definitely sticks with you. But insane in a slightly worrying way.
If Fumoffu was a person, they would be the kind of guy who you heard ‘stories’ about, but seemed like a perfectly nice guy in person until you went on a night out with them. Fumoffu is the kind of person who would suggest re-creating scenes from The Wicker Man, and be deadly serious about it. Fumoffu is the kind of person who would tie an old man to a cross and do tribal dances around him while yelling “this is so much fun”! Fumoffu is the kind of person you wouldn’t remember what happened on this night out with them, except that the next morning you found yourself in an unfamiliar bedroom with only a decapitated gorilla for company.