by Michelle Villanueva
Return with us now to those thrilling days of high school, when insanely skilled young soldiers were insanely skilled young soldiers, highly-spirited class reps were highly-spirited class reps, and little brown mouse-monkey things that go "fumoffu" were little brown mouse-monkey things that go "fumoffu." Yes, it's time to revisit our student friends attending Tokyo's Jindai High School for another go around of Full Metal Panic. So strap yourself in, grab your weapon of choice, and get ready for an exciting and outrageously funny ride. You only wish your high school had classmates like this!
Sousuke Sagura is your typical teen boy, if your typical teen boy was raised and trained at a very early age to fight in war after war after conflict after anti-terrorist activity. Now fairly settled into his role as Kaname Chidori's "bodyguard" (whether she wants one or not), Sousuke has to deal with newer, more bothersome things than armed battle. Like girls who have crushes on him. Though one suspects that detonating your locker because of suspected contraband (a love letter) is going just a little overboard. And there's also that camouflage/gilly suit he dressed up in when he trained his sniper rifle on the aforementioned girl. Can never be too careful with a suspected stalker. Still immensely naive about the nuances of modern teenage life (you can't learn about love on a battlefield, after all), Sousuke manages to survive on his battle-hardened wits alone. Well, that an his well-kept arsenal of weapons and intel.
If you haven't noticed, Fumoffu is, at its heart, a comedy. The characters are fairly broad and their personalities are relatively easy to grasp, even for those who haven't seen the first incarnation of Full Metal Panic. Instead of being held together by an overall plot of terrorist conflict, like the first season, Fumoffu concentrates much more on short vignettes or day-in-the-life episodes (similar to Azumanga Daioh), which only emphasizes its roots as a high school comedy with romantic elements. Yes, this is also a romance, but a relationship that's turned upside-down and inside-out.
Fumoffu is at its most hilarious with Sousuke's over-the-top reactions to mundane situations. What happens when he runs out of ammo in a gungame played at the local arcade? He unbelts his Glock and sprays the videogame screen with bullets. (Of course, he hits all the baddies in the game.) What about when he's forced into the watermelon game at the beach? A shotgun seems so much more efficient than a stupid little bat, doesn't it? And when the hapless P.E. coach decides to have a little fun with our heroes by sabotaging their school bake sale, Sousuke (who sees the coach as the sort of drill instructor R. Lee Ermey would be proud of) deals out a prank battle of epic proportions. And tear gas. After awhile, Sousuke's reactions begin to make a strange sort of sense, which makes him all the funnier. Of course, it's also fun to see stuff in anime get blown up. And blown up again. And again.
Countering Sousuke's paranoid military mindset is Kaname's harried, exasperated responses to his behavior. She can apparently pummel him into next Thursday with nothing more than a well-thrown punch to the cheek or slam to the head with nothing except her paper fan! And yet, there is some degree of attraction between them. Kaname wishes to guard her heart against hooking up with the intense yet loyal Sousuke, but she also wants to fall head-over-heels for the clueless dolt. Let's face facts, here. She's the only one who matches his strength. Sousuke can overpower three bodyguards in a matter of minutes, but Kaname can take him out with just one punch. When a girl can do that to a guy, it must be true love. Sousuke has heaps of courage in battle. Why can't he admit to himself that he likes Kaname? The course of true love never runs smooth. There is often heartbreak and betrayal. And grenades and booby-traps.
Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu doesn't carry a heavy message, and if it did, it would probably have a lot to do with never leaving the house without a weapon or a way to retaliate against your enemies. It's just a fun and very unique high school comedy that's well worth your time, even if you haven't set your eyes on the first Full Metal Panic series. Plus, it shows how exciting high school can be. Who knew that fetching the English notes you forgot at home could be as intense as stealing a stack of confidential papers from an informant?