The original Full Metal Panic was an anime series that I wanted to like so much. I loved the character and mecha designs, Gonzo Studio’s animation was solid, the storyline (a top secret organization known as Mithril sends their operatives to protect a young woman who holds secret knowledge) had promise, and there was plenty of humor and action to be had. So what killed it for me? The fan service.
I’ve never understood the appeal of fan service (e.g., panty shots, accidental gropings, women’s locker room mishaps, peeping toms). When it’s done for humor, it just feels like the creators are going after cheap laughs, which gets real old real fast. And when it’s done for more prurient, titillating reasons, it just feels icky. That was doubly so in Full Metal Panic’s case, seeing as how the main female character — the one who often found herself in compromising situations — was a high school student.
So I was a little worried going into Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. The sleeve art, depicting the rather buxom Kaname (one of the series’ main characters) and her friend Kyouko in skimpy swimsuits, didn’t assuage my fears. And so I steeled myself, wondering just how far I’d make it before I’d have to stop — not because I was offended or feeling like a prude, but because I just didn’t want to waste my time with a series spoiled by cheap jokes.
I can’t speak for the entire series — this volume only contains the first 3 episodes — but so far, so good. Most of the humor in Fumoffu revolves around the love/hate relationship between Kaname and Sousuke, her teenage bodyguard who reacts to every possible mishap with deadly force.
It’s a bit of a one-note joke at times: Kaname and Sousuke face a “dire” situation (such as trying to protect their baked goods stand from a teacher bent on revenge), Sousuke tries a military solution (usually involving some sort of high explosive), Kaname gets pissed, Sousuke doesn’t understand why, etc. Throw in some unrequited crushing courtesy of Kaname, who is as frustrated by Sousuke’s cluelessness in romantic matters as she is of his military responses, and you’ve even got some romance.
However, the emphasis is clearly on the humor, and at times, that humor is surprisingly dark. In one episode, Kaname is kidnapped by a gang of thugs. In retaliation, Sousuke tortures one of the gang members, and begins threatening every single one of the gang members, even promising to kill the leader’s younger brother if Kaname isn’t returned — or does he?
And of course, there are plenty of silly interludes, such as when Kaname, Sousuke, and the gang head off to the beach (skimpy swimsuits in tow, of course) for some sun. Kaname befriends a young, sickly boy who has become infatuated with her. Sousuke sets off to find her, only to discover the young boy has some bodyguards of his own, setting up for some pretty ridiculous showdowns that parody everything from The Matrix to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So far, there’s no mention of Mithril, Whispers (the mysterious group of gifted individuals to which Kaname belongs), or any of the other aspects of Full Metal Panic yet. Not that that’s a bad thing. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu certainly seems to have plenty of charm of its own, and the emphasis on the humor rather than action works pretty well on the first volume. I’m assuming that a larger story arc will begin revealing itself soon enough, but until then, I’m just willing to laugh at the hijinks.
And hope that the one accidental breast grab in the final episode is the exception, and not the rule.