Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (Japan 2003)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/4/08

Contains 12 episodes.

I'm not really qualified to review this show since I haven't seen the original series, "Full Metal Panic!" This is a sequel to that, and I was lured in by marketing material that featured a bunch of cute schoolgirls armed with big guns - a serious weak spot of mine. Sadly, that's not in the show at all, and the only artillery is in the hands of the main character, Sousuke Sagara, a military extremist whose job it is to protect a high school girl named Kaname Chidori. "Fumoffu" focuses more on romantic comedy and wacky hi-jinks than its predecessor, and serves as a collection of endearing side stories for the characters. While Sousuke's intentions are noble, he has no ability to blend in with Japanese high school culture and his tactics are extreme. While no one ever gets seriously hurt, he regularly tears apart the school with gunfire and explosives. What's even crazier is that the school's leaders let him get away with it. Kaname is your typical gorgeous and intelligent anime babe, and it takes all of her efforts to maintain her sanity and keep Sousuke under some amount of control. Though their relationship is extremely adversarial, they also have hidden feelings for each other, much like Akane Tendo and Ranma Saotome in "Ranma 1/2."

Each episode centers on some situation that Sousuke misinterprets as a terrorist plot against Kaname's safety, and the silliness and collateral damage that ensues. While most of it is pretty average fare, there are several moments that are truly funny. One of the highlights refers to the "fumoffu" in the title, where Sousuke dons an amusement park mascot costume to stalk Kaname. It's hilarious to see what amounts to a giant teddy bear beating the crap out of people, especially when all it can say is "fumoffu" in a cute little Pikachu voice (this is explained away as a technical malfunction of the suit that Sousuke can't seem to fix). You can't help but laugh out loud at that. The series is a mixed bag, but consistently entertaining - it's just a shame that the "girls with guns" angle wasn't explored at all.