I recently finished the second season of Full Metal Panic, and I’m happy to say that it’s a vast improvement over the first. As a whole, this series really shines when it focuses on comedy. When it veers into the dramatic, it really doesn’t have much depth to sustain an interesting plot. The characters are all right, but there really isn’t anyone interesting to root for, plus the villains are woefully generic. Fumoffu, however, jettisons all that needless plot stuff, and presents itself as a straight up comedy. Sousuke, the military fanatic, is unable to live a normal life in everyday Japan, and as a result, his mission to protect Kaname gets out of hand in every single episode. Whether he is detonating school lockers, or dressing up as a theme park mascot with a gun, he’s always screwing things up. But that’s where the humor can be found, and it works extremely well.
Unlike the first season, Fumoffu really ups the zaniness by having Sousuke do increasingly more insane things. This culminates in Kaname deciding she can’t stand him anymore, and deciding to go out on a date with someone she used to have a crush on. Sousuke remains dedicated to his mission to protect her, and dons a theme park mascot’s costume in order to blend in during Kaname’s date in an amusement park. Of course, things get crazy, and we are treated to images of a cute mascot beating the crap out of people with kung fu, and blowing stuff up with high-powered weaponry. The juxtaposition works effectively, and I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions. The humor is rather genuine, and instead of relying solely on gags, it works because it stems from the characters’ (mostly Sousuke’s) outrageous personalities. Plots are rather throw-away, but it doesn’t matter because they managed to keep all the jokes fresh and varied.
Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that there are only 12 episodes, and half of those are broken into two ten minute segments. This allows each story to finish up quickly, and not overstay it’s welcome, which is a problem that plagued the first series. Each of the half-episodes are loosely connected, so there is a feeling of continuity, and you never get the sense that you are watching a bunch of disconnected shorts. Certain themes and characters recur (e.g. the crazy female cop, Bonta-kun, etc.), and further allow the series to feel more connected without having an overarching plot. In the end, nothing is really gained, there is no real character development or story progression, and all of that is fine by me. That’s why this series worked so well, they didn’t give two shits about making a deep, meaningful plot, they just had fun with it.
The second season was created by Kyoto Animation, and they did an excellent job. Coming right off of watching Gonzo’s season one hack job, the first thing I noticed was how fucking good the animation was. They didn’t cut corners every step of the way, actions were more fluidly animated, and everything had a more vibrant, colorful look. Kyoto Animation really blew away Gonzo in every department. It’s nice because this series has a lot of potential, and it looks like that may be fully realized in the hands of this far more capable animation company. The acting was better, too. Both Japanese and English casts were good, but I have to say that the English dub cast really outshined the originals here. They seemed to have a lot of fun, and everything from the delivery of their lines to the inflexions in their voices came across as effortless and natural.
I watched the DVD’s on the original blue thinkpak release from ADV. The video quality was fine, and the audio’s 5.1 surround was definitely a nice touch considering the amount of explosions featured in this comedy anime. There were absolutely no extras, which was a disappointment, but ADV never includes any extras on their thinpak releases, so it was to be expected. The release is cheap, and a great way to pick up the series for anyone who is a fan, or hasn’t already seen it.
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is miles above the first season in every department. The animation looks better, the acting is improved, and the jokes are funnier. Sure, it’s completely absurd and over the top, but I think that’s what I found so appealing about it. As I said before, this series is at its best when it focuses on comedy, and since that’s what the second season is all about, you really can’t go wrong. You should definitely check it out.