What’s it about? Onoda Shun has worked hard to get into the elite rescue squad of Japan’s firefighting force. At 19 years old, he’s set himself apart in almost every way and is close to his goal. Another young man at the tryouts catches his attention: Toake Daigo, one of only a few hopefuls who can surpass him.
If nothing else, Firefighter Daigo: Rescuer in Orange is a nice break from anime’s tendency to equate heroism and violence. Even other firefighting anime like Fire Force and Promare have climaxes that revolve around who can punch the hardest via their fantasy elements. Why does it have to be this way? Real-life rescue workers like firefighters and EMTs face more than enough tension and human drama in the course of their normal days without ever having to throw a punch.
This alone makes Firefighter Daigo worthy of note for falling outside of the violent paradigm most anime default to. The privileging of force as the primary way to resolve conflict feeds into cultures of toxic masculinity, while focusing on those who use their power to assist, rather than subjugate others, emphasizes a narrative of more positive masculinity.
…And that’s it for that discussion, because it would take far more research, time, and effort than I have to put in. Plus, it’s a premiere review, so I’m working with kind of limited material. But it’s a pretty cool thought, right? Definitely something to keep in mind as I watch more of the series.
And watch more I shall, because I thoroughly enjoyed the episode. In just twenty minutes, I became invested in Shun’s efforts and his burgeoning rivalry with the quiet and undeniably gifted Daigo. There’s more than a little Top Gun-style homoeroticism to their relationship, and I look forward to seeing it develop into something where I can strenuously pretend those two are totes kissing in the singles dorm at night.
But for the purposes of this site, there’s one character I want to hone in on: Nakamura Yuki, the sole female recruit of the rescue squad. She’s prominently featured in the promo art and the OP, but only has one or two speaking lines in the episode. I have so many questions about her! What kind of role will she play in the narrative? Will she stand on her own as a character with her own motivations, or will she be relegated to The Girl? Or maybe the love interest that allows for heterosexual plausible deniability? It doesn’t bode well that she has almost no lines in the episode at all, if I’m being honest.
And yet, I want to hold out hope. Women firefighters are rare in Japan, only 3.2% of the total force. Those that can break in rarely get to participate in rescue operations, instead performing support roles for the male squad members. Many firehouses lack even women’s bathrooms. Stories where a female character’s motivation is to prove herself to be just as good as the men around her may be old hat, but considering real-life female firefighters are still striving to do just that, it would be a perfectly serviceable narrative for Yuki. I just want to see her get to be cool, and after the spectacular failure of Fire Force to treat its heroines with respect, this feels like a chance at redemption.