What’s it about? It’s Tokyo, Solar Year 198. Human spontaneous combustion, caused by fire spirits called “Infernals,” is happening at epidemic-level proportions. In this world, Shinra Kusakabe, a young man with the power to control fire through his feet, joins the Fire Force: a division of the fire department devoted to fighting Infernals. He says he joined because he wants to become a hero, and to make up for the tragedy in his past.
I never thought I’d see one of my more unique and troublesome quirks replicated onscreen. See, I have a tendency to smile when I’m feeling tense or upset, which has caused a lot of misunderstandings over the years. Finally, Fire Force has brought Shinra to give me some much-needed representation. I give this episode an A-plus.
What do you mean you don’t care about that? Don’t you want me to feel understood?
FINE. FINE, I GUESS.
Fire Force’s source material is a manga by Atsushi Okubo, best known in the US for Soul Eater. Now, I love Soul Eater, so I was excited for this one. I was hoping for the same kind of exciting, unusual action scenes, strong character writing, and quirky humor that its predecessor offered. And what do you know, it delivered!
David Production (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Cells at Work) has made a name for themselves with visually striking, engaging action and worlds, and Fire Force more than upholds that reputation. This is a good-looking series, y’all. The fights with the Infernals are gorgeous, all stark blacks and reds and oranges, contrasting visually with the browns and greys of the old firehouse they work out of and the bright greens and blues of Shinra’s childhood memories. Meanwhile, the central conceit that they are people being controlled by fire spirits, who will only find rest once the Fire Force ends their lives, adds an emotional touch as their loved ones pray for them to find peace in their rest.
Because let’s be real – as much as I love a good action sequence, they’re meaningless to me without the character and story context to back them up. Shinra’s backstory is standard but sufficient for a hero’s origin: when a fire consumed his childhood home, killing his mother and (allegedly) his baby brother, his family assumed he was at fault. Yeah, it’s the “dead mom” motivation. In a shonen manga. How terribly shocking and tragic.
It’s very unfortunate that Fire Force isn’t good to its lady characters. Soul Eater actually had a pretty great female cast – assisted by the anime staff toning the fan service way, way down – but Fire Force doesn’t seem to hit that standard. The first shot of the two – Maki the firefighter and Iris the nun – is in the shower, talking about Shinra.
Oh sure, Maki has the arms of a firefighter, but she’s a total boy-obsessed airhead and spends more of her screentime bending over so the camera can ogle her boobs or her ass. Even in the climactic fight against the Infernal, she seems to be playing backup. Sister Iris fares a bit better, and the two seem like they could have a fun dynamic if they ever manage to pass the Bechdel test.
I’d like to see that, because the writing between the male characters is quite sharp. Obi in particular is a lot of fun, playing the boss who cares little for proper procedure but cares for his team and inspires them when it matters. Hinawa, straitlaced and constantly scribbling on his clipboard, acts as his foil and keeps him in check.
Fire Force isn’t everything I was hoping for, but it is a ton of fun. I’ll be watching this one weekly for sure!