I find that one of the biggest risks with highly stylized series and very eccentric characters is that you run the risk of turning into all flash, no substance. Occasionally writers will feel the need to exaggerate all traits and events so that they don’t end up overshadowed by everything else that’s happening, in the process losing those important quieter human moments. This has always been my fear for Fire Force, that it would slowly turn into a parody of itself.
And this applies to production as well. If you constantly try to up the ante in visuals and animation, you’re going to end up with an overstuffed difficult to digest mess and loose all your subtle charm. I don’t think Fire Force is there yet. The direction of this show is impressive. Feel free to judge for yourself in my gallery.
ok, let’s get started
Well, this is a bit of a cheat, the last episode ended mid-battle, obviously, we were going to finish that before moving on. I did honestly think Rekka would run away somehow and we would spend a few episodes chasing him down.
Beyond that, I know that we would have to deal with the now pyrokinetic kid that Rekka made but I thought it wouldn’t be this episode. And I was right!
What Did Happen
The fact is, there weren’t that many ways this episode could go. The last episode set up quite a few events that needed to get resolved before we can move onto something else and that’s exactly what happened. But it did manage to surprise me still. I did not think that Rekka would be dealt with so summarily. Even though the characters are all very casual about it, that was a very gruesome death, with the sun shining through the hole in his chest as people just chat around him. A grisly scene.
Not to mention that Li also lost his arm and no one blinked an eye. I think this is the first non-infernal casualty and the matter of factness with which everyone reacted is making me think that Fire Force may be a considerably more brutal series than I though. And it wasn’t exactly soft, to begin with.
The episode seems to have clearly marked the church as the enemy in the series but I’m not entirely certain just how official those guys in the white hoods were. Maybe a fanatical offshoot acting on their own. In any case, they seemed quite happy to eliminate one of their own to keep him quiet. Or maybe he wasn’t one of their own, but that’s the idea I got.
In any case, we’re still left with the same basic question: Why? Why was Rekka creating infernals? What would he stand to gain? It’s an intriguing enough question to keep me coming back.
What About the Characters
For the events to have any impact on the audience, we needed to get to know Rekka just a bit better, which meant getting to know Karim and Foein by the same token. For some time, these three came as a set, and now two of them are left to figure out how their childhood friend became a monster…and why? It was a nice little set up. The sort of background story that could easily have made Rekka the protagonist of his own shonen had the narrative swung that way. He had all the tropes going for him And the perfect sidekicks.
I have to admit, by himself Rekka was a bit too high strung and loud for my tastes, even as a villain. But clearly establishing the friendship between him, Flam and Li went a long way to humanizing the character and creating a much more balanced individual. It did the job, the impact of events was indeed felt!
As an almost entirely action-oriented episode, it was fight after fight after fight, I think it’s nice that they snuck in a bit of background like that. It also set up Flam “the shield of the 1st” quite nicely. An awkward and slightly grim guy but very kind. I think he’ll make a nice addition.
As the episode started from Tamaki’s point of view I thought we may find out a bit about her as well but it was really more focused on the three guys so we’ll have to wait for next time.
What I Liked
Like I just mentioned, Flam seems to be built up as a future ally and I think he makes a very good foil to the current characters. Shinra is back with the 8th so we may not see Flam again for a bit but I am looking forward to his next appearance.
They are really setting up the shadowy organization bit. For all the political intrigue build-up, I’m afraid this may just turn into a plain old straight-up evil cult story but there’s the brother angle. Assuming they really do have Shinra’s little brother I bet he’s a fairly high ranking member. If he’s as skilled and powerful as Shinra (and why shouldn’t he be, they’re brothers) he’s bound to have gone up in the ranks. He’s been there much longer than Shinra’s been a firefighter.
They’re gonna clash, it’s going to be dramatic and conflicted. Yes it’s predictable and yes it’s cliché and I am a sucker for these storylines. I haven’t been watching anime all these years because I dislike its classical tropes. Even if it plays out exactly as I’ve predicted it, this is still a story I want to see!
I do like that Arthur is just lost somewhere. Just wondered off and got lost in a desert. Only Arthur could pull that off! I’m into it!
What I Liked Less
Sadly, same as last week. I don’t really need to get into it do I? Robbing a character of all agency like that is just plain boring.
I’m not looking forward to Tamaki joining the main cast although now that she has a full uniform it may compel the writers to actually build up her character a bit so maybe I am looking forward to it. As it stands, I think the particular brand of fanservice she represents is one of my least favourites and to me, her scenes become some of the weakest in the show. I just hope we don’t get substantially more now.
There seems to be a tendency towards simplifying the larger story of the show. Good guys are extra super unreproachable good, bad guys are completely nonredeemable and the complex web that was hinted at is starting to look like a simple bow. I hope I’m wrong.
I feel like Fire Force’s strengths may have tricked me into thinking this was a different show than it actually is. Not that Fire Force is bad by any means. But it may be much more of a straight forward action shonen than I had decided.
All the dripping style and interestingly subverted personalities, not to mention the harshness of the narrative, made me think this was a more mature title, something like Psycho Pass maybe. But maybe I should approach it more like a fun romp. One Piece or Fairy Tail.
Despite my change in perception though, the fact is that the episode manages to create a delicate story of a friendship gone astray. There’s a repeated line and theme in the episode. Karim always had Rekka’s back. We hear characters say it, we see it, Rekka acts with the sincere belief that his friend is behind him.
Towards the end of the episode, Flam thinks to himself, obviously, he didn’t always have his friend’s back, or else he would never have allowed him to do such things. It’s a subtle admission of guilt and failure. As long as little moments like that remain, I have hope that Fire Force is more than just flash.
Mood: I want Onigiri
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!
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Images from: Fire Force. Dir. Y Yase. David Production. 2019.