There are not many anime that compare to the crazy ride that is Fire Force. While I cannot say that it deserves top spot as an Anime of the Season or Anime of the Year, it is worth an honorable mention. It ticks a lot of important boxes for a memorable anime. It’s certainly popular, but it feels like it has earned that popularity. Let’s discuss why. Spoilers ahead.
From the beginning, Fire Force establishes itself as something that intends to be full of fast-paced action and adrenaline. It’s par for the course for a shounen anime; wow the audience with well choreographed combat and flashy abilities and you should have something passable for the masses. But one element that can be neglected as a result is the story.
For many (but certainly not all) shounen anime, the story only needs to be formulated enough to showcase the action. Flashy fighting (and hopefully some sort of supernatural power) are enough; popcorn anime if you will. Fire Force is certainly full of some really exciting action sequences, but surprisingly (to me, at least), it takes a lot of care with the story as well. Here’s the TLDR:
Very early on I was iffy on whether or not I would enjoy it. The pilot opens up just as quickly as the rest of the show, choosing to jump right into some over the top action rather than build towards it. It’s a bold choice considering the fact that you could accidentally alienate an audience that isn’t yet invested in the characters. Concepts and vocabulary are all very quickly introduced, leaving you to hope that it’s all explained well later on. Luckily, I decided to stick around for a few more episodes.
Fire Force is the story of an overexcited rookie who joins the 8th Company of the Special Fire Force. Their purpose is to find and put to rest any humans who spontaneously combust and become mindless devils who spread fire-born destruction; these devils are known simply as Infernals. Our lead character Shinra has joined for a special reason: his family was torn apart by an Infernal. He was told that his mother and younger brother were killed, but Shinra is convinced that his younger brother still lives and he is determined to find and rescue him.
Most Special Fire Force soldiers have an ability to manipulate flames at will. They are all different in how they manipulate the flames, but they essentially amount to Infernals who have kept their wits and can control the flames rather than being consumed by them. This is the basis for the fun combat that Fire Force gives us.
Fire Force is able to give us it’s complex world using several layers of historical legend, conspiracy, and most importantly, religion. There are several forces at work in the world, some hoping to stop the spread of Infernals and bring peace to the land, others hoping to create chaos and consume it. By the end of the first season, a lot of the mystery is cleared up and opposition lines are drawn, but it leaves us with a few more mysteries to solve for the next season.
On top of this mysterious future Tokyo are a bunch of unique and interesting characters. As I mentioned previously, no two people in the Special Fire Force manipulate flames in the same manner. Combustion strength, plasma control, and autonomous fire sprites are just a few of the powers you’ll run into, each one of them complimenting their users personality (though it’s likely their abilities actually shaped their personality).
Thanks to the element of conspiracy present in the story, we aren’t simply watching a battle of good vs evil unfold. Part of the job of the 8th Company in the Special Fire Force is to uncover illegal activities of other Special Fire Force Companies. This leads to clashes between the 8th and other companies, allowing us to see what these god-like fire powers can do in a battle against each other rather than mindless Infernals.
It all comes to a head in what I can only describe as one of my favorite arcs in all of anime. I won’t give away any major spoilers, but for all intents and purposes, the 8th “descends into the pits of hell” to take on their ultimate adversaries. What unfolds is a multi-episode arc where the members of the 8th are all fighting for their lives in a high stakes battle for control of some powerful fire manipulating abilities.
There are a few moments where Fire Force does seem to go just a little too far. Some level of fan service is always present in shounen anime, and Fire Force is no different. Let’s be real, shounen anime is aimed at an audience that is typically younger and male, so eye candy will obviously be present. And I’m not trying to say it shouldn’t be.
There are a few character driven important moments that take place in Fire Force. These are meant to be turning points for members of the cast with important revelations and growth happening. But the gravitas of some of these moments is almost all but ruined with blatant fan service insertion. I’m not talking simply some extra jiggly breasts or wind whipping up a skirt. They’re even more obvious than that. It reaches the point where it simply feels inappropriate for the tone of the scene; one scene where children are literally being murdered in the name of experimentation has a moment like this. More than anything, it simply makes you go…Why? It didn’t ruin the show, but it leaves a temporary bad taste in your mouth.
The fact that the only two things I can find to seriously complain about are a rough pilot and ill-timed fanservice feels rather remarkable. For once I didn’t feel like a show took a downward quality turn at the beginning of the second cour; Fire Force was able to maintain the same strong momentum for the full 24 episodes. Obviously, the story isn’t complete. I think it’s slated for at least another 24 episodes before the story is fully told, but I’m much more confident in it’s ability to deliver on all of these big promises after season one. I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion for the story of the 8th Company.