The Summer season is kicking off with an explosive bang with the debut of Fire Force. With superb animation, an interesting protagonist, and an engaging world, it is definitely one of the shows to watch this season.
After a unique and horrifying epidemic causes people to begin inexplicably combusting into flame-wreathed demons, an elite force known as the “Fire Force” is put together to put the demons to rest while protecting other citizens. Shinra Kusakabe, an eager new recruit with an odd habit of smiling when he’s nervous, spends his first day with Fire Force’s 8th division.
As a 3rd generation Pyrokinetic, Shinra has a natural command over fire, which he utilizes to take flight and devastate enemies with powerful kicks. He showcases these abilities at a train station in the opening scene to rescue a fire force soldier from falling debris.
After meeting with Division 8, they are summoned to a factory fire where a woman has transformed into a particularly aggressive “Infernal”. Shinra demonstrates his abilities to put her to rest by destroying her core, along with the help of his colleagues.
What future challenges will Shinra and his comrades face? Will he uncover the mysterious enemy buried in his memories? Only time will tell!
Well, that was a blast. I don’t remember the last time I re-watched scenes in quick succession, but some of the action sequences were so mesmerizingly fluid that I had to go back to indulge in the feast for the eyes that was Fire Force. The movements, the life and vibrancy of the flames…some superb animation work that is sure to bring back viewers week after week.
A series is only as good as its characters, and on this front Fire Force is definitely laying a strong foundation. Many of the secondary characters didn’t have too much time to establish their own personalities – but even the process of fulfilling various archetypes (the playful Captain, the serious Lieutenant, the romantic Maki, etc) was entertaining.
Then we have our protagonist – and of course, no protagonist would be complete without a tragic backstory. In the case of Shinra, his mother and younger brother were tragically killed in a housefire that he presumably caused. However, he’s certain there was another force within the flames that robbed him of his family, and his commitment to avenging them and becoming a hero (Heellooooo Midoriya!) motivates his enlistment with the Fire Force.
Something about Shinra that I found particularly interesting is his habit of smiling when he’s nervous. I think it’s a brilliant way to take a typical “confident hero” trope and turn it on its head. When we see Shinra smiling when going into battle, we’re not thinking “He’s got this” – we recognize that he’s actually nervous. It adds a compelling layer to the series, and I’m interested in seeing other characters react to his odd smiling habit.
Digging into the symbolism just for a moment – I couldn’t help but be struck by the importance of fire in Japan’s collective memory. One well known example of the impact of fire within Japanese popular culture is Graveyard of the Fireflies – which was set against the backdrop of the devastating firebombings of World War II. While the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occupy their own niche in Japanese animation, and are often represented in more subtle ways, seeing the flame-covered, skeletal Infernals struck me as a harrowing incarnation of the devastation of flame from Japan’s past.
Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed and intrigued with Fire Force. I will be keeping up with it weekly, so stay tuned!