Fire Force – 08 – The Starry-Eyed Villain

In the haze of dawn, a mysterious man in a Fire Force cloak promises the “Evangelist” over the phone about continuing his work infernalizing subjects. Captain Hibana’s reasearch indicates an insect is the catalyst for the artificial type. When the alarm sounds and the First is mobilized, Shinra and Arthur witness the infernalization in action, and chase the just-out-of-view culprit down the alley.

In the alley they encounter their lieutenant, Karim Flam, along with Hoshimiya Rekka and Tamaki. Shinra keeps quiet about any accusations. Instead, he and Arthur break into Flam’s quarters to search for clues, and find an insect. When he arrives, he explains he planted it there to test them; confirming his suspicion they were there to investigate someone in the First creating artificial infernals.

That person turns out to be Hoshimiya Rekka, which would be a great shock if I knew who the heck he was or cared. Apparently, Tamaki is extremely devoted to him; so much so that she lures children to meet with him, with him claiming he has a prayer to “protect” them from becoming Infernals. When she wants to witness this prayer, he hugs her so hard she passes out.

Rekka kills the woman who was with the kids, then injects an insect into one of the kids, and instead of becoming an Infernal, the bug and resulting flames are absorbed, which seems to be the result he wanted, in service of creating a “pilot light” for this mysterious Evangelist. Tamaki comes to, and is beaten to a pulp by Rekka, as she’s unable to raise up against a guy she respected and admired for so long.

Still, she’s able to send her pink cat-flames into the sky as a signal for someone, anyone to come and save her and the other kids. Shinra spots the signal, divebombs Rekka, and smashes his face through the ground with his foot in front of Tamaki, who is grateful but also an emotional wreck.

While I admire the show’s penchant for getting on with the plot without dilly-dally, revealing Rekka as the evil, unhinged bad guy feels over-rushed to the point of shrug-ness. I also found it annoying that Tamaki, a powerful and accomplished fire solider in her own right, was so thoroughly damsel-ized in order to give the big hero boy Shinra a chance to shine.

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Vinland Saga – 09 – London Bridge is NOT Falling Down

Turns out that huge warrior leading the defence of London from its famous bridge is not even an Englishman, but a Norse giant named Thorkell. King Sweyn’s armies will make little progress until he’s out of the picture, so Askeladd sends Thorfinn to work out some of his frustration. Thorfinn makes him promise for yet another duel in exchange for Thorkell’s head.

Floki and the Jomsvikings beseech Thorkell to abandon his contract with the English and re-join the Danish army, and he’ll be paid double. But like Askeladd’s right hand man Bjorn, it’s not about themoney. Unlike Bjorn, who likes easy wins, Thorkell doesn’t want to fight the English; they’re too weak. He’d much rather fight the tougher Vikings.

As the Vikings continue their siege of the Thames, Thorkell makes any ship or soldier who comes too close regret it, sending a hail of arrows from his archers, or just heaving a massive boulder or tree trunk into the Viking ships, sinking them. He’s a bit superhuman, but heck, so are a lot of Vikings, chief(tan) among them the late Thors and his giant oar.

When Thorfinn leaps onto the bridge to face Thorkell, it’s immediately apparent the latter has a huge advantage in size and strength, and isn’t that much slower. One wonders if it would have been better for Askeladd to send Bjorn instead—preferably on his berserker mushrooms. Then again, I’m sure Askeladd values Bjorn far more than Thorfinn.

Thorfinn hangs in there about as long as you’d expect, considering the moment Thorkell gets a grip on any one of his arms or legs, it’s basically game over. Thorkell blocks Thorfinn’s dagger with his hand, then slams him back and forth against the bridge like a ragdoll.

To Thorkell’s surprise and delight, Thorfinn hasn’t lost any of his will to fight, and when Kell’s guard is down Finn claims two of the fingers from his stabbed hand before plunging into the Thames. Thorkell lets him go, hoping for another fun fight in the future.

It is clear King Sweyn bit off more than he could chew, and isn’t going to get the quick victory he wanted, so he redirects the bulk of his armies to Wessex in the west, where they’ll hopefully have more luck. He leaves the continued siege of London, and just 4,000 men, to his son Prince Canute, despite protests from Ragnar, whom the king blames for making the lad “faint of heart.”

Whether Canute succeeds in London will probably determine whether he succeeds to the throne, but as we haven’t heard a word from him, who knows how that’ll go. Perhaps at some point he’ll get some lines and we can see what kind of person and warrior he is beyond what others say about him.

As for Thorfinn, he’s washed down the river westward and meets back up with Askeladd’s crew, now headed to Wessex. After popping his dislocated shoulder back in, he joins the march, remembering the words of the “madman” Thorkell talking about how fun fighting is. But it’s not fun for Thorfinn. It never was, and probably never will be.