Fire Force – 11 – Flowers of Edo

On Captain Oubi’s order, Hinawa regales the newer members of the 8th with the tale of how the 8th got started. Hinawa was a sergeant in the Imperial army at the time (as was Maki, a general’s daughter), and his lieutenant was a kind fellow named Tojo who had his sidearm “baptized” in case he has to put an Infernal to rest.

Well, Tojo is the one to be infernalized, and when the time comes to put him down, Hinawa can’t pull the trigger because his gun isn’t baptized. While off duty, he comes upon the scene of a fire where Oubi, head of the amateur firefighters, takes exception to the Fire Force soldiers who delay putting a docile Infernal to rest because it won’t “score enough points.”

Hinawa and Oubi decide to team up and put the docile Infernal to rest, and Oubi eventually starts the 8th Company as a different kind of Fire Force, one primarily concerned with putting Infernals to rest as respectfully and properly as possible while ensuring the safety of the living.

The company starts with just the two of them, but Hinawa urges Oubi to recruit Maki, whose work ethic, compassion and dedication to her duty make her the perfect match for the company they want to create. When Maki hears this in the present, she’s overcome with happiness, as she initially thought she was just brought in as a “meat shield.”

The reason for all this reminiscing? Aside from the fact it’s fun to learn about how the 8th got started, it was their first call that brings them to the present matter at hand, as it’s likely that the first Infernal they put to rest was artificially created by the Evangelist.

The location of that first call was Asakusa, the jurisdiction of the 7th Company, headed up by Captain Shinmon Benimaru. Beni does things a bit differently too, as his company doesn’t officially answer to the empire, and they dwell and work with traditional technology.

Oubi and the 8th visit the 7th’s HQ unannounced, and meet Benimaru, his lieutenant Sagamiya and two tiny twin fire soldiers Hinata and Hikage. But Beni doesn’t like another company stepping on his turf, and won’t hear them out. Just as Shinra is challenging him to a fight he’ll likely lose, fire bells sound outside—an Infernal has been spotted.

Shinra and the 8th then bear witness to the way Beni does things, as well as demonstrates his compound 2nd/3rd-gen abilities to both create and manipulate flames. He uses them in much the same way firefighters of the hikeshi system of old Edo: to demolish buildings and even entire blocks in order to stop the spread of the fire. His ability just enables him to do it on his own and with great efficiency (not to mention style).

The people in his jurisdiction, much like the people of Edo during those fires, aren’t outraged by the apparent wanton destruction. On the contrary, they know Benimaru is doing what must be done to protect the city, and hope that if they ever Infernalize, he’ll be the one to put them to rest. Fires and the destruction caused to stop them are a fact of life for them. For as the saying goes, “Fires and quarrels are the flowers of Edo.

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Fire Force – 10 – Promises, Promises

With Arthur back, Hibana hanging around feeding Shinra, and Tamaki joining the 8th, the company has never seemed livelier, as noted by both Captain Oubi and Lt. Hinawa. Shinra and Tamaki join those to for a meeting of all eight company Captains before the Emperor of Tokyo.

This is made out to be such a big deal that there hasn’t even been such a meeting the whole time Oubi has been a captain, but like Rail Zeppelin’s Mystic Eyes auction in another show, the actual event itself is pretty underwhelming.

We get a quick peek at all the captains we’ve seen before, but nothing that’s discussed in the meeting couldn’t have been said in a phone conference or email thread. Basically, the emperor wants all the companies working together to find and stop the Evangelist.

What of Shinra? One thing Hoshimiya wasn’t lying about is that Shinra’s flames are what’s called an Adolla Burst, an extremely pure form of flame identical to the ones that power the Amaterasu power plant, as well as those that created the world in which they live (how flames create things, I do not know).

In any case, the captain of the 3rd Company wants to “secure” Shinra (i.e. make him a test subject) since the Evangelist is likely after Adolla Bursts like his. Oubi manages to assure everyone the 8th will continue to keep him safe, though right after saying that he leaves Shinra on his own.

The Joker shows up, but not for a fight. He tells Shinra that his brother Shou is not only still alive, but is the commander of the “white-clad” Knights of the Ashen Flame, who serve the Evangelist. After acting sullen and awkward for most of the day back at the station, he finally tells the rest of his company mates after a family meal.

Even if I’m not super-excited about Shinra having to go up against the brother he once thought to be dead (this kinda angle is done to death), what I did like about this episode is that it re-established the 8th as one big family, and I liked the warm quiet scenes where they’re all just working or eating.

I’m also glad Shinra didn’t keep the news about Shou secret, due in large part to the sense of family and trust he feels from everyone…even Arthur.  As for how Tamaki suddenly ended up naked but for a pink apron when she and Maki tried (and failed) to start dinner…I’ve got nothin’.

Fire Force – 09 – Decisive Battle

“Second Sun” was my other choice to name this review, though I went with “Decisive Battle” in homage to the best battle theme in anime history. And this was a decisive battle, in that it dispensed with the enthusiastic but ultimately one-note villain of Lt. Rekka as quickly and efficiently as he was revealed.

My other reason for recalling Eva’s battle theme is that both the music and the visuals took on a decidedly Eva-esque flavor, while Rekka’s rants were full of “Evangelists.” Of course, with all the crosses and creative expliosions flying around, comparisons have been in-Eva-table from the start. Sure enough, one of Fire Force’s storyboarders did key animation on Eva.

While Shinra is quite different MC from Shinji, his hot/cold, love-hate relationship with Tamaki echoes that Shinji and Asuka. Tamaki’s Lucky Lechery ability means Shinra always has a soft body to land on when Rekka blasts him back. Rekka’s flames also conveniently burn most of her clothes off, while Shinra’s jumpsuit is unaffected.

Still, having been unable to fight Rekka herself, Tamaki offers Shinra support as she urges him to do what she couldn’t. Shinra rises to the occasion, exploiting his superior mobility in the warehouse and delivering an unpredictable parkour-style offense to Rekka’s more conventional two-feet-on-the-ground strategy. The battlemation is, as ever, bright, bold, and beautiful.

The times when Rekka knocks Shinra back, he makes sure to rant more about what his cult is trying to do: make the Earth a second sun. It’s your typical “villain wants to burn the world down to make a new one” position, and Rekka goes all out despite the fact that his friend Karim has always had his back, and today is no exception.

The only difference is, instead of backing him up, Karim freezes him out, converting his overheated flames into an ice prison. Karim kept him alive, hoping to get more info about who he works for out of him, but a fire sniper (clever concept) shoots a round straight through the frozen Rekka’s chest, killing him, then starts firing at Karim, Shinra, Tamaki, and the kids.

Karim has Shinra put up a smokescreen and locate the snipers, then freezes Tamaki’s twin fire tails as they point out the sniper’s location, causing them to wig out and retreat lest they get exposed. Their main objective of eliminating Rekka as a source of information was a success, but Karim vows to assits the 8th’s investigation of the Evangelist in any way he can.

In an after-credits sequence, we find Shinra has returned to the 8th, with his inter-company training suspended after the Rekka incident. He’s glad to be home with his fam, but finds that two people are out of place. Arthur “got lost” during the incident, and they can’t find him (to be continued).  Tamaki, suspended from the 1st for her role in the incident, is now on the 8th with Shinra, no doubt to be a source of both glee and woe—hopefully more of the former.

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.

Fire Force – 07 – A Long Way to Go

In the wake of the nighttime “joint exercise” (read: heated battle) between the 5th and 8th companies, their commanders decide to hold a “job well done” cookout in hopes of fostering peace—and keeping their superiors off their backs.

There’s no clearer evidence that the two companies have put their differences aside than Princess Hibana feeding Shinra cuts of grilled meat, but she also agrees to assist Captain Oubi and the 8th in their investigation of the scourge of spontaneous human combustions.

The most likely culprit is believed to be someone from the 1st company, since most of the man-made infernals come from their jurisdiction. It’s logical enough, even if it’s almost as likely to be someone not of the 1st who just happens to operating there.

In any case, Oubi wants eyes and ears on the inside, so he makes use of the above-board, inter-company trainee exchange program to send Shinra and Arthur to the 1st. They’re accompanied by first-years from the 2nd and 8th to allay suspicion that the 8th is up to something.

When Maki escorts the trainees to the 1st’s Captain Burns (the fire soldier at the scene when Shinra’s family was killed), Shinra immediately challenges him to sparring, with the understanding that if he can beat Burns, the good captain has to answer his questions without reservation.

But as both the 2nd Company trainee and Arthur exhibit, these 1st dudes are no joke, and challenging them to a fight so soon, even under the guise of training, doesn’t so much help their investigation as show them exactly what they’re up against in terms of strength.

One of Burns’ lieutenants, Karim, can turn flame into ice with the use of some kind of one-man-band air compressor, while Burns is able to stop and extinguish Arthur’s vaunted Excalibur with one lazily outstretched hand.

When Shinra gives Burns his best shot, it’s clear no member of the 1st is breaking a sweat today, despite Tamaki’s needless worry that Shinra might be able to hurt one of them. Once Burns dispatches Shinra, he asks him why he became a fire soldier, and suddenly Shinra’s spiel about wanting to be a hero to stop what happened to his family to happen ever again, Burns simply replies that Shinra has a long way to go to achieving that goal.

Still, perhaps being among such scarily powerful fire soldiers will help Shinra learn a thing or two, even as he and Arthur investigate the possibility one of them is creating Infernals. One 1st soldier I’m reasonably certain is innocent in all this is Tamaki, whose main special skill seems to be accidentally tripping and falling on men…her superiors have even adopted a habit of catching her in mid-air.

Fire Force – 04 – Infernal, Know Thyself

Many scenes of this week’s episode (and indeed previous ones) reminded me of the work of Akiyuki Shinbo, whose work in turn reminds me of live action directors Kubrick and Anderson. Sure enough, Fire Force’s director Yase Yuki is a SHAFT vet, having worked on Monogatari, Madoka, Nisekoi, even Koufuku Graffiti. That means there’s a generous amount of artistry to each shot, even if said shots aren’t really doing that much for the narrative.

The three balloon-holding mascots against an azure sky is one example; the scene of Company 5 Captain Princess Hibana and her man-throne is another, the latter evoking religious iconography that is reflected in the brief scene of Iris in a stained glass-filled chapel, looking at the burned photo of what we gather to have been her family. It’s just a really pretty, stylish show, but if you’ve been watching you knew that already.

Despite the flashy visuals, the episode starts out pretty harmlessly, with Maki dispatching Shinra and Arthur to help get a dog—later revealed to be one of the firefighter mascots—out of a tree. He was “hooray”-ed up there by college kids. With a firefighter (distinct from the fire soldiers) named Miyamoto on trial for a string of murders, the profession is not as respected as it once was.

However, just after Miyamoto is declared not guilty (by reason of insanity) he spontaneously combusts and becomes an Infernal, and not just any Infernal, but one that is self-aware and can talk (and also reminds me a of a hollow from Bleach).

Company 8 deploys to deal with the threat (though Maki leaves out the part about her sending the boys to get a mascot out of a tree, so Hinawa thinks they’re on unauthorized leave. Meanwhile, Princess Hibana moblizes her Company 5 in hopes of grabbing a rare specimen for Infernal research.

Thanks to Shinra’s rocket feet, he and Arthur get there first, and make quite an acrobatic entrance, with the force of Shinra’s kick knocking Miyamoto back the exact same distance Arthur flies before arresting his momentum and showing Miyamoto the back of his fist.

Mika and the rest of the 8th arrives, but her Sputter Comet attack is immediately neutralized. Even so, Miyamoto puts up his hands and surrenders—another Infernal first—before making a quick getaway. Only Shinra is fast enough to chase him. Oubi understands the difficulty of sending off a self-aware entity, but Hinawa tells Shinra not to listen to anything it says.

The ensuing fight between Shinra and Miyamoto!Infernal involves the former kicking a Peugeot 405 at him, showing the guy he means business. Again Miyamoto pleads for the mercy of a nun’s prayer before being sent off. Shinra forgets what Hinawa told him and listens to the Infernal, which immediately double-crosses him by trying to attack.

That’s when Princess Hibana and the 5th arrive and start throwing their weight around. Shirna says this is his job, but Hibana outranks him and her company outnumbers the 8th. Shinra manages to resist having to lick the imperious Hibana’s shoes, and uses his rocket feet to free himself from three of her “5th’s Angels”

The standoff continues when the rest of the 8th catches up to Shinra, and Hibana looks down on her fellow captain Oubi for having no pyrokinetic powers—not to mention low breeding. Ultimately, it is Oubi who caves, deciding letting a better-equipped company use Miyamoto in their research to learn more about human combustion is for the best.

Before the two rival companies go their separate ways, Oubi promises Hibana that the flame of the 8th won’t go out so easily. Kinda sounds like a challenge the princess would be all too happy to accept. In the meantime, she’s got a new specimen for her research department to mess with.

Fire Force – 03 – Hero or Devil

Enen no Shouboutai took a week off out of respect for the victims of the Kyoto Animation fire. There was probably never going to be an ideal way to return to regularly scheduled programming, but it felt particularly awkward to frontload the first episode back with repeated accidental gropings of poor hastily-introduced Kotatsu Tamaki, the show’s new resident Revealing Outfit Girl. I could forgive the empty fanservice if the episode had better points to focus on…but sadly, it didn’t.

What this disjointed episode did have was a whole lot of plot and table-setting. The Rookie Fire Soldier Games begin with all the fanfare of a quaint high school sports festival, but the episode abandons the games almost as quickly as it introduces them, by taking a sharp right onto the tired “Evil Clownlike Villain” road, introducing “Joker,” a name I think we can all agree is not the most imaginative.

When Shinra enters the building, Joker is assaulting two fire soldiers. He also threatens to kill Shinra, but also offers him the chance to join him, becoming a “devil” instead of a “hero.” This doesn’t fly too great for Shinra, partly due to his lifelong dream to become a hero (not a devil) and partly because the Joker assaulted two of his comrades. The two duel (Shinra’s no match for Joker), Arthur and Tamaki pitch in a bit (neither are they) and Joker fills the building with highly explosive ash.

Shinra grabs Arthur, Tamaki and the two injured soldiers and flies out of a hole in the roof. Tamaki’s captain praises Shinra, but doesn’t offer any more info on the circumstances of the fire twelve years ago. Joker hoped to lure Shinra to his side by sharing “the truth,” including the claim his brother, just one year old when he died, is actually still alive.

Some lengthy still shots filled with exposition from Captain Oubi later (seriously; the last five minutes are barely animated), we now learn the 8th Company has a mandate to investigate the other seven as part of an effort to uncover the truth of spontaneous human combustion, the explanation for which may already be known. Whatever their mission, Shinra wishes to remain on the hero’s path. We’ll see how hard Joker makes that.