Hey guys, Seb D Law here.
2019 has been a great year for anime. We got new seasons and continuations of legendary shows, but also some of the most solid newcomers in a long time. (Yes that’s right, new anime which aren’t just seasonal junk people watch for this one annoying girl! About time!) And one of these newcomers is Fire Force (Enn Enn no Shoboutai in Japanese), from Atsushi Ohkubo, the creator of Soul Eater. The community is pretty divided about this one, with a lot of people praising it as one of the greatest new generation shounen and several others calling it overhyped. If you want to hear my take on it, read on. There’ll be no spoilers unless I say so at the beginning of a paragraph.
The premise of Fire Force is that in the Solar Era, humanity lives in fear of spontaneous human combustion. This phenomenon of unknown origin causes people to randomly burst into flames and become Infernals- basically fiery zombies. But later generations of humans prove different. Some retain their humanity and gain pyrokinetic powers. Second Generation Pyrokinetics can control flames, while Third Generations can make them. Special fire brigades known as the Fire Force are formed to put Infernals to rest and try to find the cause of spontaneous human combustion. Shinra Kusakabe is a Third Generation who wants to become a hero in this world of flames. He was blamed for a fire that killed his mother and younger brother and joins the Fire Force’s 8th company to find out the truth behind this incident.
Right off the bat we get some insanely unique concepts. These are fire fighters fighting fire with fire and it’s awesome. The trope of “I want to be a hero but no one likes me” has been used quite a lot but it never gets old. (At least in my opinion.) Something like that just resonates with a lot of people.
Let’s get to the positives:
Yes, I know I just said they all fight with fire. Something like that can go wrong easily, but it doesn’t. That’s the beauty of this show. Everyone has the same foundation for their powers, but they’re all so different. We’re not just looking at lobbing balls of flame around, we’re looking at everything from changing the trajectory of bullets by controlling the sparks of gunfire to converting heat energy to sound and freezing the area in the process. I never expected there to be so many different ways of using fire. There’s also a perfect mix of complex and simple abilities. Shinra shoots flames from his feet to fly around and power up his kicks. Plus, every power just suits its user so much. I can’t describe it too well, but if you give it a watch you’ll see what I mean.
Amazing Anime Adaptation
Incoming haters about to say Fire Force is carried by its animation in 3… 2… 1..
Yeah they’re just salty that it got adapted by David Productions, the studio we can thank for gifting us with an anime of Araki’s masterpiece that is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. And as a result it got better animation than their favourites did. Not that I can talk, being a Berserk fan…
*my tears fall on my grasses and cause them to grow, accompanied by a CLANG sound effect.*
Ok but Fire Force has such consistent animation. DavidPro delivered as always, giving us beautiful flames and battles. They really went ham with Shinra, making his fights so dynamic it’s unreal. And the way the characters’ eyes glow when they use their powers is a nice touch. Episode 21 in particular had some of the most spectacular art, effects and clashes I’ve ever seen. The openings and endings are also phenomenal. Every one of them is a breathtaking song in their own rights. You’re probably expecting me to talk specifically about opening 1, Inferno by Mrs Green Apple, but opening 2, Mayday by Coldrain feat. Ryo, takes the spotlight for me. (Don’t get me wrong, both are amazing though. Same with the endings, Veil by Keina Suda and Nounai by Lenny Code Fiction.) Heavy metal is one of my favourite genres and it’s heavily underrepresented in anime. It was such a nice surprise to have a song of that genre for the theme. EVERY BRIDGE WE BUIIILD, YOU THINK IT’S YOURS TO BURN IT DOWN, JUST BURN IT DOWN-
Ok I’ll continue with the review (while singing the rest of it in my head.)
Fantastic Plot Progression
Without giving too much away, Fire Force doesn’t solely consist of fighting Infernals. The first few episodes may seem like they’re setting up another bog-standard generic shounen, but don’t be fooled. The more time you give this show, the more plot twists appear. Every couple of episodes the story just gets deeper and deeper. And not everything’s revealed at once, adding to the suspense. Plus the world building is on point.
This is kind of a given. If someone’s praising a shounen anime, it’s gotta have some good fights. Not much to say here I haven’t already said.
Top-Tier Main Character
Can’t talk about a show without mentioning the character most of the action’s gonna revolve around. And Shinra is such a good mc, definitely in my top 25 of all time. He wants to become a hero and save people in his dystopian world, but at the same time he’s no flawless champion of justice. We can see he’s an ordinary guy just trying to do what’s right. His love of superhero tropes makes him a bit goofy at times, but when the situation calls for it, he becomes a badass. Just look at that grin! Ohkubo said for the dark setting of Fire Force, he wanted a mc who didn’t smile because they were happy, but smiled under serious circumstances. The reason he keeps smiling is also very well written and adds to his character and moniker of ‘devil’ a lot. Also, personal reason why I like him- he helped me become comfortable with the way I smiled. I know it’s got nothing to do with the review but I felt like adding it in.
To make things even better, his powers are handled masterfully. With an ability like his, he literally breakdances on his enemies to beat them! And instead of gaining a new ability or transformation every 3 seconds to get stronger, he uses his flaming feet to their full potential. It’s not all about every single way he can get stronger or why his rival will never catch up to him. Shinra learns or unlocks new things sparingly, at just the right moments. In terms of the 2019 newcomer anime protagonists, he’s second after Thorfinn from Vinland Saga.
But to quote Salvador Dali, nothing is perfect. I’ve said what’s good about Fire Force, now it’s time to say what’s not so good about it.
Ah, the plague that ruins perfectly good anime. Unfortunately, Fire Force has its share of fan service moments. Fortunately, most of them happen away from the action to not screw it up. It’s not as bad as Fairy Tail’s or Seven Deadly Sins’ but it’s still a bit annoying. There is one major exception, but I’ll discuss that in the next negative.
Fire Force has plenty of good characters. But it also has someone who could possibly be the most annoying character in fiction. Tamaki Kotatsu is just a pointless waste of space. She has no likeable character traits unless you’re a pervert. The reason I say this is because her entire shtick is her “lucky lecher lure-” basically she ends up in impossibly awkward moments with male characters before screeching at them and calling them pervs. “Ahahaha he touch the titty” was not funny the first time, it’s not funny any of the other countless times. She only exists for shoehorned fan service moments.
WARNING: the rest of me ranting about why I hate her will have some spoilers.
And she ruins fight scenes! The one thing I hate more than pointless boobs is pointless boobs that screw up an action. Shinra is fighting Rekka Hoshimiya, who Tamaki used to look up to until she discovered he was turning kids into Infernals. Basically Rekka has burned off half her clothes because plot and is about to kill her, but my man Shinra flies in with an epic, badass entrance, ready to save her like the hero he is. An epic fight scene commences… and then Shinra flies back and his hand touches Tamaki’s boobs. Cue the screeching, cue the ruining of the intense moment. To make matters worse, she has a power that would be op if she wasn’t just a sex doll. And in the Shinra vs Rekka fight, she could’ve helped him. She had the strength to- we could see from her making flaming cat ears for herself. It would’ve been great character development. But why do that when you can stand against the wall with cat ears and Thanos-snapped clothes as the camera goes over you?
A lot of people dropped Fire Force because of Tamaki and I don’t blame them. But at the same time, minus the Rekka fight she barely interferes with the main fabric of the story. And Fire Force has an amazing story, brilliant to the point that I’ll sit through 30 seconds of Tamaki every now and then to experience it.
Hibana’s Wasted Potential
WARNING: This entire section is spoilers.
Princess Hibana had a great entrance to the story. She was a corrupt captain with a superiority complex, somehow tied in to the making of man-made Infernals and experimentation on them. Later on we found out about her past with Iris and it seemed we were going to get a developed, strong character. But as soon as Shinra beat her all of that disappeared. Seriously, with all the scenes about her experimenting and working behind the scenes you’d think she’d have tonnes of info, not to mention a gradual redemption. But all she knows is the general location of man-made Infernal sightings, which just sets up the next part of the story and nothing else. And I think Shinra hit her a little too hard. Because when she turns good she has only 2 brain cells, one to be Shinra’s milf and bring lunch for him and one to be a masochist.
I know how much these negatives make it seem Fire Force is full of useless females, but that’s not the truth. It has a mix of brilliant and not-so-brilliant girls. Maki Oze is one of the best strong female characters of the new generation and I’m interested to see where the story’s going to go with Lisa. But seriously, anyone calling Fire Force sexist needs to see Maki in action in episode 21. Without giving too much away, she shows women can be badasses too.
So, How Do I Rate It?
Honestly, I love Fire Force so much. It is LIT! Straight fire! Is it as good as the hype says it is? Not if you drop it after episode 2. But give it time to progress and you will witness greatness. I understand it’s not for everyone- if you find hero tropes overused or have no tolerance for fan service this isn’t for you. But if you’re fine with those, WATCH/READ IT NOW!!! This masterpiece is not to be slept on. In my opinion this is the 4th best out of the 2019 newcomers after Vinland Saga, Demon Slayer and Dr Stone.
I’ll give Fire Force a 8/10 and a comfy spot in the A tier. Just as expected from Atsushi Ohkubo. If you love shounen, this is the hot new series you need to see.