Shinra Kusakabe’s mother spontaneously combusted into a fire demon, an “infernal”, and burned her entire house down. Along with his mother, Shinra’s brother, Sho, died in the fire. As it turns out, this catastrophe awakened special fire powers inside Shinra. He goes on to join the Fire Force, a Fahrenheit 451-esque troop of fire wielders that works with the national church to put these infernals to rest in a post-apocalyptic world.
Everyone sees Shinra Kusakabe as a devil. He developed a nervous tick after the death of his family that caused his face muscles to clench into a wicked smile. Oh yeah, he got cool fire emitting feet too. It might help if he had normal teeth, but to add to the hellish aesthetic he has a full set of canines. Shinra is probably the most emotionally underwhelming main character I have seen in awhile. His repetitive exclamation of wanting to be a hero is received well by the rest of the cast, but rings hollow after hearing it so often. Yes, he has the tragic backstory, with his promise to his mother to be a hero as the cherry on top. Yes, he is basically Sonic the Hedgehog lit on fire. But there is no depth here. There is no development here. The setup to play Shinra as something between a devil and a hero is so obvious and anytime the writers got anywhere near using this setup, they took a hard left turn into safely classifying him as a boring ass hero.
Arthur Boyle is emotionally traumatized to the point of delusion. Arthur is the same age as Shinra and is also a new recruit to the eighth fire district. Somehow, the idea of knighthood found its way deep into his head and planted itself there. His entire character revolves around his plasma sword and that he acts like a knight, a very stupid knight. The more the people around him feed the delusion, the more powerful he becomes. It is a ridiculous premise and the character is more dense than the rock that held King Arthur’s sword. I think a single episode in the two aired seasons is dedicated to telling us anything about his past. This episode was surprisingly well done and it made me wonder why the characters in the show had to be given an episode for a backstory instead of simply incorporating their story into the broader one being told.
Maki Oze is one of three characters I actually liked. She is a “second-generation” fire soldier. Which means Maki is unable to create fire for herself, but she can manipulate fire that is already existing. Maki’s father is the General of the Tokyo Army Unified Military Operations Department. Who exactly this army fights against in a post apocalyptic world is not exactly clear, but Maki originally joins the army to follow her fathers footsteps. She developed an incredible work ethic and athletic form from the work that she put in to prove herself and was eventually recruited by Company Eight because of it. She has a somewhat confusing fighting style of being very physically strong but also playing a “fire mage” role. The show does a really poor job of actually highlighting her skills at blending the two and either has her use her fire power OR beat the shit out of someone. I would have loved to see her get some love in the badass department instead of the fanservice department.
Iris, just Iris, is the nun that is assigned by The Holy Sol Temple to Company Eight. She is young, blonde, and overtly sexualized. Among other fucked up shit that happens in Fire Force, apparently orphans are taken by the national church and become priests and nuns. Iris comes from a nunnery (I am so excited I got to use this word) that burnt down, killing everyone inside of it except for her and another young girl she was close to. If you don’t see the theme here, no one can have a normal life and they all have to have some sort of mind altering truma that propels them for no reason whatsoever. In theme, Iris is given an episode of development that shows how criminal her development is. Throughout the entire show, she provides almost no spiritual support for the crew and feels like an afterthought most of the time. I really think that she could have been given a larger role than some odd addition to the company culture and being the reason twelve year olds get horny bonks from internet dogs. Beyond making nuns sexual, because why not apparently, she is just such an innocent character that doing so feels inappropriate.
Akitaru Obi is the captain and founder of Fire Force Company Eight. Obi is a run-of-the-mill leader. He is buff, handsome, nice, caring, and selfless. He provides no important dialog, is powerless and therefore not particularly impressive, and leads the team to what seem to be obvious and clear decisions. I did not feel any particular attraction to Obi and really only brought him up to show the single dimensional nature of some of the characters. The cast makes such a spectacle of his figure and his lack of power, but it really comes across flat and underwhelming.
Arrow is a member of “The White Clad.” She is the fire sniper for a group of religious zealots that are hell bent on scorching the earth in the name of their god, the “Evangelist.” I can’t say that I have a particular reason for liking Arrow other than she is very focused and powerful. She brings a calm and pointed force to a show that feels way too wacky for the dark plot that they try to tell. Arrow just tries to get shit done. Her animation was very well done and she avoided the gimmicky fights and drawn out dialog that Fire Force villains loved so much.
Charon is another White Clad. He is a little more talk than Arrow, but comes with a “I just do my job” attitude. He was assigned to protect special members of the White Clad and he does that job well. His confident attitude makes him an easily likeable guy and the way he honors his job departs from the sort of hysterical villainy that bugs the shit out of me. He believed that what he was doing was correct and made no effort to convince anyone otherwise. Plus, no one quite claps like this man claps.
Overall, I failed to connect to many characters. The ones I did see potential in, that enthusiasm was not translated into any visual or emotional payoff from the show. It felt much more like they spent their time trying to think of as many bizarre characters as they could instead of creating deep characters.
Listen, you and I are honest with each other. If we want the last french fry, we just say so and we eat it. So I am going to be honest. I felt uninspired and disgusted watching Fire Force. I kept trying to get invested in what was happening but I just never cared. The beginning of the story felt predictable and then transitioned into just ridiculousness. If the classic trope of “I want to be a hero” wasn’t boring enough (sorry Fate series), there was absolutely nothing else in the show that supplied something else to cling onto. I was just left feeling bored of everything but the fights. I actually wanted to put the show down several times during my watch period but ended up powering through because I felt like I would be cheating you guys.
The second season disgusted me in a couple ways. Specifically there was a point where a physically and emotionally abused child was determined to be safer and better off living with the one who abused him than literally anyone else. No one batted an eye, they just said, “Stop abusing him or we will have to come back.” What the literal fuck. Between the abuse and the implied sexual abuse of other characters, I just felt gross. Ever the optimist, I hoped that we might explore the abuse and the effects it had, but the show glossed right over the horrible acts and even glorified them. Not fucking cool.
I have to wonder if the writers had Attention Deficit Disorder. What exactly the show was trying to convey was the topic of much discussion between Lotad Gang members. It’s not that the show lacked ideas. It tried to tackle crisis of faith, brainwashing, corporate monopolies, sexual assault, abuse, abandonment, death, and more. How many of these things do you think they did well in forty-eight episodes? Answer: Not many. Any time that it felt like we started to walk down the path of exploring an interesting idea, we veered off the path spun in a circle and decided a new route. I remember vividly that the characters learned that their national religion may have been based on false pretenses. This then created a crisis of faith for a couple characters that they spent all of one episode discussing. The resolution? It’s okay your religion was based on a lie because you believe in it and it doesn’t change what you think. Does this advice make sense? It sure does. Does it explore any of the emotions that those characters would feel and how it completely changes their world view? No, and we never circled around again. This is a fundamental shift in thought. This is rocking the foundation of a character’s person and there is no exploration as to what that would do to them.
Fire Force felt a lot less like a story that was trying to explore any ideas and a lot more like a young boy was writing a story with very immature views of these topics. I can see elements of fantasies that I had when I was very young with wanting powers, the church and corporations and the big bad guys, and weak senses of abuse and neglect. I can’t help but wonder if there are some pent up emotions from the writer about all of these topics that failed to translate into solid ideas in the anime, causing everything to be half baked and underwhelming.
The line blurs here. While I think that the ideas of this show were hot garbage, the pacing also contributed to the issue. We spend a lot of time chasing our tails. Things that were once important go without mention for several episodes, newly sprung villains are deemed simply unknowing, and teased plot points are never revisited. Fire Force really struggles not only from lack of depth but also a sense of whip-lash from one idea to the next. I felt confused on many accounts why things or people that were previously very important, suddenly were of no concern to any of the main characters. Shinra especially suffers from a “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that really feels less intelligent than my dogs. At least my dogs can tell when I fake threw their ball. The story feels like it arbitrarily leads the cast instead of the cast naturally leading the viewer in the story and this is highly problematic.
It is clear that a lot of time was given to the fight scenes. While I have many issues with the show, there is almost nothing I can say about the fight scenes because the fire was so spectacularly done. Fights consistently drew my attention and I looked forward to them. Ironically, the best fights in the show are probably awarded to tier two or tier three characters, but the best scene goes to Shinra.
Nothing really compares to a where a character is just getting the life beaten out of her. The bad guy just tosses her around the room in a fit of madness and just as life is leaving her, she calls for Shinra. Our man descends from the heavens with wings of flame like some sort of demonic angel. Eyes glowing red as the fire flows around his body. It is easily the scene that stands out to me the most from watching and is very popular in the Tiktok compilations of Fire Force.
Beyond the fights, the show brought little to the table. People in the background rarely had faces, let alone any particular detail. I had to pause a scene just to confirm that all the fire soldiers from a company had exactly the same faces that did not move at all for an entire scene. They switched to the next shot and they had no faces at all. “But Marshal, why does it get a 3/4 then?”
Good question, the answer is that most of the show is fighting, so most of the animation is good. They do one thing well and they stick to it.
Fire Force’s world is a lake, with the depth of a puddle. Set in a post apocalyptic world where most of the world is in ruin, Tokyo is painted as a safe haven. We learn of the establishment of the Holy Sol Temple, a Christian knockoff that worships some sort of sun god and that most people follow this religion. I failed to feel truly immersed in this part of the world because we were shown so little of it. One of the eight companies was connected to the Temple and there was no ritual element of the Church. We learn about Haijima Industries, a company that employs eighty percent of Tokyo, because who thought that was a good idea? We understand there is a military who fights…someone? No one? Who knows. Beyond the military there is a fire force that basically kills people who have combusted into Infernals. When the world was set up I was excited about it. If they had been willing to show the impact of the institutions that they set up to be major players in the show, they would have had a very impactful world that would be very immersive. Instead, we get glossed over approaches to every player the set up in the world. We travel to China, get told there are people living there, and see three of them. We learn about the national church but churches are always empty. It feels like there is no culture and the world feels barren other than the characters that we follow. That said, there is enough development attempted that a single point would be rather insulting, but it was a consideration.
I was so tired of Fire Force. I wanted to stop watching on so many occasions but one of the things that kept me around, other than you, was the music and sounds. Whoever the sound designer for the fights was, they deserve a round of applause. The music, while a bit loud for the scenes, conveyed the fights really well and each effect caused by the fire soldiers. My favorite scene in particular was done so well from a sound standpoint. Benimaru is high in the sky with one of the demons, the orchestra is chopping away at short strokes while what sounds like a hyper space engine is preparing to take off in the background. The tension builds as Beni says his one liner and then he palm-strikes the chest as the bass gets blown out of your headphones and the demon’s body is engulfed in flames. The music routinely compliments the effects by building tension before dropping off all together for the effect to be highlighted. The show is mostly about the fights and the music and effects do a great job at highlighting those elements.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||1||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||1||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||2||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
I always want to bring you solid anime that I can be passionate and funny about. Fire Force is not that anime. I know that many people enjoy the show, but it was not for me. There was a severe lack of development in the ideas and characters that really turned me off to the show. I will not continue watching once the show comes out with season three. I think that Fire Force could really be enjoyed by people who like fighting and action if they are willing to look past the messed up abuse that the show talks about, but I could not do it.