Welcome, one and all, to my continued weekly review series for Fire Force, aka Enen No Shouboutai. The first two episodes of the season were a lot of fun. Did that extend into the third episode, The Rookie Fire Soldier Games? In a word yes. If anything, I thought this was the strongest episode so far. Let’s look at the key points.
While not devoid of world-building, the first two episodes felt like introductions to key characters more than anything. Even with new introductions in this episode too, the balance shifted more towards letting us learn more about the world around the characters.
The Special Fire Force got a lot of focus here, with the reveal that there was likely a number of people hiding something within the organization. The rookies that we’ve gotten to meet certainly seem to have honourable goals right now, but I don’t expect them all to be this way. The reason being that the structure of the various companies make it clear that there will be corruption to deal with.
As Captain Obi revealed, the SFF is actually built form personnel in three different entities: The Holy Soul Temple, the Tokyo Armed Forces, and the Fire Defence Agency. Most companies answer primarily to one of the three and set their own motives based on this relationship. For example, Company 1 is influenced by the Holy Soul Temple and Company 2 by the Tokyo Armed Forces. To make it even more complicated, Company 5 is primarily influenced by Haijima Industries, the sole supplier of the equipment used for the entire SFF.
Company 8 is not free of this fracture among the different groups either. It was strong-armed into existence because someone within the Agency wanted a group led by Captain Obi that could investigate Company 1-7. With each working on their own, they all view each other as rivals, and so useful information is not shared among them. Obi wants to find out why Infernals have come into existence and sue that information to save lives.
As an overall plot point, I really like this, as I’ve been a fan of corruption based stories for a long time. Having the heroes not only fighting the paranormal evil but also the bureaucracy and potentially dark links of their own organization opens up plenty of option for things going forward. This feels like the main story kicking in, and I have a hope it’ll mark a shift in the style of episode we see moving forward.
We didn’t see too many established members of Company 8 this week. Maki was, of course, there. In this instance, she was relegated to two displays of characters traits though: her love of things she thinks are cute, and her dislike of having un-feminine traits pointed out. Arthur Boyle too was a bit player this week. His purpose was to show off his mistrust of Shinra and to upset Maki for a brief comedy moment.
The focus in terms of established characters was split between Shinra and Obi. For the Captain, he was largely responsible for the big reveal mentioned in the world-building section. We also learn early on though that he has been decorated twice in his career, but that he was stripped of the medals both times. The reason? He went against orders and put human lives above all else. This fits with what we know of him already, and also makes it clear why he would be picked to lead Company 8. From the brief moment of interaction between him and Captain Burns of Company 1, there’s clearly a pre-existing relationship there too. It’s likely that he was in Company 1 during one of the aforementioned incidents of insubordination. I do wonder if Burns is also involved with bringing Company 8 into existence.
Shinra meanwhile got to have his resolve tested quite heavily. During his battle with Joker, he learned that his baby brother Sho actually survived the fire that killed his mother. He was offered the chance to learn more by stepping away from the SFF and becoming a true devil, but he was more interested in being a hero. One thing I liked with this is that it’s clear that he doesn’t necessarily view the SFF as the only way to achieve this. He outright asked Obi if the SFF is working on the side of good, as that’s the reason he joined up. Now that he knows Obi’s overall goal, he has a clear target to aim for. I also liked the little moment where he was parsed for his action during the battle with Joker but stated that he was being given more praise than is due. For all his want to be a hero, he’s grounded. That’s important, I think.
While not entirely new, we did get to see Joker in action for the first time. The ashes that he was carrying in episode 2 can be used to set off small explosions. Here, he uses this not only a distraction to set up bigger attacks, but also to cause some major destruction. He’s able to charge playing cards like marvel’s Gambit too and uses these with a good level of skill. Throw in that he can apparently use his cigarette smoke to make everything from words to playing card suites appear I the air, and we’ve got an interesting villain here, albeit one that I don’t expect to be the main one.
In terms of the Special Fire Force, we got to see two new characters for the first time. Leonard Burns, Captain of Company 1, was the man that was present during Shinra’s flashback to his burnt house. While he refused to give Shinra any further information about said fire – citing that there are so many a year that he can’t be expected to remember a specific one – he doesn’t seem like a bad person. He was quick to spring into action when needed and offers Shinra praise where it’s due.
Finally, Tamaki Kotatsu was introduced. Up until now, we’ve only seen her in the opening credits. Given that she’s with Company 1 but is fighting alongside Company 8 in said video, I’m assuming she’ll transfer eventually. In terms of abilities, she’s quite interesting. Tamaki is able to produce pink flames that assume the shape of cat features (such as claws, ears and a tail), and it looked like she could manipulate these to move around in a feline manner. All we really saw of her personality was that she’s quite fond of calling people a perve – in some cases, it’s warranted – and that she seems a little clumsy at times. Her outfit is set apart by her wearing her fire jacket open to reveal a bikini top. I’d like to see her show another side to her character going forward, but as an introduction it was fine.
The series continues to shine visually, especially during fight scenes. The battle with Joker featured some beautiful animation for Shinra’s capoeira styled attacks. Everything looked fluid though, and the flames, in general, were animated in such a way to make them seem almost alive. That wasn’t all though, as the closing moments with Shinra and Obi also featured a nice, subtle touch. During their conversation, the lights cut, revealing the stars above. When Obi finished explaining what was going on, and Shinra said he’d be honoured to help get to the bottom of things, a shooting star flashed across the sky. This was perhaps symbolic for both characters; Shinra because he’s on the hero path, and Obi because he has a new ally he can trust.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack continues to impress me on all levels. The opening and closing themes are decent, but it’s the insert music that really stands out. Fight scenes are punctuated with orchestral pieces that wouldn’t be out of place in Final Fantasy VII, and the emotional scenes are also flanked by fitting pieces. Ambient sounds sound authentic, and the voice cast is doing a great job so far.
Was There Anything I Didn’t Like?
To a point, yes, and it’s all to do with Tamaki’s design. I have no real issue with her clearly fan service focused outfit, as it’s not like it was used to give us story-derailing amount of content. If anything, I’m surprised we haven’t had a character dressed in that sort of style already. No, it was more that the outfit was used to set up the ever-terrible ‘accidental groping is funny’ trope. What’s worse is that, while the scene with her and Arthur was fairly harmless, the one with Shinra wasn’t. I mean, where he got his hands would have taken some work form both characters. So, not only is it not funny (frankly, it’s problematic), but it’s something that couldn’t really happen in the way it did. Yes, I am aware that it’s a show about people manipulating fire, but at least the paranormal aspects follow some rules. To top it off, her facial design is fairly close to maki’s too, which actually led to me getting the two mixed up initially.
Like I said, even with the issue mentioned above, this was my favourite episode so far. It was visually and audibly stunning, and the story has started rolling forward now. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is revealed as we go along, not to mention what obstacles Company 8 will face. Those were my thoughts, anyway. But what about yourselves? Did you enjoy these episodes? Do you agree or disagree with any of my observations? Let me know in the comments below.
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