Welcome, one and all, to my continuing episodic review series for Fire Force, aka Enn Enn No Shouboutai. At the time of writing, this post gets me fully back up to date. Which means episodes eighteen to twenty-one. This one is almost entirely focused on the heroes entering The Nether to tackle the White Clad and try to retrieve their comrades. How was it? Let’s have a look!
Things had been going so well. To the point that Obi even acknowledged Tamaki’s lack of random fan service in the last episode. In fact, in the first of these episodes, where everyone is preparing themselves, Tamaki remained on form. She was concentrating on her studies to be able to effectively carry out the same rituals as Iris. Then episode nineteen happened and the Lucky Lecher Lure kicked in again. Mostly as part of a bad joke about Iris trying to figure which of two Tamaki’s was the real one.
This is so frustrating for me. I remain a defender of Tamaki in principal. There have been glimpses of there being so depth to her throughout the series so far. Her emotional responses during the arc with Leonard Burns and his team were great. Here, we not only got her dedication to her studies but her insistence at joining the team in The Nether. Then the same old fan service gags kick in.
The thing is, I’m not opposed to fan service on the whole. I just don’t like it when it derails a story by becoming the focus. For Tamaki, the main thing we know about her is that she is going to have a moment where either her clothes fall off or she gets grabbed inappropriately. Worse still is that, as the cast grows, she’s getting less screen time. That means that the more this happens, the more that will become all she is. Which sucks.
Arthur had an interesting time of things over these episodes. During the training episode, Benimaru wanted to focus on ensuring that the rookies have a super-powerful finishing move. In Arthur’s case, he actually stated that Arthur’s power level is already a finishing move, and instructed him to work on the basics.
That is, I believe, the first time that the cast has outright stated just how powerful Arthur is. We’ve had hints towards it, of course. Stopping Arrow’s attacks, his battle with Flail and Mirage, and so on show that. Here though, it was shown that his weakness is not in his physical strength, but the fundamentals. He needs to learn focus and how best to utilize his skills. Which came into play later on.
When the team entered The Nether, he held back while Hinawa had an epic long-range battle against Mirage. When he finally stepped in for his rematch, he actually put the training into practice too. He calmed himself and didn’t run wild, he waited and paid attention. He obviously had some potential for being perceptive like that, hence his ability to spot fakes in Asakusa. The result was that he managed to kill Mirage.
This feels important for two reasons. One is that it shows Arthur growing as a character. He’s still reminiscent of Black Star (Soul Eater) for me, but I mean that in a good way. What we have with him is someone who has slowly revealed more and more of his potential and gained an understanding of it himself as time has moved on. In that regard, he’s one of the most effectively built characters.
The other part of it, at least for me, is that he killed Mirage. Thus far, the heroes have been killing Infernals. Sure, they used to be human, but they weren’t any longer. Mirage was still human though. I think this is the first time that one of the heroes have intentionally killed another human. If I’m not misremembering something there, that’s a clear sign of how serious things are getting for them.
Dr. GIovanni: Darker
Dr. Giovanni was back on form for me here. He was cold and calculating. He was aware of his job and executed nothing but that. And he made it clear what he’d done to Lisa.
Giovanni and Lisa teamed up to tackle Obi and Vulcan, and during the fight, Obi was able to disable her tentacles and take her down. Vulcan, of course, caught her and comforted her. She had a moment of recognition, but the thoughts of Giovanni crept back in and left her still siding with him. Then, Giovanni threatened to kill her and forced Vulcan to shoot Obi in order to save her.
The heroes anticipated something like that happening, luckily. The resulting battle between Giovanni and Obi gave rise to some interesting philosophical clashes as it pertained to Gods and false idols. In the end, they fought to a stalemate, and Giovanni left, having distracted them long enough for Sho and Shinra to meet. Before he left though, he told Vulcan that he’d leave Lisa with him, but that he’d never reverse her conditioning. To prove that, even with Giovanni having tried to cut her throat, she still begged him to take her with him and promised to be good if he did. Giovanni left them with that statement that Faith religion and brainwashing were the ailments that mankind could never cure.
This was much better for me. Dr. Giovanni dropped the cheese in these episodes and became an absolute menace. Powerful, manipulative, and laser-focused on the mission. This is a villain that I can get into.
While Lisa was given a moment to genuinely seem like she wanted to stick with Vulcan, Sho was a very different story. After getting some creepy visions of the past, Shinra went off to meet his little brother and try to get him to come back with him. Sho though is definitely not interested.
Sho views The Evangelist as the only mother figure he has, and the idea of Shinra being his brother makes him sick. The resulting battle was really cool, with the characters bathed in bright lighting as their Adolla Bursts clashed. Unfortunately, for all his determination – and the clear improvements he’d made under Benimaru’s tutelage – Shinra was unable to keep up with his little brother. The last of the episode ended with an ominous mention of other universes and Sho taking Shinra somewhere dark to demonstrate what he means.
This story is clearly far from over. The thing that stood out most to me though was the difference between Sho and Lisa’s story. Lisa has had time to make memories alongside Vulcan. Even with her mission and the way Giovanni treated her, that’s a powerful thing. It means there’s a clear path to saving her. Sho though was taken in by The Evangelist when he was still very young. He doesn’t appear to have any memories of his time with Shinra and their Mum at all. I doubt that he’ll be lost entirely, this doesn’t feel like a series that will end with the hero killing his little brother. It does mean that Sho’s is potentially a harder path that Lisa’s though, simply because he doesn’t have a start point to hold onto.
These were a little mixed for me. The Tamaki stuff is frustrating, and at times, it felt like episode nineteen was both rushing things and failing to give proper screen time to the cast. At the same time though, the brunt of this was really good. In particular, episodes twenty and twenty-one were terrific fun and pushed plenty of things forward. If we can have more of that, I’ll be happy.
So, those were my thoughts. 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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