Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Fire Force Season One Part One
Anime Studio: David Production
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Shonen / Fantasy
Released: April 6th, 2020
Language: Japanese / English
Tokyo is burning, and citizens are mysteriously suffering from spontaneous human combustion throughout the city! Responsible for snuffing out this inferno is the Fire Force, and Shinra is ready to join their fight. Now, as part of Company 8, he ll use his devil s footprints to help keep the city from turning to ash! But his past and a burning secret behind the scenes could set everything ablaze.
Fire Force was undoubtedly a hit while airing, attracted a lot of viewers across the board. It’s not hard to see why. Visually, the series is recognizably an Atsushi Ōkubo piece, boasting the same art style as his previous hit Soul Eater. What we get shares some storytelling similarities with said series too, providing a mix of action and humour to bolster an interesting setting and overall arc.
In that regard, everything that Fire Force does well, it does really well. The detailing on the flames is really quite stunning, and this really shines during the more frenetic moments. The action isn’t just visual flash either, with each character having their own – and most importantly, different – abilities to show off. Learning how each character’s fight style works and grows is actually one of my favourite bits of the series.
The characters themselves are an interesting bunch too. The core cast is united by a joint goal of dealing with the problem of Infernals, and how they approach this is guided by their own worldviews and backstories. In some respects, they fit the standard roles such as impetuous hero, dumb-but-strong, moral driven leader, etc. When it takes the time to give the characters a chance to show some heart though, Fire Force makes it clear that they’re strong representations of these archetypes. And let’s not forget that the Infernals look wonderful, fitting well in the flame-ravaged modern setting but still having that feel of creepiness that you get from traditional Japanese monsters in more pure fantasy-driven series.
From an auditory standpoint, the series is also very strong. The soundtrack is perfectly placed to enhance scenes, especially during battles. Both the opening and ending themes are also strong, and both the sub and dub voice cast are excellent in their roles.
The problem is, Fire Force is inconsistent. Some characters, such as Shinra, get plenty of chance to grow, and we see a lot of what drives them and how they can utilise or move beyond this. Others get an episode or two to present themselves and then fade into the background a little, only popping up to add some firepower or humour. Then, there’s Tamaki. Boasting a decent design and an interesting cat-themed power, she has a few moments of hinting at having depth to her character, but almost always falls back into being a token fan service character. Tamaki is the subject of the age-old touch-without-consent trope, and is mostly there to end up almost nude. That’s a shame, because when you look at episodes 8 and 9 for example, she has the potential to be much more than she is often portrayed as.
I would also note that if you weren’t fond of Soul Eater, this likely won’t be any different. Some of the characters are similar – such as Black Star and Arthur – and the general tone of the series isn’t entirely different.
Overall though, despite some issues, I do recommend this one. At it’s best, Fire Force takes some interesting concepts and endearing characters, and wraps it in a package of high octane action. The issues aren’t entirely derailing, simply because the good often outweighs them, and this release leaves us at a good point to build up some excitement for part two. I give this a solid 4 out of 5.