Welcome, one and all, to my continued weekly episodic review series for season two of Fire Force aka En’en no Shōbōtai. This week, we saw Flames of Madness. Much like the season opener, this was another fun outing. Let’s look at why.
Past, Present, and Power!
This week, Asako helped set up a meeting between Shinra and her grandfather, Captain Hague of the fourth company. The key here is that Shinra saw Hague during an Adolla Link and wanted to speak to him about it. This story went through a couple of cycles that built up to a nice climax.
The first of these involved visiting the past in the present. The FDA runs the fourth company, the regular fire companies, and the training academy, so this is where Shinra trained. As such, we got to meet Shinra’s old instructor Lieutenant Pan, his old friend Ogun, and a rival that got into a scuffle with our hero.
After those brief introductions, we moved onto Captain Hague, the first regular fireman to be promoted into the Fire Force. Hague is obsessed with the Adolla Burst; he got his facial scar from a demon during an Adolla Link and is desperate to feel it again. Of course, he got his chance too. Being close to Hague caused Shinra to set off an Adolla Link, where he encountered ‘The First Pillar’. She possessed Shinra and caused him to get aggressive. This caused Hague to spring into action and knock Shinra through a window so we could begin the fight.
This was an excellent way to kick things off. Seeing Shinra still has a connection with a few people that did believe in him helps reiterate that not everyone immediately thought he was evil. His calm way of taking down the guy that attacked him too demonstrates that he’s grown and is capable of restraint, especially as he didn’t use his special abilities at all in doing so.
Hague meanwhile was…something. In a way, there’s a tragic edge to him as he had come to realise that he’s failed more people than he’s helped, but I can’t get past the creepy way he approached Shinra. The obsession with what he believes to be a divine realm, and the desire to be burned was a decent enough indication of madness seeping in due to his experiences. The licking Shinra’s arm though was just such a bizarre image. We did get to see him restrain three guys with ease by using a classic Chain Whip and then knock Shinra back though, so it’s clear from the get-go that he’s strong.
Kings, Heroes, and Demons!
The battle itself I really enjoyed. There were no Infernals here to dispatch, just a battle between Fire Soldiers, but with a twist. Shinra had been possessed, and The First Pillar did an excellent job of twisting his thoughts for him. She reminded him that he had built up a bloodlust for twelve years, all with the goal of killing the demon that killed his um. Now that he knows the demon was his Mum, he can’t do that, so where does the bloodlust go? She convinced him to hate everything.
Phase one of the battle saw Lieutenant Pan using his whistle to give Hague a Heat Resistance Buff, but the captain was still risking death as he refused to dodge Shinra’s attack. This continued the whole obsessed-with-Adolla bent of the character. That he was surviving though, even if aided by Pan, was another indicator of his strength.
Phase two was more interesting. Before things could get too rough, Ogun appeared, and he had Arthur with him. Together with Pan, they started formulating a plan of attack that involved Pan giving them buffs and talking about DPS. This sent Arthur into imagining that they were in a fantasy game, and he went full-on Knight King. This allowed Arthur to power up to full and stand toe-to-toe with his possessed comrade.
It turns out, Arthur powering up when roleplaying is a well-known trait, and we got to see a brief glimpse of his childhood as a result. We also got to see that he and Shinra were always equal when powered up. Here though, with Shinra being controlled by another, Arthur came out on top when he went on the attack rather than just defending.
I loved this. Arthur has always been a fun character, and here, we got to see a lot more depth to him. The flashback to him having a close bond with his parents, only to be abandoned, was really sad. Seeing how that played into his roleplay fantasies that he shared with them too makes it seem like this is how he tries to hang on to their love now they aren’t there. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out they went Infernal.
Arthur was also seen to respect Shinra, outright acknowledging such despite their normal rivalry. He admires the way Shinra always chased his goal and is quick to point out that this demon version is weaker than the hero he knows. It was a brief, single line, but it’s such a nice way to remind us that good is stronger than evil. On top of that, Pan’s ability is so defence focussed and that makes a nice change from the primary attack centred abilities we’ve seen so far.
Devil By Name, But What By Nature?
Throughout all of this, Shinra had been having an internal struggle. Eventually, Arthur took him down and told him to choose whether he’s a devil or a hero, with the threat of death if he chose incorrectly. That gave Shinra enough of a kick to knock himself down and tackle The First Pillar, demanding she leaves. She taunted him as she went, saying she wouldn’t confirm whether his Mum was still out there or not, and then mentioned that a new Pillar was about to arise. The episode ended with her questioning who would find them first, the Fire Force or the White Clad.
To a point, I think that this was probably an inevitable battle for Shinra. It would make sense that the thoughts had to be bubbling underneath the surface for The First Pillar to be able to act as she did. Revenge was something that Shinra had hoped for, and now he knows he can’t have it, and even with a new goal in mind, that still had to knock him.
Manipulation can be flawed though, and The First Pillar’s nudging was actually successfully argued against by Arthur. The Knight King pointed out where they didn’t make sense, and Shinra started to fight back. I think that’s the key here. Shinra does have darkness inside, but he really wants to be a hero. That he was so easily manipulated though adds to the knowledge that he’s not invulnerable. Shinra is powerful, but he can be touched by the enemy. It also shows that this particular enemy is stronger than he perhaps anticipated, and that means letting his guard down at all could be a mistake.
That’s a good combo, I think. Shinra has strength and weakness, and so do his foes.
I really enjoyed this. Hague’s arm licking and The First Pillar’s nude form were essentially Fire Force being Fire Force, but the core of the episode was so well executed that they weren’t that distracting. We saw the effects of the Adolla Link, we had Shinra question himself, Arthur got to grow, and even the supporting cast had moments in the sun. This episode threw us straight back into the main story and did so with style, so this gets a big thumbs up.
But those are just my thoughts. What di you all think of the episode? Let me know in the comments below.
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