A young boy walks along a busy train station when suddenly a man spontaneously combusts and turns into a monstrous zombie fire creature. The boy isn’t shocked or surprised, he is excited. He is our protagonist Shinra Kusukabe, a young and new member of the 8th branch of the Fire Force, a brigade that is formed after these spontaneous human combustions started to become the norm.
The art department, and for the most part the directorial department of Fire Force does a brilliant job. Every single episode, there are at least 2 or 3 moments, scenes that are beautiful to look at. It’s not just that they are animated to a beautiful extent, but that they do a great job mixing up different art styles, bringing a lot of dynamism to the production. They really saved the budget for the big fight scenes, especially those towards the end of the first season. There is a fight between Shinra and a major antagonist towards the end of the series that is just amazing. The animation in that fight is simple incredibly fluid, and the direction doesn’t lack behind either, with subtle but masterful plays with light and shadows that raise those few fight episodes to a very high production level.
The show left me in awe of the masterful worldbuilding done by the manga creator Atsushi Okubo. Fire Force is a dystopia in a way. A Giant Cataclysm has happened two and a half centuries ago and it has transformed the world completely. The geography of the world is different, everyday life is as well, there is also a whole worldview and religion based on that great event that shook the whole world. It even changed people, giving them powers. In total, there are three generations past the Great Cataclysm. Each generation possesses different powers and abilities. For example, the second generation is able to control flames, and the third can produce them. There are a lot of mysteries, but about the world and Shinra or Shinra’s past that is explored and revealed one by one. As the season progresses, the world keeps getting bigger, more complex but also there remains enough mystery and intrigue to make you keep watching.
The protagonist is Shinra Kusukabe, a new member of the 8th Fire Force brigade. The 8th is also the newest and shabbiest establishment, run by the ever-enthusiastic, reliable, and powerless Obi. He is flanked by lieutenant Hinawa, a serious second-generation pyrotechnician, who loves discipline and is a great cook. Maki is a former co-combatant of Hinawa’s from their army days, also a second-generation and has a very specific hearing problem that makes for a few very funny scenes. Iris is a nun who performs absolutions before the crew can put the Infernals to rest. Arthur is the same age as Shinra, and they both just joined the Fire Force from the academy.
Apart from Shinra and Arthur, and to some extend Iris, the characters don’t get a lot of development. The show is more focused on fast-paced action and mysterious reveals. When Shinra was a young child, his house burned down, the fire took his mother and his brother. At least that is the official version. Shinra has his own theory. He thinks a demon started the fire, killed his mother, and took his brother away. He develops a nervous tick which makes him smile creepily during nervous situations. That leads to a lot of bullying and abandonment during his childhood and teen years. But he remains dedicated to his cause, even when the whole world calls him a “Devil”. Shinra is a third-generation pyrotechnic, possessing the ability to project powerful flames out of his feet.
Arthur Boyle is probably my favorite character in this anime. For no other fact that his power is basically Don Quixoteness. Arthur, like Shinra is a third-generation pyrotechnic. He is able to project a very concentrated plasma flame from objects. Since he has defined himself as a Knight King, those objects are most often swords. And this is where his true power comes from, the more pumped and delusional he is about his knighthood, the strong he and his plasma sword are.
The only thing I really hate about this show is the character of Tamaki. She’s a member of the 1st Fire Force brigade but spends most of her time with the 8th, serving as a potential harem member for Shinra, even if this is a very formulaic action shonen show. She also serves as an ecchi comedic relief character, accidentally losing her clothes in the most bizarre and dumb ways possible. The direction really does a terrible job with that. Not just in terms of how many times they do it, but when as well. There are serious scenes and tense scenes that get decimated because they decide this is the right moment for Tamaki to get naked or half-naked. But, they are the worst moments because they destroy every emotional hook and tense moment that happened just a few seconds before it.
Will watch the second season, hopefully, review it as well. Still have a lot of questions about the world and the show. One thing I wonder is where Shinra’s father in all of this is. And I wonder if the world is more gray than black and white. When the Fire Force members are on official visits they wear uniforms that really give off some Nazi vibes. We shall see!