Fire Force is proving time and time again that it excels in short yet effective story arcs. In episode eight, we get to the climax of this particular arc just on the second episode in, and yet the narrative combined with silky smooth and warm animation pulls us in and immerses us in the emotional conflict. Let’s break it down bit by bit and see just how this intriguing action anime is panning out!
1. Not your daddy’s Evangelist
As per usual, the episode starts off with a sneak peek foreshadowing the events of the story that lies ahead. The atmosphere in this sequence is perfectly moody and mysterious, with the shot perpetrated by a dense fog that leaves identities purposefully obscured. There’s great visual storytelling with the character in the midst of the fog wearing a Lieutenant’s uniform, setting up the idea that it is one of the lieutenants of 1st Company, and even if you forgot that particular tidbit about uniforms, our protagonists bring it up later in a way that doesn’t seem forced in.
The juicy gossip, of course, is that our mystery Lieutenant is talking to the big dog himself, the church Evangelist, about the ongoing process of researching artificial ‘Infernalization’ is going forwards without any problems. It’s not just a force of nature anymore, folks!
2. Insects! Gross!
With Infernals being so tied up with religious iconography and a weird blend of fantasy/sci-fi elements, it would seem that artificially kickstarting the process could come from any number of origins. Of course, Atsushi Okubo has used particularly unsettling reasoning to make readers really uncomfortable, with the 1st Company using insects in a vial that dig into a victim’s skin and cause them to go Infernal. Eugh! Yuck! Anywho, there’s a great moment of speculation between Princess Hibana and Obi looking very CSI as they discuss this method in a dimly lit room in business casual poses.
Later, we see Lieutenant Hinawa standing outside of Shinra’s window as he awakens to check on his progress with the 1st Company infiltration. It’s a great showing of chemistry within the group, followed up by another very serialized-crime style meeting with Hibana as they discuss the matter in public to avoid the suspicion of hanging around shady spaces.
3. You can sit with us
Fire Force at this stage tries to introduce and familiarize us with some of the newer characters in this arc, the shy Takeru AKA Juggernaut and the brash Toru. They’re sitting with Shinra and Arthur at lunchtime, which is a fun setting and makes this particular arc feel decidedly high school-esque. Compared with Shinra and Arthur who’ve got clear chemistry and act much more compelling, the newer characters are a bit more of a hard sell. Toru comes off as interesting because of his attitude but ultimately feels slight as we learn it’s all a front to impress women. Juggernaut is a little more interesting due to his closeted nature, but ultimately feels paper-thin and slides quite easily into the role of a background character.
Regardless, the four of them discuss why they all joined the Fire Force, which feels a little like well-trodden ground at this point for our protagonists. On top of that, I don’t care enough about the newer characters to really feel invested in their reasons to be here, especially when they have next to none. Also, Tamaki interrupts to have her token Lucky Lechery moment which feels especially forced this time, but we’ll forgive her for it considering what happens in this episode later!
4. Investigating who made insects even grosser
Moving right along, Shinra and Arthur decide to do some investigating into Karim’s room since they saw her and the lieutenants’ near a spot where an artificial Infernalization took place. This is another fun moment of chemistry between our boys, especially as Shinra is trying to be serious whilst Arthur is having a delightful time enacting his espionage. He uses a mini-version of his heat sword Excalibur through a sliver of plastic and jokes about ‘class-changing’ from a knight to an assassin, which is a charming moment. Upon bursting into the room, they’re found by Karim himself, who reveals that he’s secretly investigating his peers also and proposes to join forces with the boys. Score one tuba-playing-ice-manipulating teacher!
Meanwhile, we see the other Lieutenant, Rekka, with Tamaki and a bunch of kids (uh-oh!) as he announces he’s found a special sacred prayer to make them all Infernal-Proof. It’s an astounding twist as Rekka seemed so innocent last episode, and now that innocence comes off as a mix of sinister and creepy. To top that off, he crushes Tamaki into unconsciousness with a forced hug and kills one of the kids in an attempt at Infernalization. Somebody stop this man!
5. I Need A Hero: Redux
At this point, Rekka is villain-splaining super hard. Mixed with his hyper-enthusiastic voice, it’s hard not to be unsettled by this scene, especially with Tamaki crumpled in the corner. There’s some intense church-choir music in the background too that only elevates this to even higher levels of terrifying, too. Rekka tries to Infernalize another kid soon enough, claiming that he’s trying to find the one with the ‘pilot light’, as Tamaki awakes in a slow shock at who this man that she once idolized is turning out to be. Tamaki uses some internal monologue to express these feelings, which feels a little out of place considering we never usually get this in the show but works well at depicting how upset she is by this event. She lets off a spark of flame through the rough, which thankfully for her, grabs the attention of one hot-footed protagonist.
Similar to the last event, Shinra arrives on the scene feeling more and more comfortable in a hero role. He even gets to do his own hero landing right on Rekka’s stupid head! So proud of our boy! However, the most effective note this episode ends on is when Shinra asks Tamaki if she’s okay in a beautifully heroic tone. Tamaki doesn’t reply, instead, breaking down into one of the most arresting 15-ish seconds of superbly-animated crying I’ve seen in recent anime. It’s emotional stuff, folks!