Welcome back to this week’s coverage of the first season of Fire Force! One day, we will catch up to the second, dear readers! For now, we have plenty of exciting action and twists occurring, with Hibana now working in tow with the 8th Company to help investigate the 1st. There’s plenty of crazy heat-centric powers on display here, so strap yourselves in.
1. The Big Dogs
This time in the cold open, Fire Force throws in one of my favorite recurring anime tropes, in that it shows off some of the most powerful heavy hitters in the text’s established canon. We’ve already had one of them teased a little towards the start of the season back in episode three with Leonard Burns. Back then, he still seemed to be presented with a semi-altruistic aura, but he’s portrayed as a much more enigmatic and morally grey character, and very well aware of the 8th Company’s plot against them. As I said, it’s a very familiar narrative beat, especially in Shonen-type anime, but Fire Force leans into it so much, making me love these powerful-as-heck baddies more and more.
The most interesting tidbit from this scene is that Burns actually name drops our noble Captain Obi, implying that he might see him as a genuine threat, and also that the two may have some history together. It’s a great economic building of character relationships!
2. All is not what it may seem
Now that we know the 1st Company is definitely shady as hell, we switch scenes to our well-established good folks, 8th Company, as they discuss a way to infiltrate the aforementioned Company’s base. It’s a little similar in formula to the last arc in that… well, infiltration of a Company was literally what they did in the last arc too, but the characters and the motivations here are different and fresh enough to keep things interesting. It also seems that there’s human intervention taking place with the creation of some Infernals and that the 1st Company seems to have something to do with that.
The fun part here is that we see Hibana has integrated herself with the gang from the 8th, after her change of heart last episode. Hibana still shows off her endearing dominatrix side (two words I don’t think I’ve ever used in succession) but she acknowledges that her motives and morales became twisted with her descent into an existential crisis, and she fits alongside the others nicely!
3. Give me shirtless Captain Obi or give me death
Before we dive into the scene of our gang once again going into infiltration mode, I do have to acknowledge the token nudity scene that Fire Force seems to adamantly want to slip in every couple of episodes. This time around, it’s all the girls from 8th Company and Hibana taking a shower together and getting decidedly hands-y as a backdrop to Hibana and Iris reconciling their past and their present relationship together. All I ask is that we get an equal amount of scenes of the 8th Company’s Himbos getting their own dedicated shower time together – is that so wrong? Don’t even get me started on Obi and Takehisa again.
Moving right along, the gang of Shinra, Arthur, Maki, and a few stragglers walk into the 1st Company’s base, the Grand Cathedral. They’re present as trainees for the Company, and they meet a few interesting folks on their way in. There’s great attention to detail here, however, as Leonard consistently pulls up people on their inappropriate dialogue, considering the holy nature of the Cathedral. It’s very corrupt Captain America-esque, and very sinister.
Shinra being Shinra decides to get hot-headed with Leonard Burns considering their vaguely conflicting history, and requests that each of the new recruits spars with some of the old folks as a way to test the recruits’ power levels. It’s a different path to incite conflict than that which took place in the last arc, and it leads to some interesting matchups and battles. The first introduces a great side character, Takeru Noto, who has a very pessimistic view about fighting and his own abilities. He’s matched up with Rekka who is hilariously the complete opposite, someone who loves being in the heat of battle, who’s constantly being wowed by Takeru’s powers, and who is completely confident in his own abilities. Takeru does well enough with a flashy fire-bullet showcase, but he’s taken out by Karim, a character who uses a tuba to convert Takeru’s heat into ice, because… sure. After this, our boys Shinra and Arthur step in.Continued below
Being the proud young men that they are, they choose to challenge Leonard Burns directly, ensuring that this episode/arc doesn’t dwell on any single battle for too long and drag it out. Being seasoned Shonen readers, we can tell from all the alluding done previously how outmatched our boys are, alas.
5. A force to be reckoned with
Again, this segment of the episode is leaning heavily into some Shonen tropes but I’m so here for them. Arthur has a shot at slashing Leonard with his plasma sword Excalibur, only to apparently find out that this plasma-heat-level blade isn’t hot enough to even leave a mark on the big boss’ clothes, let alone his skin. It’s a humbling moment for Arthur, but I felt for him at that moment, showing the show’s dedication to making a potential asshole a likable character. Never being one to back down from a fight, Shinra gets his turn, and his raw power and prowess makes him a little more of a match against Leonard. The fight scene is beautifully animated, with Shinra getting to use his trademark flips and spin kicks against Leonard, who counters and handles them seamlessly whilst sparks fly at every opportunity.
Of course, this doesn’t last forever, and Leonard decides to end it all with a mere stop on the ground before Shinra that sends him flying. The power difference is definitively established now, but I’m interested to see where this arc will lead going forward from here.