It’s anime time!
I used to be fairly regular about lightly covering every new season of anime as it started, but a combination of my Brain Problems and a few successive seasons with not a lot of interest put the breaks on that. This season is stuffed full of interesting looking shows, so I’ve decided to dive back in.
This time I’m splitting it up into seperate posts covering one or two series each, as my aformentioned Brain Issues are quite bad at the moment and it’s probably going to take me a while to write about everything I want to cover. This delivers a greater volume of content to you, the loyal customer. Thank you for your continuing patronage.
First up, it’s:
This is one of two highly anticipated shounen manga adaptations to start this season, based on a currently-running story by the creator of Soul Eater. If the constantly-grinning, spiky-toothed protagonist didn’t give that away, then the unnecessary level of horniness around the show’s female characters definitely will!
I kid. Actually, Fire Force is one of the more promising shows to start this season. Set in either a very far future or an alternate present during “Solar Year 198”, Fire Force depicts a world afflicted by Infernals, fire spirits that transform humans into rampaging monsters via spontaneous combustion. The Infernals are opposed by the titular Fire Forces, which are part fire brigade and part order of religious warriors, which are staffed both by regular people and the pyrokinetics who started appearing alongside the Infernals. Our protagonist is the newly-recruited Shinra Kusakabe, a young pyrokinetic who can shoot flames from his feet with enough force to move at superhuman speed.
Fire Force is at its core a pretty standard shounen romp, starring as it does a hot-blooded (footed?) teenager with superpowers who’s all gung ho and out to prove himself through the medium of combat against supernatural enemies, but it stands out from the pack for two reasons: an intruiguing setting and some really spectacular visuals.
The world of Fire Force is an interesting blend of modern day Japan with a lightly steampunk-infused 19th century Europe. This visual mishmash is repeated throughout every aspect of the show’s design: the Fire Force brigades wear a combination of modern high-visability fire-fighting clothes and medieval armour, they use both guns and melee weapons like swords and axes to fight the infernals, and while they operate like a paramilitary police force, they also go into battle beside a nun (serving the fire god Sol, not the Christian deity) who recites prayers for the souls of the Infernals they vanquish.
Background details scattered throughout the episode further hint that the story is taking place in a world very different from our own; the stained glass windows of the cathedral that Shinra’s unit operates out of depict saintly figures casting down Infernals (even though they supposedly only appeared a few decades ago) and the night sky above Tokyo is shown to be awash in a permanent aurora, both of which suggest either an extensive unseen history seperating Solar Year 198 from the modern day, or an alternate present. The fact that this episode at least never really calls attention to any of this just makes it more intruiguing. This approach to the show’s world building reminded me of both Attack On Titan and the Dark Souls games.
Other aspects of the show’s setting get a similarly light touch. For example, the pyrokinetics at first glance seem to be a completely mundane part of Fire Force’s world, accepted by its inhabitants as an important part of keeping the Infernals at bay, but some throwaway lines of dialogue reveal that each generation of pyrokinetic is more powerful than the last (Shinra as a third generation is significantly stronger on his first day on the job than the team’s veteran second gen) and dialogue from flashbacks to Shinra’s Tragic Shounen Backstory suggest that the general populace is starting to get antsy about them. The direction this is going is pretty obvious, but I appreciate that the show is (apparently) taking the more interesting approach of beginning in a time when prejudice against the pyrokinetics is just starting to manifest, rather than taking the more obvious route that many other shows would have.
In addition to its unique setting, the other thing Firce Force has going for it is that it looks rad as fuck. The fire effects are obviously the standout, with Shinra’s rocket-foot attacks taking the cake. If you like stylish, fluid fight scenes, this is probably going to appeal to you.
Of course, with all these compliments come some complaints. Under the interesting veneer, this is still a pretty typical shounen action series, with all that that entails. Shinra is a very typical anime hero—a hot-blooded youth out to prove himself and be a hero—with a very typical tragic backstory, and I feel like I could probably write a fairly accurate outline of the rest of the series based solely on what we were shown here (do you think Shinra’s white-haired little brother who supposedly died off-screen at the hands of an Infernal will pop back up as an antagonist???).
And as I alluded to earlier, the show cannot stop ogling the female characters. Our very first look at them is a butt-focused shower scene, and even the ending credits find time in between dropping intruiging hints about the nun’s backstory for a few scantily-clad shots. It’s obnoxious and disappointing, especially since Soul Eater had a female co-protagonist (relatively rare for shounen stories) who didn’t seem particularly sexualized at all, at least based on what little I watched of it.
So, Fire Force is not going to convert you into a fan of shounen anime if you’re not already down to look past their cliches and foibles. But if you do fit into that category, give it a shot. It seems promising.