Tokyo is burning, and citizens are mysteriously suffering from spontaneous human combustion all throughout the city! Responsible for snuffing out this inferno is the Fire Force, and Shinra is ready to join their fight. Now, as part of Company 8, he’ll use his devil’s footprints to help keep the city from turning to ash! But his past and a burning secret behind the scenes could set everything ablaze.
At first glance, Fire Force might seem like another typical amalgamation of anime tropes haphazardly thrown together to create a strange concept driven series with little depth. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that couldn’t be further from the truth. It may not be perfect, as there are certainly flaws to be found in the first season, but there is one thing that is for sure.
It’s an anime that knows how to entertain!
It takes a little while for this series to really find its footing in the early episodes. There is so much to introduce not just in the main character with Shinra Kusakabe’s trauma and motivations as a real-life hero in the Fire Force, but also the world building to make such a wild concept feel lived in and somewhat believable. With a catalyst like the Great Disaster ushering in a terrible new affliction which caused humans to spontaneously combust into what became known as Infernals. With the Fire Force prepared to stop wild Infernals and help to ease suffering, we find the stage set for an expansive series that grows quickly.
Shinra’s reputation as a devil is something that carries through the entire first season, but it is also something much deeper than a character trait with that creepy smirk and pointy teeth. It’s tied directly to his childhood trauma of losing his brother and mother, becoming a nervous twitch he couldn’t really control. As with many of the themes explored in this series, it ultimately becomes a question of self control and finding strength within yourself. While the strength of company 8 combined is great, each character goes through their own individual trials to find personal growth, Shinra’s is just the most noticeable amidst these as the main character. It’s unfortunate the series sometimes loses focus of this character-driven factor in favor of pursuing wild concepts for world building though.
Before we dig into the oddly charming cast, there is something happening from a larger perspective with the interactions of societal institutions in Fire Force that gives the series surprising depth. The importance of the Fire Force within each community is incredible, but their eventual opponents, the Evangelists, show that there is a clash of morals at play. The religious elements in the Fire Force with characters like Sister Iris and the Holy Sol Temple help to diversify the religious view, but there is still an apparent contrast between the stark worldview before the Great Disaster in the Evangelists and the modern mix presented in the different Fire Force companies and their community institutions. Issues of a false prophet and misguided motivations give the series a jolt of reality just when you least expect it.
The real substance of Fire Force lies within the characters. Shinra and the climactic confrontation with his lost brother Sho is classic anime greatness. However, the rest of the cast is more than entertaining enough to help round out the show. Arthur’s comedic relief and role as a real powerhouse steals the spotlight in my opinion. Not only is he super funny, his interactions as basically Shinra’s best frenemy are just hilarious. He’s the type of character who could most likely carry a spinoff on his own.
Combine that with the eclectic characters like Tamaki and Vulcan in company 8 and it’s easy to see the show has plenty of depth in characters. It’s not all humor though, the leaders of the different companies all come with much more dramatic revelations such as Waka’s immense strength and Giovanni’s traitorous nature. Rarely are so many characters so successfully fleshed out.
It’s not a perfect series by any means. It oftentimes gets muddled as it tries to constantly bring in new characters and introduce all the different companies as well as expand on the consequences of Shinra’s power known as the Adolla burst. Shinra’s own company 8 grows quite a bit during the season as well, and it can become a lot to keep up with as the series strays from Shinra finding his place in the Fire Force to focusing more on his past familial trauma. This creates an odd tension where he is basically ignoring his new family in Fire Force in favor of chasing the remarkably dangerous prospects of his lost family returned. In the end fight, we spend multiple episodes confronting this danger and all I wanted was for Arthur to be at his side like the rest of the series and it felt like they became an afterthought. This abrupt change in tone carries over in the last episode as well as Shinra attempts to sort through what happened psychologically.
Ultimately, Fire Force is a series that will stand out if not for just it’s incredibly high quality execution in both animation and character development. It’s quite an unusual world to jump into but it is undoubtedly worthwhile. I’m hoping some of the tensions created in the back half of the season one can be mended in the next season because it didn’t leave me quite as hopeful of a conclusion as I would have liked. But for fans of well rounded anime with awesome action, great humor and plenty of drama this is certainly one to check out.
Fire Force season 1 will stand out if not for just it's incredibly high quality execution in both animation and character development. It's quite an unusual world to jump into and certainly has its fair share of shortcomings, but with awesome action, great humor and plenty of drama it's absolutely worth your time.
Fire Force Season 1 Review: Flame is the Soul’s Breath
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Plot - 8.5/108.5/10
Character Development - 9/109/10
Production - 9.5/109.5/10
Music - 9/109/10
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