Fire Force’s protagonist is not only a snack, but he also comes with a healthy side of positive representation for trauma survivors

Let’s be honest. A lot of people start watching Fire Force because they think there’s going to be lots of hot firefighters to oggle at. If that’s you, then let me save you some time. Fire Force is about fighting fires in much the same way that Attack on Titan is about attacking titans – that is to say, it isn’t really. It’s actually about a government conspiracy, an apocalypse and dangerous creatures of unknown origin… so, a lot like Attack on Titan, I guess.

What is Fire Force?

Fire Force is a shounen anime that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, 250 years after the Great Cataclysm killed a large percentage of the human population on Earth. Since then, human beings suddenly bursting into flames has become a common occurrence. For unknown reasons, people will randomly turn into fiery ‘infernals’ which have to be destroyed by a specialised branch of the fire department called the Special Fire Force. Nobody knows why spontaneous human combustion happens and nobody can predict who will be next. In addition to that, certain people called ‘pyrokinetics’ possess the ability to produce or manipulate fire which they use to ‘lay infernals to rest’.

The story follows Shinra Kusakabe, a pyrokinetic who enlists in the Special Fire Force in the hopes of uncovering the truth behind spontaneous human combustion.

Shinra Kusakabe – an underrated husbando if ever there was one

For me, 2021 has been a year of outstanding shounen protagonists, and I’m pleased to say that Fire Force continues this trend. I love Shinra’s character – everything from his goofy sense of humour, to his creepy nervous smile tick (which is something I also suffer from) caused by witnessing the death of his mother and brother.

Shinra’s character is full of contradictions and the show does a fantastic job of illustrating the juxtaposition between his devilish, intimidating exterior and his gentlemanly, pure-hearted interior. How can somebody known as ‘The Devil’s Footprints’ with a permeant evil grin on his face be the hero of the story? Everything about Shinra’s character screams ‘bad guy’ – blood red eyes, sharp teeth, devilish smile, powerful pyrokinesis powers – but he’s actual a real sweetheart, and a true gentleman.

This is my favourite frame in the entire show. Are those angel wings, or demon wings? It could be either.

One thing I do want to say is that I think the show does a great job of representing trauma victims, of which Shinra is most certainly one, in a balanced and respectful way. There are some real obstacles that trauma survivors face in going forward with their lives that cause them to be misunderstood by others. Shinra’s smiling tick, which is a very real psychosomatic condition by the way, causes him to be feared and rejected by almost everyone. Sufferers of psychosomatic ticks or other neuro-atypicalities like AS disorders will know exactly what I’m talking about here – how you are on the outside doesn’t reflect who you are on the inside, and sadly, this frightens people.

Yet, in spite of it all, Shinra remains a compassionate and caring person, which takes a great deal of courage. Going through trauma itself doesn’t make one into a hero and it shouldn’t be romanticised, but it also shouldn’t stop you from being a hero either. There’s a lot of vulnerability and sincerity in Shinra’s character which I found quite inspiring. I appreciate how the show (at least so far) doesn’t portray Shinra’s ticks and eccentricities as something to be cured or ‘gotten over’ – almost 50 episodes later, he’s still grinning away, and that’s OK.

Whoa, that got deep. Anyway, the whole cast of characters is pretty strong. There are some tropes – the overly sexualised female character; the bossy, straight-laced second-in-command; the hyper-masculine squad leader – but they interact well with each other on screen. It helps that the English dub is extremely well-cast with plenty of talented and under-appreciated voice actors bringing the characters to life.

Animation tighter than Maki Oze’s abs

I don’t even want to imagine the kind of hell the animators put themselves through whilst animating this show, but the result is well worth it – the action sequences looks sublime. Fire isn’t the easiest thing to animate even at the best of times. These frames don’t do it justice, but trust me – it look good.

Doesn’t always take itself too seriously

As with most shounen, Fire Force’s subject matter is pretty serious. Thankfully, there are plenty of light-hearted moments in the show to stop the doom and gloom putting too much of a dampener on things. Fire Force is a genuinely funny anime, if a little bit childish at times.

The story’s mystery is too slow to unravel

Fire Force is equal parts action and mystery. The story follows Fire Force Company Eight’s attempt to unravel a sinister conspiracy concerning both the government and the Church. However, the unravelling of this mystery is painfully slow at times. Whole arcs go by with almost no new information being uncovered – not to mention all the false leads that lead the crew nowhere in the long-run. It’s quite frustrating to feel like you’re taking the longest possible route towards the truth. The manga hasn’t even finished yet, so it’s not like you can just Google this stuff. Who is the Evangelist? What exactly is Adolla? Ain’t got a clue, mate.

Sometimes, I think it’s a shame that the actual firefighting element of the show gets buried under all the intrigue and supernatural nonsense. It would have been nice to just have a show about firefighters, saving lives and doing their thing. Firefighters are cool even without having demonic powers.

The fan service. Just… the fan service.

Really? Cat ears?

Listen, I know that anime isn’t the most highbrow of entertainment mediums, but come on. Why do we still insist on making every moderately attractive girl strip at least once in every anime? It’s so awkward and comes at literally the most inappropriate times.

To Fire Force’s credit, this is offset somewhat by the absolute badass that is Maki Oze – who IS best girl and no, there is no debate to be had about that – who never gets naked once.

Fire Force means a lot to me personally

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Fire Force has the greatest storytelling or the best pacing, but it did manage to do something that no other anime has ever managed before – it starred a character I genuinely, truly relate to. Shinra is a fascinating character with a very important and impactful message for the audience to take away, but I’m happy to admit that that’s my personal bias talking.

So far, there has been no news on when we can expect Season 3 to air. Originally, it was predicted that we would at least get an announcement by the end of this year, but with Covid having pushed back production, I’d wager that it’ll be mid-2022 before the show continues.

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