In this second half of Fire Force’s first season, the show doubles down on the excellent action sequences that provided some of the best moments in Part 1, while sticking with its goofy brand of comedy, although it’s difficult to say whether that’s to its benefit.
This set kicks off in style as it picks up where Part 1 left off, as the Evangelist’s followers send Asakusa into a mess of confusion and flames, and doppelgangers of the townspeople run rampant and Infernals start popping up all over the place. While Company 7 try to get a handle on the situation, Company 8 offers to help and sends Shinra and Arthur take on the Knights of the Ashen Flame, but quickly find themselves in a stalemate. It seems that the only one who can save the day is Company 8’s captain, Benimaru Shinmon, but he is nowhere to be found. Can Benimaru be located before it is too late?
It’s hardly a spoiler to say that, yes, Benimaru does turn up, and when he does the ensuing fight he gets himself into is pretty thrilling, with it being a great showcase for his combat abilities, revealing that he’s certainly the most feared fire soldier for a reason. With the development of his character in this arc he has quickly become one of my favourite characters in the series, as despite being a bit cold and standoffish, he’s actually very kind and righteous. He simply lacks the confidence in himself and just needs that little push to accept that he is the leader that the folks living in Asakusa truly need.
I like how the show can find time to develop its characters both in and out of combat, and while there is a training episode later on which is used to give Shinra and Arthur some new skills, most of the cast see some valuable growth and development in the subsequent arcs here.
On that note there is a slightly awkward split here in that the Asakusa arc doesn’t conclude until Episode 14, so you’ve got the final two episodes of the previous season “cour”, if you like, to finish first, which means if you haven’t been streaming the show, you’ve been waiting a while for the epic conclusion!
After this, the next main meal doesn’t really kick off until Episode 19, as the arc in between is more focused on introducing new characters and building up the team, as Company 8 send Shinra, Arthur and Iris off to recruit a guy called Vulcan as their engineer, who has so far rejected every other company despite his skill in the field. There’s one problem though: Vulcan is being headhunted by Company 3’s captain Dr. Giovanni to work at the affiliated Haijima, and Company 8 are going to have to fight if they want the prize.
There are quite a few key characters introduced here, but you’re going to have to wait a while before you see their full potential. That said I think they’re all pretty cool characters right off the bat – Vulcan, and indeed Dr. Giovanni for that matter, are both eccentric inventors and it’s interesting to contrast the pair’s different approaches. While Giovanni is a very creepy guy and an obvious villain, Vulcan is an absolute hoot with all the junk he makes being either weird or based off animals, but is overall a very likable character despite his first appearances. His obvious love interest, Lisa, is fairly easy to work out, but at least has some interesting combat abilities, and the same can be said of the Evangelist’s goons who present a particular problem for Arthur.
With the focus of this arc being more on our Knight King, it definitely tries to take a funnier angle, as he ends up with a donkey’s head strapped to his groin in order to evoke his knightly image. I honestly got a few good laughs out of it but I think it depends on whether you can stand his more obnoxious qualities. The stupid rivalry and bickering between him and Shinra can occasionally get in the way, as they do in the early parts of the Asakusa fight. He does grow though, although like the other characters mentioned here, you really have to wait for the show to kick off its big season-concluding arc for everything to pay off, as the gang take on the Evangelist’s followers in the dark and spooky underground train tunnels that make up the Nether.
This is where the show goes all out as it separates our heroes and pits them against the White-clad in some terrific duels that really test their mettle. While it does have to go through each member of Company 8 in turn, these episodes are well-paced with very little padding and show most of the cast at their best, from Hinawa’s sharpshooting to Maki’s terrifying strength and Vulcan’s sheer resourcefulness despite having no fire abilities.
Unfortunately, however, Tamaki still gets the short end of the stick and ends up unwittingly seducing her opponent rather than pummelling them outright. As much as I do like Fire Force, this is its one sticking point that causes me to sigh in frustration every time she appears, as while she could be a fun and interesting character, Ohkubo just doesn’t seem to want her to be.
The animation for the fight sequences really does hold up though, with David Production continuing to give us those same, fast-paced, smooth and punchy, fights that it did with the first half of this season. While their work on the fire effects is great, it becomes even more pronounced when we are plunged into the world of Adolla, as they perfectly capture the original manga’s image of an underworld filled with smoke and black flames.
Kenichiro Suehiro’s soundtrack also remains solid, working particularly well with the action sequences, and while it doesn’t come into play until Episode 15, the second opening, “MAYDAY” by coldrain feat. Ryo from CRYSTAL LAKE, is an absolute belter of a song, although considering it goes a bit screamo it might not be for everyone. Lenny code fiction’s “Nonai” takes up the new ending slot and while it’s not quite as good as the first opening it is still a solid rock song.
This Manga Entertainment release contains Episodes 13 to 24 of the series with Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub. As with the first half of the series, the voice acting is good in both languages, so you’re getting a good experience no matter which you prefer. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing situation no review discs were provided for this second half of the series so I am unable to review any included extras.
Overall, Fire Force remains a decent shonen action series with some really competent animation and fight sequences that will really excite its target audience. The only things that are really holding it back are its goofy comedy, which not everyone is going to like, and the continued awful treatment of Tamaki’s character. If you can deal with that or push it to one side then there’s plenty of entertainment to be had here.