Fire Force 2 Episode 2 – The Return of the Knight King

I know a few people that dropped Fire Force in season 1 dues to some of the more controversial aspects and I wonder if I should tell them to give season 2 a try. I mean it still has some raunchy humour and all but it seems to have really done a huge tonal shift in that regard and I think a lot of those people would enjoy it a lot more now.

As for me, you’ll just have to read on… aww who am I kidding. I am picking up all that Fire Force is laying down right now and having a blast while doing it. Let me tell you in a bit more detail.

I had almost forgotten how much I love the visuals in this show. It’s a tremendous production. Way to go David! Of course visuals are a highly personal thing, it’s up to every viewers preference, but you have to admire just how much attention is given to those visuals way beyond the character designs.

Fire Force always plays with hot and cold tones. It uses very oppressive cool palettes like that dark purple wash in Hagues early scene (or Sho’s first scenes last season which were in this super cold blue) to show us scenes without much action happening but that are precursors to something bad. A calm before the storm sort of thing. That’s always when the colours are the coldest. Whereas that silly card between Shinra and Ogun (the yeah yeah screencap) is in a rather warm blue as far as they go, and you can just tell that it’s a much more relaxed and casual colour choice.

Also, I really like Ogun’s eyes. They just pop! One of the best instances of the lately popular golden eyes.

The premise of the episode is simple, and actually very logical. After the events of last season, Shinra is visiting the 4th (a friendly company) to try to get some more information on the Adolla as it seems their captain is also linked. However, during their meeting Shinra and a few members of the 4th seem to get possessed by something deadest of making Shinra use his flames as violently as possible for unknown reasons. A situation that could have turned out quite dramatic if Arthur hadn’t shown up to set everything right. No really…

On it’s face all of this is great shonen action stuff. We got some great fighting animation, Hague acting like a weirdo, a few new charters to pique our curiosity and even the promise of a new pillar which sets up the next few episodes really well. Like I wanna find out who this new pillar is and what their deal is. I’m into it!

But the undertones were much more complex and even a bit delicate. It’s debatable whether it succeeded at everything. There was an undercurrent of rejecting truth or finding one’s own reality going throw the entire episode. And it was present in a way that goes against the established trope. Shinra is possessed but really that is only breaking down his moral restraints. The force whispering in his ears is urging him on but not lying. There is a harsh reality that he just doesn’t want to admit and facing it is making him go wild. Accepting the world as it is, is hurting him right now.

Similarly, Hague likens his own experience with his Adolla link to a spiritual or religious experience that gave him a taste of Truth (capital T). But it’s obviously worn out his sanity. As for my man Arthur well… He was never all there to begin with, and this episode gives us an origin story for his delusion, which although sweet in and of itself, may have weakened the character a bit. Still it’s telling that he is exponentially stronger, better and happier when he is in his own world. Now that’s an unusual lesson…

Fire Force usually likes to put a lot of shadows or simply darken fight scenes. The confrontation between Shinra and Arthur was a departure and it may be because they are both protagonists. I have always really liked Shinra’s deserted Adolla world. Bringing someone else in there felt like an intrusion and it was unnerving. Also kudos for playing with Sister’s design in a way where she is still recognizable but doesn’t look like herself at all.

As I was watching this episode, I was sort of struck by Shinra’s characterization. This Shinra was the devil everyone told us he is and we (well me) had refused to believe. Yes of course there were extenuating circumstances but still. This was the main protagonist on a series for a younger audience, openly attacking his allies and another protagonist the audience has gotten to now and love (well me) and showing little reserve or remorse. In episode 2 of the season! Because Shinra isn’t in fact a hero or a demon. He’s a conflicted kid and sometimes that means he’s not that great. I don’t often see that type of greyness in a protagonist. He’s sweet and likeable and I want to root for him, but the truth is, he could snap and considering his power, that would be devastating.

I think in away, this episode was trying to impart that. And give us a general sense that in a world as ravaged as Fire Force’s, lofty ideas of good and evil might be comforting to some but are ultimately impracticable. When pushed to the brink, the notions sort of loose meaning. Hague himself states it, it doesn’t matter if it’s Heaven or Hell… In the end, it’s kind of the same.

There’s a screencap that I really like so I kept it as my bookend at the bottom of this post. See it’s Arthur waking up on the day he became a Knight King! It’s not that special or anything. I didn’t have to carefully time it because there’s some amazing action happening. But that flower. I just love that flower.

There were many fantastic elements this episode. The shifting art styles, the super deformed angles, the symbolic imagery. I had a lot I wanted tot talk about so I didn’t get to those. But I need to talk about this scene.

It’s part of a flashback that started out all sunny and regular coloured but then shifted into this blue hue as Arthur settled in for the night that would mark the beginning of his new life. This scene happens the next morning and we see the bleak and harsh morning light seeping through. It’s an unpleasant light with a depressing colour palette. The boxes in the foreground further make everything feel claustrophobic and in the context of the scene are a sad reminder of what has just happened. It’s very nicely staged even if it is kind of a downer.

But there’s that flower. It’s the only pop of colour we’ve had for several seconds now. But it’s still clearly in the same filter. The pink petals are purple and the bright yellow heart looks greenish. Still it’s there and completely out of place, almost alien to the rest of the scene. Like maybe it’s not actually there. A clear beacon of hope for a boy who contextualizes his hope in delusion.

It’s a really great bit of visual storytelling and this stuff always impresses me about Fire Force.

Fire Force 2 ep2 (52)

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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8 Responses

  1. I really loved this episode, especially the internal battle for Shinra. I must admit though, I kinda felt like the Arthur stuff strengthened the character for me. It gave a reason for how he is, but didn’t fully explain everything. thusly leaving some mystery still intact.

  2. Dawnstorm says:

    The visual analysis was interesting to read, as usual. The episode itself was pretty good, but I just don’t have anything to say about it. I don’t think I could do episodic reviews of Fire Force. They’d often be very short…

  3. “I am picking up all that Fire Force is laying down right now and having a blast while doing it.”

    I felt like a kid on Christmas through most of this episode, so you aren’t alone!

    “I had almost forgotten how much I love the visuals in this show.”

    There’re just beautiful. Color, scene composition, action, everything just works, at least according to my limited understand of such things. I guess I’m just trying to find fancy ways to say “Pretty!”

    “Shinra is possessed but really that is only breaking down his moral restraints. The force whispering in his ears is urging him on but not lying.”

    Dramatically, that was amazing. By the end of the episode, I know that Shinra rejects the First Pillar, but I got a real sense they weren’t separated by much. He was this close to getting a new drinking buddy! Only his decision that he still wants to be a hero seems to be in the way.

    “He’s sweet and likeable and I want to root for him, but the truth is, he could snap and considering his power, that would be devastating.”

    Isn’t that great? So often that idea goes completely unaddressed. Like Layfon in Chrome Shelled, everyone just accepts that he’s on their side. But if he decided, “Well, it’s Evil Day today,” he could devastate the entire city. Only a Heavens Blade could stop him, and they’re all in Glendon.

    But here, they’re dealing with it. Well, Arthur, Ogen, Pan, and Captain Hague dealt with it. That’s really good stuff!

    “He was never all there to begin with, and this episode gives us an origin story for his delusion, which although sweet in and of itself, may have weakened the character a bit.”

    I’m not sure, because I suspect something that if right, would make him a very, very tragic character. Did you see how he interacted with his dad? Arthur was very, very stiff. Almost formulaic. It reminded me of some behaviors I associated with kids on the Autism scale.

    What if his parents left him because they couldn’t handle it?

    What if that was the reason for his kingship?

    Puts a different spin on Ogen saying, “You really are a damn powerhouse when you’re delusional.” Arthur can only be powerful when he rejects reality, which is a theme you pointed out.

    I’m psyched that Fire Force can spark this kind of conversation!

    • Irina says:

      I think the Arthur being a bit broken because he’s a bit broken was a pretty big part of his strength. A standard Freudian justification like this makes him a much more run of the mill character in my opinion and considering this cast, he’s now one of the more mundane ones which is a bit of a shame. Spelled out tragedy doesn’t always provide much depth.

      But it’s not as if the character is ruined

  1. July 14, 2020

    […] regret having to focus on this one moment! If you’d like to read more about him, please see Irina’s post on I Drink and Watch Anime. It’s a great perspective on this […]

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