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.