English Dub Review: Fire Force “Shinra Kusakabe Enlists”

It’s basically just living in California.

OVERVIEW (SPOILERS)

Solar Year 198. A man spontaneously combusts on a train, prompting civilians to flee. When the burning car is abandoned, a fiery demon emerges. A lone boy, Shinra, seems confident enough to stop it, but is stopped himself by the arrival of the Fire Force, special fire fighters who fight the monster with pile bunkers, water balloons and…prayer? This makes short work of the baddy, but the boy, Shinra Kusakabe, notices some debris about to fall on Iris, the nun, and sets his feet on fire like rocket boosters to save her. He reveals that he is their Third Generation Fire Soldier, having come to work for them, and his ability is identified as “The Devil’s Footprints”.

He arrives soon after at the headquarters of Company 8 for his interview to meet his chief, Akitaru Obi, properly. The others include Takehisa Hinawa, the lieutenant who is a pyrokinetic, the Sister Iris, and fellow recruit Maki, also a pyrokinetic. They go over the standard exposition dump regarding why the heck people are combusting all the time, and it isn’t because they’re holding in farts. They actually have no idea how, why, or when it will happen next, but these monsters, called Infernals, need to be killed as quickly as possible so that the casualties can be minimized. The Special Fire Force exists for this purpose, as well as scoping out the cause of all this.

We then learn more about Shinra’s past, specifically on how he was reported as starting a fire when he was younger. Apparently, his mother became an Infernal, killing both of their children, but he was blamed and shunned because his fire abilities and nervous tick, which causes him to smile demonically, made him look guilty.

Shinra then gets to go on his first mission and his first chance to prove himself. The thoughts of his previous trauma get the better of him at first, but his new teammates snap him out of it. Each one utilizes their specialties and sets it up for Shinra to make the final blow with his kicks. With the words of his mom and the faith of his team, Shinra vows to become a hero and blasts the Infernal with one blow. Shinra ends his first day with a crowd’s cheers.

OUR TAKE

Welcome to what looks like it’ll be the hottest show of the Summer Season!

…okay, forgiving the terrible pun, I was looking forward to this show in particular mostly due to its pedigree than anything else. For one, it’s by the author of Soul Eater, an equally off the wall Shonen series from 2008 that I would watch through pirated fansubs back when things like Crunchyroll, Hidive, and all the other legal anime streaming sites either didn’t exist or weren’t nearly as big. Back then, it would take years from when a series was released in Japan to when an official dub would hit the states, and now we have this show, which is among a select few that have gotten same day dubbing along with the subbed release. What a time to be alive.

As for this first episode, it’s got a good amount of kindling to get a proper flame going. The premise is a solid one, establishing an interesting conflict shrouded in mystery but also high in action. It talks the talk and walks the walk of a decent Shonen series, with the special brand of quirkiness that I enjoyed about Soul Eater back in the day, along with great animation to keep my eyes on something hot. I’m certainly hooked on the story as it’s presented here.

I do have some concerns and issues, however. The designs of Company 8, while distinct enough when you get a good look them, do still look a bit too similar. I understand that they’re meant to be uniforms, but they lack the more striking designs of Soul Eater’s cast. The other thing is that feels just a bit too derivative of similar shonen stories, what with the devilish looking protagonist who is distrusted because of his looks but has a big dream to live up to a lofty ideal, but that SHOULD be fine as long as the rest of it is interesting enough. The fight of the Infernals also seems pretty nebulous at the moment, as they just seem to pop up out of nowhere and, at the moment, all come down to being some different take-off of just a burning person. Given this genre’s tendencies, I expect the mystery to clear up ever so slowly and diversity in enemy designs to increase as things get more intense, but it still kind of underwhelms at this point.

But overall, it’s an alright spark that can hopefully light a fire as it continues.

David Kaldor

Green Lynx (David Kaldor): Aimless 20-something given a paid outlet for his thoughts on cartoons. Fears being boring slightly more than being outright disliked.

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