Loose thoughts on volumes 4-6 of Atsushi Ohkubo’s manga series “Fire Force,” initially published in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. Spoilers will be present.
A Bug in the System
Continuing where the third volume left off, volume four reveals the presence of a traitor in the Tokyo Fire Force. We also find that the secrets to spontaneous human combustion don’t lie in a fault with the Sun God, but rather are caused by man himself. Specifically, followers of the “Evangelist” are trying to track down people who are blessed by the Sun God by injecting random men, women, and children with a strange insect born from the ashes of Infernals.
Although we don’t know much, these wanted individuals supposedly possess an “Adolla Burst,” or “pure, undefiled flame,” and a great aptitude to wield their pyrokinetic abilities. Shinra just so happens to have one of these Adolla Bursts.
Enter Rekka Hoshimiya, the Company 1 traitor and a devout follower of the Evangelist. I distinctly remember disliking this part of the anime most, as it also happens to center around Tamaki and her allegiance to this terrible man. While nice character growth for her (what with the shattering of her greatest role model and her overcoming this sad reveal), Shinra’s fierce encounter with Rekka is unfortunately bogged down by more awkward fanservice pandering.
In a couple of action stunts, Shinra is thrown off balance and rolls into an abused Tamaki’s chest while she is propped sitting against a pillar of the abandoned factory setting. I get that Ohkubo likes this kind of thing in his manga and that he finds it funny, but I just think it’s awkward—and in a bad way. For one, it ruins the tension built up in this serious fight. Secondly, of all the places to land, OF COURSE Shinra has to fall into her bosom—and more than one time!
But the best part of this little setback is how it ironically propels the story forward immensely. Suddenly we know a lot more about SHC, as well as a taste of what the true enemy looks like—and it ain’t pretty.
In Good Company
I really like volume five. The book opens with the history of Company 8’s formation told from Hinawa’s sharp perspective, as well as the backstories of Hinawa, Obi, and Maki’s relation to one another. Hinawa was a diligent soldier in the Imperial Army; Maki was a general’s daughter but also worked hard as a rookie soldier; and Obi was an honest-to-goodness firefighter (and he still is, really).
This backstory serves to flesh out Hinawa’s rigid character, answering why he’s so punctual towards his company but also compassionate towards victims of SHC. His story is a sad one, but is brought into great care thanks to Obi. On that note . . .
God I admire Obi so much. What a great guy. Finding out that the reason he was kicked out of the job was because he decided to release the soul of an Infernal (despite shitty orders from the Fire Force) was totally a thing he’d do. And the fact that Hinawa was the one who pulled the trigger just SENDS me. These two really do have each other’s back.
Volume five’s second half shifts gears to the next big development: the attack on Asakusa. We meet the annoying, foul-mouthed lolita twins of Company 7, Hikaga and Hinata, as well as the stubborn dude simultaneously protecting and destroying this region of Tokyo: Benimaru Shinmon.
A tough nut to crack, Benimaru is the exact kind of guy I CANNOT STAND in shounen anime. EXCEPT, for some reason I like him a lot. Maybe it’s because of Ohkubo’s character design, or because I remember his dub voice from the anime, but everytime Benimaru flexes his gifted pyrokinetic skills, I just gawk at the pages for hours. His signature final move, Nichirin (“The Sun Wheel”), adds a super neat oriental flavor to the different types of fire power in this series.
The world also starts to open up a lot in this volume. Like with Hibana’s Company 5, we see how Company 7 handles the Infernal cases, and it’s shockingly touching. Honoring the spirit an unsuspecting person who goes Infernal, Company 7—with their savior Benimaru at the front—parades Asakusa with cheers and destruction, celebrating their life and death in the process by lighting up the town and rebuilding from the ashes. I like the Company 7 way of things.
The Flowers of Edo
If volume five provided the build up to this invasion of Asakusa, the sixth volume adds the climax. The White Hoods have set a trap for Company 8, and it would seem that Benimaru’s poor leadership has caused his own Company 7 to fall for it as well. As citizens start mistaking one another for various crimes, a citywide spell of doppelganger sets in on Asakusa. We find that one especially potent servant of the Evangelist, Yona, has the power to reshape the human face, and boy are its effects nasty.
Even though there’s this new typed of horned Infernal revealed—which is appropriately called a Demon—the White Hoods themselves really shine as the action set piece on this one. The archer with the gorgeous yet deadly crescent-shaped bow made of flames makes HER reappearance from Rekka’s shocking death in volume four. As villains, the character designs for the White Hoods seem just as well thought out as the MCs themselves, and it’s always nice to have a badass-looking villain cloaked in white. We know very little of Arrow’s personality, but the motivation is clear: to return mankind to the inferno.
Growing from his learned failures, Benimaru pulls off a fantastic victory thanks to Shinra’s backup. Lieutenant Konro shows more pathos than I’d have imagined a guy like him would, and it’s because of Konro’s backstory reveal that Benimaru comes across as a tired man looking for atonement. This duo nicely parallels Hinawa’s dedication to Obi from the previous volume. Perhaps the two companies aren’t so different after all.
Most interesting of all was Shinra’s strange tingling sensation in his foot when he heard Konro’s shout. Does the Adolla Link allow him to sense the passionate flames of others? I’m sure we’ll find out soon. What I did like about Shinra from this volume was his cooperation with Arthur in the White Hoods fight, but also how he literally leapt into action before he could even think when Konro screamed his name. (The acceleration shots were bursting with an energy I could feel!!)
I was reminded of Deku from My Hero Academia, and how the one thing that drew All Might to Izuku was how his legs moved before he thought about the dangers ahead. Given Shinra’s aspirations to be a hero (and the importance of his feet!), I wouldn’t be surprised if this is how they were tying it all together.
Last but certainly not least was the final page reveal: the man who was working with the Joker has made his way into Company 8 as their chief scientist. I think I got actual chills from that scene! Also, does this creep really serve Shinra’s now-evil brother Sho??? I’m not sure where this is going, but I have a feeling that Shinra and the rest of Company 8 are gonna have to really watch themselves around this eerie dude.
After all, it is always darkest beneath the lamp.
The spirit of Company 8 hasn’t changed since the day it was formed! To the dying, we give our prayers and respect . . . and to the living, we give release from the flames. We value human life . . . that’s what we’re about. —- Akitaru Obi
Is anyone else reading Fire Force? Well, I hope you either are or weren’t planning to because I just spoiled a huge part of this developing story! Did you like this type of post where I sat down and just freely wrote about the manga I’ve been reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts—both on the series and on the post—in the comments. If a couple of you enjoyed it, I’d be happy to do reflections like this for future Fire Force volumes as well as other series I’m reading, just let me know! The story only continues to expand, and I’m eager to explore past what I’ve seen in the anime. ‘Till next time!