The Fires of Revelation: Fire Force Manga Volumes 10-12

Loose thoughts on volumes 10-12 of Atsushi Ohkubo’s manga series “Fire Force,” initially published in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. Spoilers will be present.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 7-9


Shinra vs. Sho

Ok, ok, so I take back everything I previously said about Sho’s powers just being boosted speed. The kid can stop time. STOP TIME. WITH FIRE. THE PHYSICS. MAKE LITTLE SENSE. BUT I LOVE YOU ANYWAY OHKUBO. For real though, this is going down as one of my favorite fights in manga EVER. (Which doesn’t say much saying that I don’t read much shounen manga, but whatever, it’s freaking cool as hell.) And, having seen it all animated, I can confirm that the fight is even more glorious in the anime, WOWZA.

More than the combat, we also get a glimpse of the other side—the world that the White Hoods are given permission to see. This is the stark landscape that the Evangelist resides in, which is hell itself. Words cannot describe how ethereal the Evangelist looks. Like, she/it feels divine through the panels. Certainly, the Evangelist is an otherworldy being capable of great and terrifying powers. I mean, if the Evangelist is where Sho gets his spark from, there’s NO WAY in hell that Company 8 will be able to stand up to this deity of the flame.

Shinra accelerating to the point of self-destruction and then reconstructing himself thanks to his link to Sho (who is blessed by the Evangelist) is also SUCH an intriguing concept. Having Viktor off to the side rambling on the physics of Shinra’s and Sho’s abilities is helpful, but only so far in the way of a scientist trying to rationalize ridiculous phenomenon in a super-powered shounen action series. Children with Adolla links really are on a whole ‘nother level, you know?

I love how this climactic, highly anticipated fight ends with the introduction of a new trickster-type character, Haumea, who supposedly possesses powers on par with Shinra and Sho. It really gives us a peak into what the second “season” of Fire Force will bring. As Captain Burns approaches Shinra with the truth, suddenly, everything comes to light.

The Truth Revealed

If volume 10 wasn’t full of enough revelation, volume 11 shatters the illusion Shinra has held since the terrible accident that scarred his youth: not only his brother, but his mom is also alive and somewhere in the world. I kinda figured she was the horned infernal from his memories, but to think that she’s lived this whole time, it’s crazy. We also get another peak into the Evangelist’s world and more haunting imagery of Adolla. Oh, and Captain Burns’ abilities are also revealed in a weirdly timed fight with Shinra (who was just HOSPITALIZED)! If he is constantly controlling a flame from deep within his being, it would make sense why he’s so strong and revered—really, the dude’s flexing 24/7!

This is also a transitional volume for the series. At this point, the world and story are entirely different from the first volume’s humble origins. We are onto a new story now with different goals and new faces to encounter. And it starts with a  . . . nude calendar shoot!? BAHAHAHA!!! This shit had me CRACKIN’, yo, I kid you not. I love how Ohkubo still includes customs like this that are part of the normal firefighter tradition. Obi’s cobra/gun show arm flex left me gasping for air, and seeing all the other companies engage in this stupid calendar was hilarious. As for Company 8’s picture for this year, LOL, I’m deceased.

We also get more Hinawa getting made fun of for his nonexistent fashion sense, which even Obi acknowledges. The girls dress him up in a ridiculous bunny suit, and Shinra pays the price for mocking the lieutenant. It’s fun stuff like this that make transitioning to the next big story easier. Speaking of . . .

Ohkubo continues to expand the world by revisiting Shinra’s academy days at Company 4, the branch which focuses on training new recruits to be deployed out in the force. Some old faces to Shinra (but new to us) make their debut, but most odd of all is the Company 4 Captain Hague, who is so obsessed with Adolla to the point of begging Shinra to burn him alive just to feel the flames of the Evangelist. He’s an oddball, but an ally for sure, and a valuable resource for intelligence on this world of fire and ash. Just when things get interesting, however, Haumea brainwashes Shinra and sends him into a demonic frenzy!

The First Pillar

A lot happens in volumes 10-12 of Fire Force, which includes wrapping up the first big story arc and developing the beginning of the second. Volume 12 opens with Arthur’s attempt to quell Shinra’s scary brainwashing. We finally get Arthur’s backstory, how his parents raised him loving knights and castles, and how they eventually abandoned him, leaving the house behind with him in it as its sole king. WHAT THE FUCK OHKUBO, I’m crying FR. This was so, so sad—and not to Arthur, my poor onion baby. ;__;

Once Shinra finally snaps himself out of Haumea’s spell, Shinra remembers a mysterious girl trying to take over his urges and desires—the “First Pillar,” whatever that means. She whispers that a fifth Adolla burster is about to awaken, which sets Company 8’s sights on recovering the “Fifth Pillar” and protecting them from the Evangelist. As Obi tries to reason with the chief of the fire defense agency—the very man who created Company 8 under Obi’s command—Obi spills some incredible truth about what it means to be an adult. I’ll leave it below.

As always, though, things move fast in Fire Force, and Inca—a young girl who can sense flames before they erupt—bursts onto the scene. She pilfers from fire sites out of a thrill for danger, and that puts her in inevitable contact with the Haumea, her dangerous partner Charon, and the enigmatic First Pillar. As Shinra fends off Charon’s unbelievable strength, the Fire Force companies begin to assemble. But for how long will Tokyo burn? Perhaps Inca’s powers hold the key to mankind’s salvation . . .


[What does being a grown-up mean to you?] It means caring more broadly and deeply. I will never give up on protecting this world. — Akitaru Obi


Afterword

This shit only gets better. MAN, who would’ve thought that this is the kind of ride Ohkubo would be stringing us along for? If it keeps up this consistent quality and world-building intrigue, I have absolute confidence that we’re looking at the next Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood right here with Fire Force. What do you guys think of these new developments? Oh, and since this overlaps with the latest couple episodes, what do you think of the Fire Force sequel anime that is currently airing? Let me know down in the comments! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

Into the Abyss: Fire Force Manga Volumes 7-9

Loose thoughts on volumes 7-9 of Atsushi Ohkubo’s manga series “Fire Force,” initially published in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. Spoilers will be present.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 4-6


Enter the Forge

Coming off the shocking ending of volume six with the introduction of *assumed villain* Viktor Licht to Company 8, volume seven opens with new knowledge of Shinra’s world. As it turns out, much of the habitable land known to mankind was burned to a crisp at the dawn of the Solar Era. Countries that we are familiar with now no longer exist in this period as a result of spacial distortions. The planet is quite literally falling apart. Although the actual history is still unknown to us, Viktor isn’t afraid to confirm with the reader now that Amaterasu and the Tokyo Empire are definitely fishy in origin.

Taking on the other companies will prove difficult with their current team. Thus, Obi sends the innocent trio of Shinra, Arthur, and Sister Iris to try and talk a legendary blacksmith and mechanic over to their side: Vulcan, aptly named after the god of the forge. I appreciate the way Ohkubo quickly yet thoroughly introduced Vulcan and his “family” to us; unlike most other additions Ohkubo would make this late in the game, Vulcan isn’t an annoying guy.

Vulcan’s goal of bringing back animal life to the world—another detail I had yet to realize until now—is a noble one, and his frustrations with Haijima Industries is well understood thanks to his backstory. It was honestly moving to see that underwater projection, reminding us of how hot and dry the landscape often seems. I can totally see the anime dragging Vulcan’s history to the point of tedium, but the manga remains quick on its feet and moves past his angst.

Volume seven doesn’t stop there. The drama escalates when Shinra realizes that the White Hoods set a trap for Company 8 and Vulcan. It was an ABSOLUTE double-whammy to find that not only was the WHOLE Company 3 working for the Evangelist, but also that Lisa, a member of Vulcan’s “new family,” was also an Evangelist spy. Really, this caught me off guard. I had my sneaking suspicions that Company 3’s captain, Dr. Giovanni, was actually Vulcan’s grandfather, but this conspiracy was quickly snuffed out—and probably for the better.

Oh yeah, and Princess Hibana joins the fray with some SERIOUS heat. Glad Ohkubo is keeping her relevant both off and on the battlefield.

Shinra Meets Sho

THE CONFRONTATION WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR. And honestly, it was just as short as I thought it’d be. So far, it would seem that the only edge Sho has over Shinra is his extreme speed, which is kinda lame cause I thought he’d have real nasty fire abilities. I suppose we have yet to see those, though, so for all I know Sho’s fire is just as potent as Shinra’s can be. Anyway, Sho has no wishes of joining our heroes, which was kinda already expected, just not as bitter.

To finish out the battle at Vulcan’s workshop, I found it perhaps most odd that Joker jumped in to fight off Sho from catching up to Shinra’s escape. Even more surprising was that Joker appears to be no match for Sho’s deadly speed. What is Joker’s aim? I thought he was with the Evangelist. Is he just a terrorist, or perhaps an anti-hero? I’m sure his story will come to light before too long.

As with Princess Hibana’s efforts in the previous volume, Ohkubo is really trying to keep all the characters he introduces on the table—which is fantastic. The majority of this eighth volume is spent on a mini training excursion in Asakusa. That’s right, Benimaru is back, BITCHES. I love this man, WOW, and I still don’t even know why. I just wish he’d join Company 8 more on their quests already cause y’all already know he can take Sho down.

Just as Shinra learns from Benimaru to focus his fire with traditional meditation techniques, Arthur also learns a thing or two about how to sense life on the battlefield. Arthur is such a ditz, but Ohkubo’s made this guy impossible to hate at this point. Benimaru’s wise teachings will already prove helpful as Obi takes the fight to the White Hoods in Fire Force‘s next big arc.

The Nether, a land of darkness that remains untouched by Sol’s holy light. In other words, the Tokyo subway ruins following the cataclysm many years ago. Man, Ohkubo’s world-building continues to astonish. Just when I think I have Fire Force‘s world all figured out, Ohkubo gently places new information to throw the reader off. He’s been slowly, carefully fleshing out this universe of fire and brimstone, and the results pay off when the reader can look at the lower gates to an ordinary subway and a chill runs up their spine. There’s definitely something wrong with this place . . .

Now that we’re here in the depths of the earth, it finally occurs to me that, yeah, there really aren’t that many scenes where our characters are exploring any subterranean location. Again, this obviously carries intent. The stress on Sol as a deity is really questioned throughout this volume and the end of the previous. Company 3’s Dr. Giovanni goes on a religious tirade praising the glory of the Evangelist and diminishing the light of Sol, but really, who is this Evangelist—and who or what is Sol? This self-inquisition adds so much to a world that, apparently, we still know very little about.

A Light in the Dark

At the end of volume eight we get our first fight: Maki vs. Flail. I CANNOT wait to see this shit animated, cause wow, Maki’s new gear is so freakin’ cool. Thanks to Vulcan’s handy-work, Maki’s able to utilize her little fire sputters in a much more advantageous way: they are the fuel for a set of giant floating armored hammers that can both attack AND defend with ease. The staggered armor plating on these pile-bunker-esque arms also matches Obi’s signature full-body shield, which is nice for consistency. In all, it’s just nice to see Maki shine on her own.

My favorite confrontation, however, was the explosive sniper duel of Hinawa vs. Arrow. Hinawa may just be the coolest guy in the company. His backstory is solidly written. His purpose and ties to the other characters makes absolute sense. And his abilities as a Second Generation, WOW, so fitting for him and useful on the field. Both snipers were almost willing to destroy themselves just to hit their target, which lends to itself humorous commentary in Arthur vs. Mirage (also a pleasant rematch, it’s nice to see how much Arthur has grown). The stark use of black and white during these panels also accentuates the flash of their bullets and arrows—the clash between two sharp, diligent minds.

The weakest fight was by far Tamaki vs. Assault. As opposed to her flame ability taking out her opponent, that damned “lucky lecher lure” or whatever ended up being Assault’s downfall. Gosh, my eyes cannot roll hard enough. It’s bad enough that I don’t care for Tamaki at all, but to see her fighting like this really degrades her character. I sincerely thought this was going to be redemption for the cat girl. Oh well, at least Sister Iris came in with that lead pipe to Assault’s head.

Lastly, there’s Obi and Vulcan vs. Dr. Giovanni and Lisa. This fight really shows off Dr. Giovanni’s cunning ways, but also Obi’s raw human strength as a non-powered soldier. Vulcan and Lisa do little aside from playing Romeo and Juliet, so the main draw of this fight is definitely on the ideology clash between the company captains. I just can’t wait ’till Obi rips that obscene mask off Giovanni’s head.

As Shinra frees Viktor Licht from the White Hoods, it quickly becomes apparent that something isn’t right here. Shinra has sensed Sho’s presence in the Nether since the beginning, but a strange vision of ashen demonic skeletons has me scared for Shinra’s life. I have a hunch that the grand conflict awaiting us in volume ten will not only prove hard on Shinra because of Sho, but because his own powers may decide to reveal their true colors.


We are forever beseeching the rising sun. Grant thy light to the undefiled souls.Sister Iris


Afterword

Lots of stuff happened in these past three Fire Force volumes. I have no doubt that the story is only to get a lot darker with the reveal of certain truths about the world in the volumes to come. I went ahead and ordered the next nine volumes (I know, I should moderate myself better), but I’ll be taking a break from the series until they arrive. Until then, what are your thoughts on the series so far? I’d love to hear, but no spoilers please! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 10-12

The Flame Expands: Fire Force Manga Volumes 4-6

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. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 1-3


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


Afterword

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!

– Takuto

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 7-9