by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Fire Force ?
As its title suggests, “The Trap is Set” is all about escalation, leaving our heroes with their backs against the wall as the Evangelist's forces take their attack on Asakusa to the next level. On a plot level, it's about as simple as it gets, and the opening minutes of the episode even give us the impression that the story might fall completely flat. After pointlessly cutting the story off in the middle of a flashback last week, it seemed like Fire Force might be trying to save Shinmon and Konro's Infernal fight as an exciting start to this episode, but no. The fight happens off screen, and all the scene serves to do is to show how Konro's self-sacrifice got the attention of the Church, and lead to the creation of Fire Force Company 7. Outside of visually signaling the inclusion of Company 4 Captain Soichiro Hague, all of this information could have been communicated in a few lines of dialogue; wasting this much screen-time on it is a perfect microcosm of Fire Force's pacing problems.
Thankfully, the remainder of the episode is quite good, giving us a typical battle episode that is executed with some of the best animation and editing we've seen from the show in a while. There are no sloppy character animation cuts, no glaring editing gaffes, and the fire crackles and flies with the show's signature slickness. We also get an interesting and completely ludicrous new antagonist, who has been using his pyrokinetic powers on the Evanglist's lackeys faces to “manipulate blood vessels [and dialate] capillaries and lymph ducts” – in short, he uses nonsense flame magic to change peoples faces, which explains last week's case of mistaken identity, as well as all of the chaos breaking out in Asakusa. If this episode has one weak link outside of it's disappointing opening, it's the fact that Shinmon doesn't get anything to do outside of wander around and ask himself, “Hm…what's with all this mistaken identity going on around here lately?”. The Evangelist is creating Infernals left and right in Asakusa because it is apparently some kind of “power spot”, so Shinmon is going to need to get his stuff together a little quicker if he wants to keep his beloved district from burning to ashes (again).
Our Company 8 heroes get a lot more opportunity to do their thing, though, and that means more this week than getting their butts kicked by Shinmon. Though the focus is mostly on Arthur and Shinra, the ensemble just feels better utilized this week – their reactions to Arthur straight-up cracking a little girl's skull open are pretty hilarious, even before we realize that it was just one of the Evangelist's men disguised as Hikage. Maki also gets a nice moment in the spotlight, using her transmogrification powers to turn an incoming fire missile into cute little Sputter. The show even managed to pleasantly surprise me with its restraint this week, in terms of fanservice; when Maki was holding back that fire missile, and the camera was framed such that her chest was front and center, I was convinced that there was going to be some dumb gag about her clothes getting burned off or something, but she is mercifully spared any indignities.
Still, this is Shinra and Arthur's show, with the focus primarily being on their bickering and need for consistent teamwork. It's a little weird to be trotting out this idea now of all times, since Arthur has been basically a background character since he disappeared into the desert during the Company 1 Investigation, but I'm willing to endure some clunky plotting if that's what it takes for Fire Force get more character interactions going. Their fight against the Evangelist's forces features some of the coolest animation and choreography this episode has to offer, too. Shinra may have taken some well-deserved crap for his unironic love of his Fire Breakin' technique, but when David Production are pulling out all the stops, it really does look cool. Whether all of this breakin' will amount to much all depends on if Fire Force can stick the landing with this Asakusa plot. Its pacing and execution has been wonky, and it's still difficult to see where exactly this plot is going, but if we can get a couple more solid entries like “The Trap is Set”, it at least won't have skimped on entertainment value.
Odds and Ends
• Weeks Without a “Lucky Lecher Lure” Incident: One! Tamaki gets almost nothing to do this week, but she at least gets to avoid being sexually humiliated. It's a subterranean bar to clear, Fire Force, but you did it.
Arthur gets some of his funniest lines in a while here. One great deadpan moment, just after he knees Fake-Hikage into a wall: “Look closer! That's definitely a tiny old man dressed up like a girl!”
• Seriously, though, what do those twins actually do? Isn't anyone just a little bit suspicious about Company 7's apparently cavalier attitude towards child-endangerment?
Arthur's idiocy is also played up a lot here too. He is constantly misusing his five-dollar words, and really doesn't have any sense of direction, obliviously proclaiming to Shrinra: “If you tell me left, or right, or east, or whatever, I'm not going to get it. Make sure you point!” This, apparently, is how he ended up taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque and winding up in the middle of a wasteland.
• Shinra's Superhero Pseudonym of the Week: “Puts-Up-With-Stuff-That-Sucks-Man”. Looks like Shinra's been annoyed by all of the dumb fanservice in his own show, too!
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