by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Fire Force ?
“For Who the Flames Burn” is yet another Fire Force Episode that is mostly focused on seeing the show's basic plot threads and action set-pieces to their conclusions, closing out the Asakusa Arc while offering a scant few hints as to where things are going from here. It's not a high point for the series, but it's consistently watchable and entertaining. Sometimes, for a shonen anime like this one, that's all an episode needs to be.
We pick up exactly where we left off last time, with Benimaru trying to reckon with the chaos in Asakusa, while Arthur and and Shinra deal with the Evangelist's agents. If there is any strong thematic core to this episode, it comes from Benimaru finally accepting the mantle of Asakusa's de facto leader and tackling the imposter infiltration threat head on. Granted, his plan is literally to have all of Asakusa's residents indiscriminately beat the crap out of each other on the off chance they nail an imposter, but the town seems just fine to indulge the man, so sure, we'll go with it. I don't think that Benimaru's growing responsibilities as a leader have exactly been compelling enough to carry a whole month's worth of episodes, but it gets the show to the finish line of the Asakusa arc more-or-less intact. It also makes for a pretty thrilling climax when the time comes for Benimaru to really bust loose.
Before that, though, we have to let Shinra and Arthur finish taking care of the mysterious bow wielding agent and her partner, Haran. Haran ate one of those fiery bugs last week and here we see him transform into the kind of especially powerful horned Infernal known as a Demon, and he gives our heroes a run for their money. It's a decent fight, though pretty sparse on character moments or animation cuts that really get the blood pumping. There's a strange and intentionally ambiguous couple of sequences where Shinra experiences some manner of hallucination or vision relating to his Devil's Footprints – the archer explains that this is an Adolla Link, which is important somehow and connects to the Evangelist, though it remains little more than a crumb for future episodes to revisit somewhere down the line.
Eventually, it's up to Benimaru to come in and take on Haran himself, while Shinra has to pull some Superman stunts to protect the Company 7 Captain from one of the Archer's most fierce arrow volleys yet. This is where the production picks up and doles out some familiar but welcome spectacle, culminating in Benimaru obliterating Haran with his Sun Wheel technique. The bass-heavy sound design in these sequences really stands out, and it makes me wish my sound system had a subwoofer that could capture the sound-barrier rupturing power of our heroes' attacks. The way that the moon turns blood-red when it is filtered through the Infernal's ashes is a killer touch, and makes an already exciting climax even more striking.
As storytelling, most of “For Who the Flames Burn” is purely average, but it makes for excellent visual entertainment. This is where Fire Force has been for a while now, and as we come to the end of another story arc, I have to wonder whether or not the show is every going to fully recapture the promise of its earliest episodes. Looking back on over fourteen weeks of ups and downs, I figure that the artful mix of empathetic storytelling and jaw-dropping artwork will likely never be realized as perfectly again, but I wouldn't mind just a little more ambition on Fire Force's part. What we've been getting lately is the very definition of decent, low-effort popcorn fare. It gets the job done, but it is hard to get too enthusiastic about such results when we know the show could be so much more than it is.
Odds and Ends
• So the twins demonstrate a little bit of purpose when they reveal their Kitsune powers this week, which are definitely cool, but they still exist primarily for basic (but admittedly adorable) comedic relief.
• Weeks Without a “Lucky Lecher Lure” Incident: Two, which means we're very nearly on a winning streak. She's going to have to get some lines and character development sooner or later, though, which means I've got my hands ready to slam the big Stupid Fanservice Alert button.
• Obi: “Should we start punching each other too?” Hinawa: “Give me a break, sir”. Tamaki and Maki's are little too slow on the uptake to get the memo.
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