by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Fire Force ?
In Fire Force's eternal quest to prove how much mileage it can get by having its heroes dick around and make goofy faces for a half hour, “The Blacksmith's Dream” proves to be a surprisingly fruitful endeavor. With all of the terror from the attacks by the Knights of the Ashen Flame in the rearview, Company 8 needs to beef up its resources a bit, and thus two new(ish) characters enter into the fray. The first, Victor Licht, is actually the same Where's Waldo lookin' schemer from way back in the beginning of the series, who is sent by the sinister Haijima Corporation to serve as the company's one-man forensic team. The dude is obviously bad news, given that he was Joker's contact and Fire Bug source back during the Rookie Fire Soldier Games, but his presence will likely mean interesting things for the show's story.
Victor isn't given much to do this week, though, as the main order of business sees Arthur, Shinra, and Iris' mission to recruit an engineer to the team. The problem is that the best candidate, an eccentric, skull-loving genius named Vulcan, absolutely hates the Fire Force. As you might expect from such a low-stakes plot, there's not any action to speak of here, just a lot of our heroes being supremely awkward dorks while they work with Vulcan's friends, to try and convince the man to help them out.
What makes this episode work, then, is that all of this comedy is actually pretty entertaining. There's a running gag where Vulcan is constantly throwing soda cans at Arthur and Shinra's heads, which eventually hits the Rake Effect Quotient of a dumb gag being repeated enough that it eventually becomes funny again. Iris even gets to be apart of the fun for once, putting on her best “DeeDee from Dexter's Lab” hat and pushing every button around Vulcan's lab, with predictably zany results. The most mind bogglingly weird joke, though, has to be Arthur's encounter with the squirrel robot he finds. It's a nightmarishly cartoony creature that simultaneously looks like it is farting water out of its rear end while also furiously ejaculating. Now, you might be asking yourself: “What the hell is this thing, and why hasn't anyone killed it with fire yet?”, but Fire Force gives us no answers – just a seemingly infinite stream of inexplicable fluid gushing from the robot rodent's nethers, while his hideously contorted O-face mocks us all.
All of these shenanigans do end up having a point – well, I still don't know what the hell was going on with that sexually aggressive squirrel-bot, but still – because Vulcan's obsession with animatronic animals belies his desire to bring the extinct version of their real-world counterparts back to life. It's a surprisingly smart bit of world-building, actually, because it reminds us that the characters aren't just bemused by these bots because they're deeply strange, but because they have no frame of reference for what most of these creatures were in the first place. The exact nature of Fire Force's setting is being unveiled by degrees, and while it was easy to guess at the series taking place in a future far off from out own, the extinction of so many millions of species proves it. The episode makes a play for pathos when Vulcan shows off the hologram device that he uses to get a glimpse of a world that was once teeming with life; Iris' real tears could have very easily come across as hokey, but I actually buy it. These characters aren't just fighting to stop the spread of Infernal Combustion – they're trying to bring a dead past back to life.
They're also fighting to beat up bad guys and put a stop to Evil Corporations mucking about, which is what Dr. Giovanni reminds everyone when he makes his spooky entrance. It wasn't hard to guess that the sketchy plague doctor would be the bearer of bad tidings on to Vulcan's workshop, but as the gang makes way to leave, Shinra get another reminder via his newfound “Hero's intuition”, which basically means he gets all tingly in his feet when there's some justice that needs dispensing., like when Benimaru needed rescuing last week. Is this vaguely convenient power flare up a weird note to end the episode on? Sure, but it also means that the bad guys aren't too far behind, and with the Evangelist and the Knights of the Ashen Flame around to give the series some much needed structure, I'm looking forward to getting yet another fiery throwdown.
Odds and Ends
• Speaking of Joker, where the heck has that guy been? He's easily the most intriguing and entertaining antagonist Fire Force has given us yet, and he's completely disappeared from the narrative. With Victor in town, I'm sure he'll show up soon, and Shinra's long lost little brother can't be too far behind.
• We've got a new OP and ED this week too, and boy are they underwhelming, and a huge step down from the first ones. The ED is basically a clip show that shows Shinra and Sho's conception, which is weird, though the new track from Lenny code fiction is decent enough. I actually really enjoy the dumb fun butt-rock that coldrain serves up in “Mayday”, the OP's song, but the accompanying animation is seriously lame. I don't know whose idea it was to follow up the first OP's exciting and action packed visuals with what looks like a mediocre AMV from the early 2000s, but I am not a fan.
• Call it Stockholm Syndrome, but I have come to look forward to all of the ways Arthur manages to out-stupid himself every week. The boy is a treasure.
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