by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Fire Force ?
“The Secrets of Pyrokinesis” is the kind of title that might lead you to believe that Fire Force's eighteenth episode contains compelling mysteries, earth-shattering revelations, and tantalizing clues for the future of the story. That isn't what this week's episode is, unfortunately. In fact, “The Secrets of Pyrokinesis” combine two of the more mundane action anime tropes around: The training episode, and the clip show. Strap in everyone, because we're in for a completely middle-of-the-road time killer!
As a rule, I try to avoid overuse of the term “filler”, mostly because I think it has become an overplayed way to complain about any episode that doesn't feature wall-to-wall twists and action, instead of a specific description of the wildly inconsistent and often inconsequential material that gets tossed out in long-running manga adaptations that need to wait for the comic to catch up to the anime. That being said, I wouldn't be shocked at all if you told me that this week's Fire Force was made of anime-original material, or otherwise disparate bits and bobs from other chapters that got smushed together into one unwieldly episode. Either way, it definitely feels like Fire Force is padding for time here, so while nothing that happens this week is bad, there isn't anything here that couldn't have easily been taken care of in maybe half-an-episode, if not a few lines of expository dialogue.
The biggest chunk of “plot” we get follows Arthur and Shinra as they travel back to District 7 to train up their Pyrokinetics with Shinmon. This takes up about half the episode, and is the closest the show comes to giving us an almost interesting story, but it doesn't even pretend to have real stakes or drama, or even that much comedy. There are two jokes that get repeated over and over, here: The first is that Arthur and Shinra suck at being stealthy or aware of their surroundings, and the second is that Shinra makes goofy faces when he tries to manipulate or enhance is Devil's Footprints powers. Fire Force is admittedly good at getting laughs out of dumb facial expressions, but that isn't enough to carry even half an episode, so even this segment feels like wasted time in the end.
Outside of giving Victor an excuse to stop by Company 7 and give some of his own advice on improving pyrokinesis, the point of Shinra's training this week gets addressed in just a few minutes. Shinmon shows Shinra the titular secrets of the tenokata, which are the physical martial arts forms that can help pyrokinetics manipulate and enhance their enhance their powers. Shinra tries using the tried-and-true Rock n' Role horns, but Shinmon shows him something resembling a more meditative posture, and our hero is then able to rocket high into the air with a powerful blast. The boys' training is likely far from finished, but Shinra is one step closer to perfecting his “finishing move”.
That's basically the training story in a nutshell, which might have worked better if felt more like a full chapter in Shinra's growth as a hero and less like a useful bit of exposition that will give him new moves to use in the future. The other main “story” of the week is the sit-down that Obi, Princess, Konro, and a returning Karim have so they can trade info about the White-Clad. This is the “clip-show” portion of the episode, which isn't even that long because its only been a week since we've learned most of this information anyways. The Evangelists has spooky plans for Amaterasu, Shinra's brother Sho is a bad guy, bugs are turning folks into Infernals, etc. If you've been following along with the show, you aren't likely to find any of this information very useful, but I suppose it would be nice for any viewers who decided to check-out a few months back and just so happened to pick this episode to jump back on the Fire Force bandwagon.
Since neither of the two main stories are quite substantial enough to fill out the episode's runtime, the rest of “The Secrets of Pyrokinesis” consists of the silly gags I would usually relegate to the “Odds and Ends” section of the review. There's more Lucky Lecher Lure nonsense (which is dumb), Arthur gets the chance to memorialize his fallen robot donkey friend (which is excellent), Vulcan pitches in by building Maki some weapons for her flame spirits to power, etc. Tamaki aside, its all perfectly harmless, but “harmless” and “kind of boring” are not mutually exclusive descriptors, and Fire Force was both of those things this week. We will just have to wait and see if the show picks up the pace next time around.
Odds and Ends
• A part of what hurt this episode is that it starts things off on such a high-point that it can only be downhill afterwards. When Arthur christens the now-mounted strap-on donkey-robot head as “Sil-burro”, the force of pure, gleeful stupidity generated by the pun literally knocked me out of my chair. It may very well be the Best Bad Pun an anime has ever given us. The episode earned a half a star for that one gag alone.
• Number of Weeks Without a “Lucky Lecher Lure” Incident: Zero, again. I may just have to rename this counter, because I suspect we aren't going to be going over “One, on occasion, if the Lord wills it” anytime soon. This particular gag was so random and over-the-top that I had to rewind the scene three times just to understand what even happened. Long story short, Tamaki goes from standing perfectly still to instantaneously getting Shinra's head shoved up the front of her pants, so that the two are doing a standing 69 position. So there's a thing that happened.
• Shinra's Silly Superhero Pseudonym Corner: Bless this beautiful summer child, Shinra's name for his special move is “Kicker-Man Kick”. Shinmon, thankfully, vetoes it immediately.
• I don't even have anything clever to say about the Lieutenant's new hat. Just look at it. It says “Moosifer”. It is perfect.
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