by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Fire Force ?
I feel like the battle chapters of manga like Fire Force must be among the hardest to adapt in anime. Here you've got a smattering of pages that, on average, only takes a few minutes to read, which means it can get away with focusing entirely on a single conflict between two characters, along with all of the monologue and exposition that comes with it. When you adapt a story like that to animation, though, you're taking a dozen or so pages that consist mostly of action poses and captions and stretching it to fill a half-hour, and anyone that has ever invested much time in watching any of the big Shonen Jump adaptation can attest to how awry a show can go when it a twenty-two minute long flight scene goes wrong.
"A Brother's Determination" is very much a 22 minute long fight scene—outside of a couple of incredibly brief cutaway to a couple of new White Clad who observe the fight from a distance like Victor is doing, this episode is fully devoted to continuing Shinra and Sho's climactic fight, which got started in last week's very well produced second act. That this battle doesn't quite live up to the promise of its own opening volleys is a little disappointing, but I wouldn't count it as a total bomb. If you've got the patience to endure a truly laborious amount of exposition, then "A Brother's Devotion" will likely end up satisfying all of your weekly Fire Force cravings.
Personally, I start to zone out a little bit when an interesting bout is interrupted with a lot of jargon explaining how all of the fancy magic powers work, though at least the developments shared between Shinra and Sho are related to the larger plot—plus, I'd be lying if I said the payoff wasn't pretty damned cool. Long story short: The "Adolla" that fuels the "Bursts" we've been hearing so much about while "Linking" pyrokinetics like Shinra is another dimension, and its fires are what allow Sho to manipulate the universe's thermal expansion and stop time. Shinra, never one to be outdone, uses the power of his brotherly affection to force an Adolla Link and achieve speeds that surpass light itself, destroying and reassembling his body thorough a process of molecular time travel, which basically means he can match his brother's speed, and also teleport.
This is quite a leap in power for a guy who was just figuring out his basic special moves a few weeks, ago, and the new abilities are more fun to watch in action than they are being explained in narration by Victor's inner monologue. At the end of the day though, this incredibly silly anime has managed to justify the use of universe manipulation and time travel via pyrokinetics, and I'm not going to complain too much about that. Throughout the fight, we also see snippets of the brothers' shared childhood. This isn't quite enough pathos to make up for Sho barely being a character for a majority of the season, but it's effective enough at reminding us what Shinra is fighting for.
"A Brother's Determination" does have a weak link, though, and it's the animation, which unfortunately suffers from just not being as good as the stellar work that preceded it. There are some fine cuts, throughout, but the consistency is gone, and just when Fire Force needs it most. Sho's powers are meant to break the fabric of time itself, but the choppy editing used to indicate his bouncing around through time and space just looks, well, choppy. It isn't bad, seeing as it communicates the action that it needs to, but it lacks that specific oomph that helped last week stand out so much.
Also, the fight still isn't over by the episode's end, and while I appreciate Fire Force's commitment to amping up the drama, I still don't feel all that invested in Shinra and Sho's relationship or story, so I'm all in favor of wrapping up this fight and moving along. That being said, we haven't gotten a stupid Lucky Lecher Lure gag in a couple of weeks now, so perhaps killing more time wouldn't be such a bad thing after all…
Odds and Ends
• One of the time-stopping tricks that Sho pulled had him kicking Shinra straight into an overlay of what looked like manga panels. That was pretty neat.
• One of the new White Clad members we meet this week is the so-called "Evangelist's Subordinate", Haumea. She has an amusing crown-shaped hat/visor/thing, and that's about all there is to report on that. Company 1 is also back, which is…also neat, I guess?
• Sho reveals this week that Adolla is what the old world used to call “Hell", which has me really curious as to how the whole spiritual angle of the wordlbuilding is going to shake out. Shinra had that vision of an ethereal woman who looked a heck of a lot like Iris not too long ago, and that has to be building to something, right?
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