by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 30 of
Fire Force ?
While Fire Force's pacing has been much improved so far this season, I figured we would get an episode like “Time to Choose” eventually, which does that thing where it takes the ending of one story and the prelude to another and awkwardly smashes them both together, since either chapter wouldn't be enough material to fill a full twenty-threee minutes otherwise. It doesn't make for an entirely bad episode of Fire Force, since it is all useful information and necessary table setting. It's not exactly a rousing half-hour of television either, though.
The first half of “It's Time to Choose” is the most compelling by far, since it puts the titular choice of which faction to follow in Inca's hands, and between the FF and the White Clad, she predictably goes with the unhinged explosion cult. I wish the choice hadn't felt quite so cut and dry, but Inca's explanation is in line with the incredibly damaged worldview she's put forth so far. As an adrenaline junkie that only feels truly alive when she's courting death, it makes absolute sense that she'd roll with the Bad Guys, since all Shinra and Co. can offer her is some jail time on account of all her extortion and larceny, plus whatever mundane life of ordinary citizenry would be waiting for her when she finally got out.
At first, it is unclear if her more chaotic alignment will put her at odds with the White Clad's more murderous tendencies, but nope: Once poor old Panda shows up to try avenging his dead bro and freeing his boss, like any good pal would, Inca immediately dissociates and roasts her friend alive. This a very well animated and genuinely disturbing sequence, and Panda's death screams are downright chilling; another dark moment in a season that seems to be comfortable playing Fire Force's horror undertones straight. This act also bars any hopes Inca had of a clean redemption or team-switching storyline, and I don't know if I'm in love with that choice. It's as if the whole point of Inca's turn to the White Clad was to give Shinra a lost soul to mourn over along with Sho's, which feels rushed and reduces Inca's potentially interesting role as a destructive free agent to that of a fallen woman who went down a dark path (have I mentioned that Fire Force has some weird hangups about its female characters? Because it really does). In any case, the White Clad have claimed the Fifth Pillar for themselves, which puts the Fire Force at a distinct disadvantage in a war that they barely understand to begin with.That lack of understanding is, in fact, the whole focus of the next story arc that the remainder of “It's Time to Choose” is devoted to setting up, and while all of the exposition makes for a rather dull second half, I am admittedly interested in seeing where things go from here. As we eventually learn after checking in with a bunch of the other Fire Force companies, our heroes are aware of four active Pillars so far: Sho, Shinra, Inca, and Haumea (and the audience has already been clued in to the existence of the First Pillar, that spooky lady that haunted and taunted both Shinra and Inca). There are said to be Eight Pillars out there in the world altogether, and if the Evangelist can capture or recruit them all, the world runs the risk of another Great Cataclysm. We get a clear look at both the before Cataclysm and after Cataclysm versions of the world map this week, and based on how little landmass is left at all, it's clear that humanity won't survive a second Great Cataclysm. Shinra's mission isn't personal anymore; the fate of every human left on Earth now presumably rests on the Fire Force's ability to beat the White Clad at their own game and find the last three Pillars before the Evangelist does.
So, the gist of the whole last half of “It's Time to Choose” is that Shinra, Arthur, Tamaki, and Licht have been sent to join Takeru from 2nd Company and Ogun from 4th Company on a special team being lead by the 4th's own Purt Co Pan. Their destination: The unknown territory of the Chinese Peninsula, which is where Takeru was born. What will the Fire Force find there? A bunch of nonsense and explosions, most likely, which is exactly what we're all here for, isn't it?
Odds and Ends
• Is it just me, or is the fanservice noticeably less gross and demeaning this season? The dumb Tamaki gags are still present, but I feel like the show isn't going out of its way to linger on its women in shameful situations with demeaning camera angles. Even the shots of Tamaki and Iris performing their shirt-soaking ablutions was relatively tame compared to the full-on pinup shows we've been subject to in the past. I sure hope this is a trend that keeps up (though I'm not foolish enough to think that Fire Force has given up its lecherous “perverted middle school student” mentality completely).
• Joker shows up again to speak with Licht before the resident mad scientist departs for China, which feels like the show's way of acknowledging that you might have completely forgotten about Joker's existence since Season 1 ended, or that he and Licht were originally introduced as very suspicious bad guys to never, ever trust completely. I'm sure that won't be relevant in the near future, though.
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