by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 32 of
Fire Force ?
A lot of my enthusiastic reception of what we've seen from Fire Force Season 2 so far is colored by how much more consistent and cohesive it feels compared to the first. The fanservice is nowhere near as distracting, the plot feels much more appropriately paced, and the increased presence of the Evangelist's White Clad gives the story a much stronger framework of conflict. It's a very traditional shonen-manga story of Good vs. Evil, but that's okay, and Fire Force is continually improving the more it establishes what its world is, and why we should care about saving it beyond Shinra's personal motivation to rescue his family from the Evangelist's clutches.
”Smoldering Malevolence” is a perfect example of an episode that is not anything special or challenging, though it still ends up being a very fun and intriguing chapter of the new Chinese Peninsula Arc. The plot is simple by necessity, since this episode is all about delivering important exposition: Though the animals of the Oasis view the Tabernacle and its enigmatic creator as benevolent and holy, the local Infernals want nothing more than to destroy the symbol and source of their eternal suffering. Tempe, the Demon leader of the Infernals, is especially furious about his inability to die and reach his Heavenly reward, and he's willing to destroy the Tabernacle (and all of the animals and humans that are unfortunate enough to live nearby) to make his suicide feasible. Not only do the Fire Force members have to grapple with what to do with the Tabernacle and the mysterious numbered tablets that the Infernals have been collecting, they have a Demon to contend with too.
On a purely conceptual level, “Smoldering Malevolence” gets a lot of things right. The story of how the animals were given long lives and intelligence by the creepy grinning woman who made the Tabernacle is some solid fantasy world-building; I'm really getting into Fire Force's setting and lore in general, the more specific and weird it gets about stuff like this. The whole conflict of the Tabernacle is great stuff too, especially coming on the tail of the mini-arc where it took dozens of the strongest Fire Force members to take down the last Demon. Now, all that stands between the Peninsula and total destruction is a bunch of weird kids, a mad scientist, and their goofy, whistling soccer-mom of a team leader. The stakes aren't exactly Earth-shattering, but they're high enough to keep things fun.The little moments all work too. The jokes are funny (we get lots of funny asides from our good mole friend, Scop), and while the animation is mostly functional this week, there are a good few cuts of Shinra's fire feet flipping about all over. The intelligent Infernals make for a great variation of a familiar enemy, and their very presence raises the usual ethical dilemmas that make simple stories like Fire Force's work in the long term. What is the Church of Sol hiding about the history of this post-Cataclysm world; what other kinds of intelligent Infernals lie in wait in the battles to come; what shades of truth might the Evangelist be working in? It's all popcorn-and-candy levels of entertainment, and that's a great place for Fire Force to be. Let's all hope it can keep up this positive base-line of quality for the remainder of its run.”
Odds and Ends
• Here's to another week of Tamaki just getting to live her life without being humiliated and stripped to her underwear for the sake of cheap yuks! That very real bottle of champagne that I got last week might very well be mine in the future…
• I have no idea what it means that the Tabernacle is engraved with thousands upon thousands of digits of pi, but I do know that Fire Force pulled off one of its best “Arthur the Idiot Genius” moments when he ended up being the one who somehow knows enough Japanese pi mnemonics to have recognized it in the first place.
• I couldn't possibly tell you why, but the jokes about Pan's whistle will never not be funny to me.James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.
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