Fire Force
Episode 34

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 34 of
Fire Force ?

With the Chinese Peninsula Arc drawing to a close, “The Woman in Black” follows the usual Fire Force pattern of tying up a string of action heavy episodes with a whole lot of exposition and rumination on what our heroes will be facing next. The show has one more killer action beat to flex with before switching gears back to the plot, though, and that comes when Shinra promises that the single second of Grace that the WiB can afford to bestow upon him will be more than enough to deal with Tempe. Unleashing a level of power that we haven't seen since his battle with Shou at the end of last season, Shinra hits Tempe with a kick that exceeds the speed of light, which goes so far as to give Shinra a glimpse of Tempe's last moments as a human, before a fateful encounter with the Evangelist herself swallowed his life up in centuries of burning.

After laying Tempe to rest and debriefing with both the WiB and the rest of the crew, Shinra (and the audience) arrive at a place where they know much more about the Evangelist than when this journey began, yet all that knowledge can do at this point is open the doors to further, stranger mysteries. Seemingly hailing from another world entirely, the Evangelist is an ancient being whose influence on mankind could be felt long before the Great Cataclysm. While the WiB was merely a human Pillar that the Evangelist brought to be sacrificed at the altar of Tabernacle 250 years ago, she surmises that the Evangelist herself has been meddling with the collective consciousness of the human species since the dawn of civilization. Since all religions share some similar concepts of gods and devils being locked in an eternal struggle of light versus darkness, it could very well be that the Evangelist concocted the myths herself to literally put the fear of God(s) into people.

Why would the Evangelist, whose influence and ability to forge links between humans and Adolla seemingly made the world into what it is today, now be out to undo the fruits of her millenia-long labors? What does the Evangelist even stand to gain from sewing these seeds of discord and ruin, and what is there to be learned of the other world from which she came? Furthermore, if reactors such as Tabernacle and Amaterasu are fueled by the perpetually blazing remnants of Pillars that were offered up as sacrifices, what does that say about the false histories being pushed out by the likes of Haijima and the Holy Sol Temple? Can anyone be trusted at this point?

Probably not, but the good members of Company 8 have known that all along, and besides, the Chinese Peninsula mission was an unqualified success: They now have a clear idea of what the Evangelist's primary objectives are, and they have even more leads on where/how to pursue the unidentified Pillars, even if they don't quite know what the Evangelist's ultimate goal is yet. Personally, I'm just excited to see that the mishmash of religious iconography and political allegory isn't just window dressing for Fire Force. I still don't expect the show to start busting out hypercritical academic treatises on the historical use of religious fervor and nationalistic subtext to propagate the suffering of others, but Fire Force seems to be working up to some kind of coherent statement on the subject matter.

What's more, I'm feeling more reassured by the day that the show is going to come down on the “Abusing people's faith and stoking the flames of nationalism for political gain is a bad thing” side of the conversation, which can only be a good thing. Fire Force's second season is just as goofy, ridiculous, and willfully dumb as its first, but it feels so much more mature in the way it handles its characters, storytelling, and themes. That, too, can only be a good thing.

Rating:

Odds and Ends

• Farewell to Scop, and to his crow buddy (who I don't think ever got a name). Any good talking animal friends that want to help in the fight for truth, justice, and the right to not spontaneously combust into a terrifying flame demon are alright by me, and I'm going to count them as honorary Fire Force members from here on out.

• Though the show still feels weird in the way it frames and sexualizes both its heroic and villainous female characters, recent developments have me thinking that the show is heading in the right direction. The Woman in Black is framed as a victim of circumstance and centuries of suffering, but she is also allowed to have power and agency even in her phantom state — even if that power can only be wielded by Shinra. The First Pillar (who I'll be referring to as Amaterasu from now on, as Shinra does) still has a weird dynamic going on with Iris — Iris is a Good Girl who is Innocent, Pure, and Virginal, while Amaterasu is her perpetually naked and seductive doppelganger. That being said, this week's revelations paint her in a much more ambiguous light; she is, if anything, a victim lashing out in righteous fury. Hopefully both Amaterasu and Iris can receive some more attention from the story so that they seem less like living embodiments of the Maddona/Whore Complex and more like, you know, people?

Fire Force is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation .

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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