Fire Force
Episode 40

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 40 of
Fire Force ?

In a lot of ways, “Mind Blown” is very similar to last week's episode, “A Three-Way Melee,” which I praised for being a very-well executed and straightforward action episode that delivered the goods of getting the Fire Force, the White-Clad, and Haijima Corps into an all-out brawl over the fate of the newest Pillar, poor little Nataku. At least, “Mind Blown” is similar in that it continues the Fire Force/White Clad/Haijima fight from last week, and there's a lot of action. Is it straightforward and easy to follow? Mostly, though it's nowhere near as clean as before. And is it as well-executed? Yeah, about that…

Anyone that's followed me for a long time can tell you that, while I'm an animation nerd that is happy to geek out over especially gorgeous productions, I'm not the kind of guy to discard an episode for looking a little rough around the edges. Animation is hard, and I am happy to forgive inconsistency or even downright poor animation so long as the other parts of the show are up to snuff. There are no two ways about it, though: “Mind Blown” is pretty much the opposite of mind-blowing, so far as the visuals are concerned. The animation is choppy and stilted even in its best moments, the direction and choreography of the fights are completely flat, and there's just a jankiness to the flow of the whole episode that doesn't make it particularly fun to watch.

That doesn't mean that the show lacks in visual creativity; it's just being stretched a bit thin, is all. Nataku's big transformation sequence is the cut that I would say is the most…well, I don't know if I'd call it good, necessarily, but it certainly is something. When Ritsu's “Necro Pyro” powers absorb Nataku into a giant mass of raised Infernal corpses, the boy's already damaged psyche is cracked apart even further when Haumea electro-shocks his brain and sends him straight into the realm of “Infected Imagination.” Because Nataku's suffering is apparently eternal, this means that he is absolutely overcome with visions of Ghost Rekka just Ghost Rekka-ing it up all over the place, including inside of his mouth. Like, there's literally a tiny Rekka just chilling in Nataku's mouth the whole time his new corpse-suit is rampaging about. It's weird.

A lot of this episode is really weird, to be honest. The vaguely rapey electro-massage that Haumea gives Arrow is weird. The very long comedic asides that focus on Kuroko's pathological need to fight only weak things is weird, especially when it morphs into this recurring joke about how much he hates life as a “salaryman”. The fact that this whole episode is comprised of a somewhat jumbled mess of scenes that feel like they should have taken up maybe 5-10 minutes max is weird. “Mind Blown” generally just feels…you get the point.

The one narratively pointless and gleefully strange scene that I didn't mind at all was Arthur and Vulcan's assault on Über-Nataku, which plays on my favorite Fire Force fallback: Arthur's superpower of being an irredeemably dumb nerd. The setup is incredibly simple, as Vulcan has modified Company 8's Matchbox vehicle to emit a wave that will counter Haumea's powers, and Arthur needs to use his Excalibur to ignite the system. Vulcan has been around long enough to know that, in order to motivate Arthur to do anything, you have to play into his knightly delusions, so he tries to entice Arthur with the “legend of the famous knight who inserts his sword into a thing”. Arthur almost buys into the Legendary Sword-Inserting Knight routine, but just barely catches on to the fact that Excalibur is usually pulled out of stuff, and this leads to a whole debate on how inconsistently knowledgeable Arthur is about his own idiotic delusions and so on and so forth.

It is all an utterly moronic waste of time, and it was far and away my favorite part of the whole episode, since Vulcan and Arthur's “Stick Your Sword in My Matchbox, Dammit!” routine is the kind of filler that makes me laugh. The rest of the episode kills time in a way that just makes me impatient for this current arc to start wrapping things up already. Hopefully, next week will see the end of this “Rescue Nataku from Haijima!” business, and the start of something new. With any luck, Arthur will have even more opportunities to bless us with his sublime stupidity.

Rating:

Odds and Ends

• Haumea and Arrow's awkward partnership is the result of a mix-up with what the White-Clad apparently call the “Pillar Protection Buddy System”. It's been obvious for a while that Haumea and Charon usually came as a set, and so on, but I find myself unreasonably amused by the ostensible villains of the show having such goofy names for their team organization techniques.

• The whole bit with Haumea groping and, um, “vibrating” Arrow's clothes off with her electric touch was the sleaziest Fire Force has been in a while. I sure hope that doesn't become a repeating pattern in upcoming episodes.

• Vulcan gets the best line of the episode when he recites to us the official prayer of the Church of the Good Knight Arthur: “Thank goodness you're so dumb!”

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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