by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 45 of
Fire Force ?
I'm glad that years of being underwhelmed by Tamaki's entire existence conditioned me not to get my hopes up by “Enemy Contact's” pre-credits tease, which hints at an epic battle for Tamaki as she defends Juggernaut and attempts to rescue him from the Nether's hordes of undead and White Clad. The truth is, that barely factors into this episode's story, and even then, it mostly involves her getting beaten up and rescued by the guys on the team. Again.
Instead, this action-heavy episode of Fire Force splits its focus between two different mini-boss fights. The first sees Shinra and Arthur squaring off against Dr. Giovanni, who has given himself some truly nasty upgrades in his search to perfectly emulate the Insects that he reveres so much. Meanwhile, Lt. Hinawa and Maki's brother, Takigi, take on the doofiest-looking brute that the show has thrown at us yet: Iron Knight of the Purple Haze. One of these fights is honestly pretty badass, despite the relative lack of plot development. The other one…not so much.
You can definitely tell that the production crew's energies were focused on the Giovanni fight, as it features much more dynamic animation and direction, and some delightfully gruesome body-horror at that. There isn't much to “get” from the fight outside of the fact that this investigation into the Nether Laboratory was a super obvious trap, and that Giovanni is up to some very weird shit in these underground tunnels, but that's fine. It's cool just to see Arthur and Shinra duking it out with Giovanni, who is sporting some nasty new appendages, along with some dubiously explained bug powers. It's a little dumb that Giovanni giving himself a moth's “hair pencils” would also grant him mind-reading powers, or whatever, but you know what? Fire Force is pretty dumb, so I guess I won't waste too much time questioning things. Leaves more room to appreciate the cool fights and slick animation. Plus, Arthur gets to be really, really stupid, and that's always a good time.
The Iron Knight was much less engaging, unfortunately. For one, the guy's 'roided-out physique and white hood kind of make him look like he's attempting the world's saddest cosplay of Silent Hill's Pyramid Head, which makes him one of the least intimidating villains Fire Force has featured to date (and that's even taking Assault into account, which is really saying something). It doesn't help that Hinawa and Takigi spend the entire fight bickering about Maki having been put in similar situations in the past. Takigi's insistence that he “saved” his sister from being a buff badass just makes him sound like an asshole, which leaves Hinawa to do his usual Ricochet thing while repeatedly insisting that Takigi shut the hell up and focus for a second. It just isn't a very fun fight to watch, which would be easier to forgive if the sequence didn't take up nearly a third of the episode.
Finally, when we do pick back up with Tamaki's Endless Abuse Adventure, Fire Force at least has the good sense to end things quickly, bringing in Captain Obi and that one guy that headbutts everything to finish off the White Clad. Poor Tamaki is left to be the butt of some more lame jokes, including an accidental groping from Licht, because sure, why the hell not, Fire Force? This wasn't a terrible episode, but it does feel like a callback to the worst habits of Fire Force's first season, which the show had done a good job of avoiding this year. With so few episodes left in this season, I hope Fire Force can pick back up with its own personal redemption arc. God Forbid we see it succumb to a full-on Lucky Lecher Lure relapse, or something.
Odds and Ends
• “Enemy Contact” even cuts to Maki wistfully wasting away her time as a military secretary, as if to rub salt in the wound. Not cool, Fire Force.
• Anyone else think it's weird that Sho has been almost completely absent from this entire season?
• Best joke of the week: Arthur's complete inability to understand what “bringing up the rear” means, which results in him essentially abandoning two FF redshirts to potentially horrifying deaths. Gold star, buddy!
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