by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 46 of
Fire Force ?
“Plot for Extinction” is the kind of episode that can do a lot to redeem a middling arc, which is unfortunately how I would describe this second excursion into the Nether. The whole adventure has felt rushed and vague in a way that made the stakes difficult to parse until this final chapter, and its purpose in the story has felt more like an excuse to toss exposition at the heroes (and the audience), rather than a necessary and well-planned component of the narrative. Despite the high body count and excess of action, not a whole lot has happened down here: Juggernaut's fight was its own self-contained thing that didn't reveal anything meaningful about the plot or world, and ditto for the duel against that buff knight guy; the rest of the White Clad have apparently just been chilling on the sidelines (though we'll get back to that later); and Giovanni's reintroduction as one of the key villains working for the Evangelist also feels choppy because the guy has had virtually no presence in the story since the assault on Vulcan's lab, which feels like it happened ages ago.
Still, as far as spectacle is concerned, Nether Raid 2.0 has been entertaining enough, and “Plot for Extinction” at least caps off the whole thing with a bang, both in that it brings Maki back, and that it introduces a genuinely cataclysmic threat that needs to be addressed immediately. Plus, the whole episode kicks off with a climactic fight scene, finishing off Arthur and Shinra's extended battle with Giovanni. This fight was clearly produced with a lot of love and care, sporting some of the freshest and cleanest animation we've seen yet this season, and while I still think the good doctor's bug powers are more than a little dumb, they're unique and gross enough to keep the sequence feeling creepy and cool. The culmination of the fight also features yet another Grade-A Arthur joke, where he discovers that the only way to beat Giovanni's mind/pheromone reading powers is to completely empty his mind of all thought and intention. Given that Arthur might actually be the dumbest person to ever live in many respects, he achieves this state of near-supernatural peace-of-mind with ease. Hell yeah.
The White Clad's scheme to explode all of Tokyo is also pretty interesting, as it sees the villains utilizing a scientific principle called the Munroe-Neumann effect to treat all of these undead Infernals like the explosives in a demolition site's blasting charge. By arranging them in a conelike shape directly beneath the center of the city, the idea is to level all of it in a single, monumental blast. This is obviously bad news, and Licht determines that the only hope to both mitigate the blast and keep them all from roasting to death is to enlist the services of the most powerful 2nd-Gen Pyro on the Force. That's right, y'all, Maki is back!
The reveal that Vulcan had a direct two-way communication link with Maki this whole time confirms my earlier suspicion that nobody really intended for Maki to permanently quit the team, though that makes the whole execution of this very brief sub-plot seem all the shakier in retrospect. Why didn't they just pull the more typical plot of Maki's brother joining her on this mission, haranguing her the entire time as he acts as an observer, only to relent when he sees how useful and at-home she is on the field? Why spend a weirdly large amount of screen-time setting up her new job as a military secretary if she was just going to show up for the finale, anyways? Either way, Maki arrives, ready and willing to risk her life to save the city, and it's a sweet climax to an otherwise rocky story arc. It doesn't quite live up to the marvelous conclusion to the season's first arc, where Maki helped make that flaming rail gun of death, but it's good enough.
So that's where this second Nether Arc leaves us, with a few stray crumbs of foreshadowing to reckon with (more on those below), and the sense that Company 8 is more determined to kick the Evangelist's ass than ever before. Did we really need a whole mini-arc to get all of this done? Probably not. But it could have ended a whole lot worse, and we seem to be back on track for the end of the season, so I'll count my blessings that we were able to get to “good enough” at all.
Odds and Ends
• Giovanni reveals that only people touched by Adollla, or gifted with an Adolla Burst, can communicate telepathically with each other as Giovanni has with Shinra. The only other person to do so thus far, though, is Captain Obi of all people, which has fascinating implications going forward (though I will admit to not liking the idea of giving the guy late-stage Pyro Powers – the whole thing that makes him such a badass is how much he can accomplish without them!).
• I've mentioned the complete lack of Sho's presence this season as one of its most glaring missing components. Well, we get to see that he's still with the White Clad this week, getting dolled up with makeup by Haumea and…I don't know how else to say this, but when Giovanni calls Sho Haumea's “plaything”, are we supposed to interpret that as meaning Sho is being sexually abused by her? Because if so, what in the actual hell, Fire Force? First Joker, and now Sho? This show needs to maybe consider the fact that it doesn't possess anywhere near the level of tact or subtlety to address such a heavy and gross subject matter. Good grief.
• Finally, with only a scant couple of episodes left in the season, and no official word of any further seasons so far as I'm aware, I have to wonder: Are we headed towards an anime original ending, or is Season 2 just going to end with a big, fat “To Be Continued” slapped on the end of it?
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