by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 47 of
Fire Force ?
”Firecat” is a pretty darned good episode of Fire Force's second season that wrestles with one of the show's longest standing failings: Its treatment of Tamaki “Lucky Lecher Lure” Kotatsu. After Shinra and Hibana have a very brief meeting with Company 7's Lt. Konro to discuss the nature of his Adolla Link, the crew sticks around in Asakusa because Tamaki is sick and tired of being Fire Force's literal token punching bag, and she entreats Benimaru to impart some of the training that Shrina received so she can finally drop the damsel-in-distress routine and start standing up for herself. For pretty much the first time, this is Tamaki's show, and her character is being taken…well, as seriously as Fire Force can manage after two full seasons of Lucky Lecher Lure nonsense.
This stage of Tamaki's character development has been telegraphed for a long while now, and while I can see why the disastrous fight in the Nether this season works as a fine impetus for Tamaki to take the reigns of her agency back, I can't help but wish the show had gotten around to this story a lot sooner. Hell, it would have made sense for Tamaki to join up with Shinra when he originally went to Benumaru for training in Season One, since the abuse and betrayal she suffered at Rekka's hands was still a fresh memory in both her mind and the audience's. Part of the reason that Tamaki's defeat in the Nether felt so egregious was precisely because it simply repeated the same sad emotional beats from the Rekka fight, demonstrating that Tamaki has remained completely static since her transfer to Company 8. When a show treats a character like a complete joke for 90% of its run, and then uses the other 10% of the time to beat her within an inch of her life, it shouldn't be too surprising when viewers start to feel gross about the whole situation.
So, does one episode of flashbacks and a single game of violent tag justify or make up for how Fire Force has handled Tamaki these last forty-seven episodes? Absolutely not. The context does go a long way towards making Tamaki an actual character, though, and that counts for something. Who she is as a person becomes much clearer when we see how she was ushered into the career path of becoming a Holy Sister almost as an afterthought, only to be shooed into service as a Fire Force member with equally frivolous abandon when her 3rd Gen pyrokinetic abilities manifested (her pink twin-tail flames came shooting out of her ass during a Lecher Lure incident, naturally).
It's a classic kind of anime hero dilemma: Tamaki has the natural pyro talent to become a very powerful fighter, but she lacks any kind of internal motivation. She never wanted to be a Fire Force fighter, because she doesn't seem to have ever wanted much of anything aside from basic human connections. It's still pretty dumb that Fire Force wants to have its cheesecake and eat it too by trying to exploit the drama of the ostracization that Tamaki has faced because of how often her genitals wind up shoved into people's faces…but goddammit, it kind of worked. Only a little; not enough to keep me from recognizing how stupid it all was, mind you, but still. Seeing Tamaki realize that she's made honest-to-God friends at Company 8, who'll eat lunch with her no matter how many times her boobs try to force their way down their throats mid-conversation, is infuriatingly heartwarming. I don't want to give Fire Force any Lucky Lecher Lure-adjacent kudos, but we're four dozen episodes into this ridiculous story, and the Stockholm Syndrome must be settling in for the long haul.
Besides, the animation was really on point this week. Tamaki's extended game of tag with the Company 7 twins is just a whole lot of fun to behold, featuring dynamic camera movement and some really creative flourishes with Tamaki's fire-cat features. The flashback to Konro's encounter with the mysterious Demon doppelganger is cool as hell too, featuring those stylized colors and exaggerated proportions that I wish we'd gotten even more of these last two seasons. I've long since resigned myself to the fact that the Lucky Lecher Lure isn't going anywhere, but “Firecat” is the first time I'm glad to know that, because it means Tamaki is sticking around too. If we ever get a Season 3 of this show, I hope it takes even more opportunities to give this unsung heroine opportunities to put these ass-kicking lessons to good use.
Odds and Ends
• I definitely screwed up in my note-taking last week, which caused me to misidentify Obi as the one who Adolla Linked with Shinra, not Konro. That's my bad!
• Best line of the week is when Shinra explains why Tamaki needs to have more respect for herself, Lecher Lure and all, by pointing to Arthur, who is also sitting for lunch, and exclaiming: “I mean, look at that idiot. He's as low as they come, but he always sits on the birthday boy's seat.”
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