by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Fire Force ?
Princess' rushed redemption arc may have been a bust, but I came to a realization watching "The Investigation of the 1st Commences", which is that when the show leans into its workplace-comedy instincts, it's easier to take its stumbles with more serious-minded storytelling in stride. This week's episode is all over the place narratively speaking, but it feels much more cohesive in terms of tone than the past few episodes have been, which bodes well for the long-term health of the show. If this represents the baseline of quality that we can expect from Fire Force over the next year of episodes, then I think we'll be just fine.
The first half of the episode is essentially a debriefing, with Captains Obi and Hibana sizing each other up at a joint Company 5 & 8 barbecue. It's a well-directed and strikingly colorful sequence, which elevates the scene's on-the-nose writing. That someone is intentionally transforming people into Infernals is news that will surprise absolutely nobody, and I think it speaks to the shortcomings of recent episodes that Princess can summarize the totality of her heel-face turn by explaining that she used to think the only way to fight evil was with more evil, until Shinra punched her so hard that she believed in the power of goodness again. It's almost like Ōkubo himself is admitting that the whole ordeal was just an excuse to get Princess siding with the good guys as soon as possible. I'm not a fan of the dopey, forced fanservice we get in this week's shower sequences – which seems to be Fire Force's default avenue of interaction for its female characters – but I do think Princess fits in well with the show's ensemble.
The rest of the episode is all about Company 1, led by a trio of eccentric Lieutenant Priests and the not-at-all-sinister Captain Burns. Shinra, Arthur, and Maki are sent under the pretense of a rookie reassignment exercise to investigate what Burns is up to at the Holy Sol Obelisk, and naturally the first thing Shinra does when they arrive is challenge the 1st Company Officers to a sparring match. It's a goofy and transparent move for both Shinra and the show itself; our hero wants to squeeze information out of Burns about the Infernals and his missing brother, and Fire Force wants to squeeze in some more action to spice up all of the office intrigue. It's not the smoothest way to keep the story moving, but Fire Force hasn't ever been about subtlety – this is the episode where Lieutenant Karim Flam introduces himself by telling Arthur: “You've got the ass of an ass. An ass should ass like an ass…ass.”The actual sparring match is decent stuff; not the best action we've seen from the show, but not the worst. Tamaki shows up again, which is nice, especially since she's spared any overt humiliation from that dumb Lucky Lecher Lure thing, and Lieutenant Rekka makes a solid impression as yet another antagonist with bizarre pupils who likes blowing things up real good. The most interesting moment had to be Flam's thermo-acoustic fighting apparatus, which converts thermal energy into sound waves that can be converted into frigid air, allowing him to use pyrokinetics to freeze stuff instead. A cursory internet search tells me that this is indeed a real thing that science has been playing with for years, so not only is Flam an entertaining idiot with a nifty superpower, his powers are educational to boot.
I don't think my prediction that Captain Burns and Company 1 are up to no good is a scorching hot take or anything, so while I hope the show doesn't blaze through things as quickly as it did with Princess' story, it also shouldn't spend too much time getting through the next arc. If Fire Force's writing is going to remain so basic with its familiar tropes and character arcs, it'll need to abide by the Goldilocks Principle and figure out a pace that feels just right, where we get to have enough goofy fun to get us to the next phase of the story without thinking about things too hard.
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