The ED spoiled me rotten.
I probably should’ve expected that to begin with. I mean, the ED is fantastic, possibly my favorite one of the year. It’s just that giving away what happened to Iris and, by extension, Hibana, might’ve been both a good and a bad move to make. Good in that it raises a lot of eyebrows over what’s in store. Bad because it ultimately robs the episode that actually goes into detail a ton of shock value. And while Fire Force looks great in general, you can’t beat the art direction of the ED. The softer color palette promoting a feeling of nostalgia and tranquility combined with the harsh reds of the fires that ultimately burns it all down is far more evocative than the show’s normal look.
There is also the matter of censorship in the wake of the KyoAni fire. I highly doubt that one shot showing the people burning alive and becoming Infernals originally had such a heavy shadow effect. That had to have been added last minute. And this is all speculation but this episode repeatedly cycles some of the same shots in the flashback sequences and that makes me wonder if there was a lot of sensitive material that got cut out. I’m torn. I completely understand distancing from an incredibly unfortunate coincidence. And yet, I still wish the episode was left unaltered. You need something that visually shocking in order to match the shock on the characters’ faces. Maybe there could’ve been a cleverer workaround but the sad thing is that staff probably lacked the time to find it.
I’m hoping we’re not done with this whole backstory. Thing is that this episode centers more on Hibana’s perspective on the ordeal than Iris’s. I don’t mind that decision. Just the scene where she shows off her powers to Iris and the other girls helps humanize her and even when she goes zany again, it at least signifies a transformation this time around. Even if she was always a woman of science and not that much into religion, the people at the orphanage were still her family and seeing them all die did a number on her. Still, I want to learn more of how Iris deals with the whole thing. It didn’t look like she’s over it last episode and you get much of a follow-up to that here. Glossing over it after showing the ED since Episode 1 would be a souring move to make.
As for the fight between Shinra and Hibana, it is a little on the simple side. To Hibana’s credit, she has quite the application of pyrokinesis. We’ve seen one ability before: a manipulation of body heat so that the enemy is on the verge of passing out. In addition to that, we learn that Hibana likes to turn her flames into flowers, her most dangerous variant being a flaming tree that sprouts white hot sakura petals that can scorch your skin. Is this realistic? No but it’s a dazzling visual nonetheless. David Production needs to stop bringing their A-game to this show. At the rate they’ve been going, I’ll never be able to look at fire the same way ever again.
Still, the fight boils down to Shinra tanking a lot and hitting Hibana really hard. Not that I expected Shinra to be the most cunning individual out there but it is disappointing to see a lack of clever thinking. His best solution for Hibana messing with his body heat was simply tricking himself into thinking the exhaustion is all in his head. I was hoping for my prediction that Obi will join as a surprise attacker to come true but that ultimately didn’t happen either. Turns out the captain was busy handling PR. As funny as that is, it’s kind of sad to see poor Obi out of the fray. I hope this won’t become a thing in Fire Force.
I don’t really mind that Hibana turns over a new leaf (that’s not a pun, is it?). Bad guy becoming good guy by getting hit really hard is a standard development in shounen stories. It happened in Soul Eater so why not have it happen here. I’d say it’s for the better too. Hibana acts so cartoonish as a villain that it doesn’t seem viable for long-term antagonism. At least the shift makes sense. Iris immediately reconciling with Hibana is a no-brainer. She always wanted to believe that there’s good in her sister. The sudden crush on Shinra is a little out of the blue but I like that Shinra’s claims of heroism makes Hibana gain a new kind of faith, the kind that’s directed towards people.
Actions do speak louder than words though. Helping Company 8 cover up the whole battle is certainly a step in the right direction but it would suck if that’s all Hibana does for them. I really hope that she’ll hand over her research. Besides rescuing Iris, that’s what 8th was after anyway. Better yet, give some valuable intel on Haijima Industries. Surely, she has some dirt on them. I’d be shocked if none of this happens next episode.
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