So, you guys have heard of Soul Eater, right? I assume most of you have heard of it if you’re reading this. Well, it’s from Atsushi Ōkubo and I hear it’s really good–personally, I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I have started collecting the hardcovers, sight unseen, simply based on watching the Fire Force anime–but I don’t know if it’s going to be the series that ends up defining him.
You see, along came Fire Force. A series set 250-some years after a massive, world-changing event known as the Great Cataclysm where people spontaneously combust and become mindless (usually) demon-like beings engulfed in flames until they are inevitably “put to rest” by a special brand of firefighters known as, well, you guessed it: the Fire Force. While some in this fire force as normal, everyday humans, there are some that have evolved pyrokinetic powers. Three generations worth (well, I guess a fourth is coming into its own, but that’s probably a discussion for another review), as a matter of fact, each with their own attributes and steadily getting more proficient as the generations pass. Some can manipulate fire, some can create fire, some can do both–hell some can stop time, just with the heat of their fire alone.
So, yeah, there are some badass, fire-welding people in this series. From Fire Force Company 8’s badass Maki Oze, second generation, to the main character, and third generation, Shinra Kusakabe of, well, also Company 8. But this isn’t just a random, power scaling romp from one fight to the next as other series in the shonen genre might lean towards. There is some real heart in this series. The characters are fantastically odd in their own, individual rights–sounds like I might gravitate toward large groups of weirdos and misfits–but also deep and intriguing. They all have their own backstories and goals and reasons why they joined the Fire Force and, honestly, they’re all interesting and almost instantly get you to connect with them.
Standouts, however, have to be Shinra and Arthur Boyle and their whole dynamic. Shinra wants to be a hero and Arthur… well, Arthur is a special case of badass and maybe a little light in the thought process department. He thinks he’s a knight–yes, like King Arthur style knight–and the more he believes he’s a knight the strong he gets. It’s ridiculous and awesome simultaneously. Not to mention the dynamic these two have has made me laugh out loud, reading by myself, on more than one occasion. Another that, based on what I saw with the anime, I couldn’t get to fast enough was proto-nationalist Shinmon Benimaru. I mean. This guy, you guys. An absolute, world-breaking badass with a heart of gold even if he puts on a grumpy front. He’s the kind of character that can make people pick up the series, he’s that good (in my humble opinion, of course).
Other standouts are the aforementioned badass Maki and we probably can’t escape Tamaki. Yes, there is some fan service in this series. But, damn, Tamaki is a clumsy, loveable doofus who, by volume 10, is really starting to find herself. You can be a badass and still accidentally stumble for no apparent reason, have your top come flying off and land ass first onto Shinra’s face and still be a badass, okay? Plus, you know, who fire makes her look like she has cat ears so, cute right?
It doesn’t have to make sense, just go with it!
Look, at the end of the day, even disregarding how awesome the anime is and the fact that you definitely have to watch it, the first ten volumes of Fire Force are phenomenal. Ōkubo’s art slips in and out of highly detailed to monstrous motion to crazy, simplistic facial reactions of the characters. The character designs are off the chart awesome and I have to imagine that he either loves drawing fire or has grown to absolutely hate it–or his assistants do it for him now, so it doesn’t matter–but either way, even in black and white, it leaps off the page and pulls you into each panel.
I know that there are some super cool things coming up, but I still can’t wait to read them and experience them again and in a different way than the anime. Fire Force is something special (and it’s reportedly entering its final arc soon) and if you liked Soul Eater or, hell, even if you haven’t gotten to it like me and it is just sitting on yourself taunting you, Fire Force is something you cannot miss out on.
Oh, and if you haven’t started picking them up yet, Kodansha just announced 2-in-1 omnibus collections are coming so now is the perfect time to check out this series! (Man, I hope they’re hardcover… I can upgrade!)