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Fire Force Full Series Review

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Volume 1 cover of Fire Force

This is a full series review, so there will be spoilers

Fire Force is a series where people will turn into fire monsters through combustion. There's no prediction nor pattern. Anyone and everyone is at risk. So how do you fight that? Well, that's where the Fire Force, an organization trained to put those who turn into monsters to rest. Ironically, many in the organization use fire to take the monsters down via pyrokinesis.

Shinra Kusakabe, a 3rd Generation pyrokinetic, is a new recruit at Company 8. Ready to prove his stuff, he wants to defeat the monsters in order to become a superhero and hope to find out what started the fire that took his mother and brother.

Fire Force is the fourth series by Atsushi Ohkubo, creator of Soul Eater and B.Ichi. The series was Ohkubo's final series before retiring. During its run, Fire Force was published in Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine. Kodansha USA licensed the series for an English release in 2016 and completed publishing the 34 volumes in October 2023.

Reading the entire series, you can tell Ohkubo applied his career experience into it. The pacing is top notch through the entire run. It never felt like it dragged at any point. He knew exactly when to drop breathers to allow the reader to relax from a previous intense moment and made every character relevant in some way.

I could tell that Ohkubo looked at his contemporaries during and after his Soul Eater run, picked what worked and what didn't, and applied it to Fire Force. For example, he doesn't have the Fairy Tail problem where there are too many characters who behave similarly or the Naruto problem where majority of the cast is irrelevant after a certain point. He looked at what worked and what didn't and applied it to Fire Force.

I really liked how the series breaks the 4th wall with a sledgehammer. The Tamaki chapter later in the series was one of the notable examples and later, the discussion about how people of the "past world" acted causing their ruin was very 4th wall breaking. It's very difficult for a mangaka to pull something like this off outside of a comedy series, so seeing Ohkubo do this with style where it makes sense and doesn't take the reader out of the setting presented, shows how skilled he is in his craft.

Shinra fighting Sho.

One thing that I enjoyed throughout the series was the art, specifically the paneling. It was top notch and showed a veteran at work. A good example is Sho vs Shinra. Ohkubo uses the entire page to apply unique paneling when Sho attacks using one of his signature moves. Even with the unique usage of the panels, I could still follow the flow of the fight.

I loved that Company 8 felt like an actual family. Obi would be the father figure of the group. the central pillar of the company. After him, you have Maki Oze and Takehisa Hinawa as the older sister and brother to the younger members respectively. One of my favorite running gags is with Maki's flames Sputter. Takehisa will always dump water on Sputter saying, "Fire Soldiers should not be playing with fire!" and Maki always cries about the loss of Sputter.

You then have Shinra and Arthur as the middle brothers of the group who always fight but deep down care for one another. Tamaki is like the middle sister who engages with Shinra and Arthur in their fights, but gets disrupted due to her affliction (more about that later). Lastly, you have Iris as the youngest sibling. Being the nun, she's protected since she doesn't have any offensive skills. That coupled with her gentle personality, she's immensely protected by the company.

The series has incredible worldbuilding! Ohkubo makes many callbacks to the established lore. One of my favorites is the Burns & Maki scene in the cathedral. To provide context, the companies within Fire Force are owned/controlled by one of three groups: The Holy Sol Church, the military, or the business Haijima Industries. companies or people under the church use the church's prayer in lieu of a salute (Iris does this).

What I like is that Burns asks Maki to do the prayer gesture while in the church instead of a military salute! It's a trivial scene but it shows that the mangaka kept to his worldbuilding. he didn't only bring it up when it was relevant to the current plot.

Maki, Juggernaut, and others giving a military salute to Burns which is improper since Burns is part of the church

Due to the destruction of the world, Japan ended up becoming a melting pot with different ethnicities interacting with one another on a daily basis. I thought this was an interesting approach because in works such as this, the country doesn't face having to become a melting pot and what that entails. There's even a group who wants to keep Japanese traditions and oppose the Holy Sol teachings (Company 7 lead by Benimaru).

Haumea, one of the antagonists of the series.

Side note: did you know Haumea is Hawaiian? Volume 11 mentions this in the translator notes!

Like I mentioned above, Ohkubo made every character relevant to the overall story. This is seen with the Fire Force captains. Each one had a reoccurring, important role in each arc. This is something I don't think we see often in a battle shonen series. Series like Naruto, Bleach, My Hero Academia, and Fairy Tail (to name a few) introduced characters that ended up not being relevant to the story after some time in favor of a select few characters. Fire Force fixes that problem by having each captain work with Company 8 (or Company 5) in some extent within an arc. When push comes to shove, they step up and Ohkubo shifts the focus from Company 8 to that captain and their unit.

Ohkubo's character designs on minorities in Fire Force is something people in the online community don't seem to bring up much, but it's something that should be vocalized more! He designs characters that aren't offensive-looking and behave similar to others. They have their own goals and desires that make you as the reader (especially if you are of the same ethnicity as them) relate to them (I've heard he did this in Soul Eater but I have never watched or read it so this is my first experience consuming his work). This is seen with Ogun, Hyang, and Juggernaut to name a few!

Speaking of translator notes, I would highly suggest reading them! They were incredibly informative with how they decided to handle certain translations, especially with Benimaru and Konro. Both Aletha & Athena Nibley deserve all the praise and accolades on translating the series! You can tell they enjoyed working on this as you read it.

Translator Notes at the end of a volume.

One of the ongoing themes in the story is "saving life" and "the concept of death". I thought it was an interesting theme to tackle. Is saving a life what both parties desire, or is itt more for the "hero"? Does saving a life mean everyone, or just a select few?

This concept is discussed throughout the series and the decision seems to fall under giving the affected party the decision. In the end, Ameratsu decided not to go to the new world, even though the value of death had decreased. They had lived a life full of pain. They were done. They don't know if anything would change in the new world but they didn't want to risk it and requested Iris live for both of them. That being said, characters such as Rekka or Inca decided to choose life. Shinra had to save them and bring them back because they wanted to come back.

I missed the "break" chapters as the story progressed. I liked the breathers seeing Company 8 interact with one another (like the girls going shopping or the calendar shoot) so when we lost those kinds of scenes, it an intense rollercoaster of non-stop story beats.

One thing I wanted to mention was the elephant in the room: Tamaki Kotatsu.

She is the most polarizing character across the Western online anime and manga community. People have dropped the series solely due to her and her "Lucky Lecher Lure" which is an affliction where she gets fan serviced. The affliction will cause her clothes will fly off and she'll be in her panties or have one of the male characters gets their full arm (or even head in Shinra's case) under her shirt. The situation is uncomfortable for both parties involved.

I feel like Tamaki is a quick excuse to say why one doesn't like the series, whether they consumed the work or not. One doesn't have to watch or read Fire Force to use it when the real reason might just be that they're not interested in consuming it.

Tamaki is a satire on how old rom-coms and battle shonens treated some of their female characters (i.e., Air Gear, Fairy Tail, 7 Deadly Sins, etc.) via her Lucky Lecher Lure. Actually, there's a translator note mentioning this in one of the volumes too!

What makes the scene humorous is how everyone else handles the situation with her. Assault is frustrated and upset, Shinra gets annoyed, and Benimaru just questions why it happened. Tamaki even hates it as the reader gets a flashback on how it started and how it affected her life up until the current point in the story. The intent on Tamaki was a risky move to pull off by Ohkubo, but I think he executed it well.

Alternate Assault is criticizing Tamaki of her lucky lecher lure. This was to represent how the public and social media creators criticized the series of fan service whether they read it or not

Ohkubo even addresses the Tamaki criticisms with one of her later fights. I remember when the chapter released in Japan because many anime and manga content creators on social media were very upset about it (they got personally called out).

A boy criticizing his mother who commented on Tamaki's lucky lecher lure/fan service. This scene represents Ohkubo's response to the critics of Tamaki by saying that they cannot think for themselves and are going along with the crowd

Overall, Fire Force is the best battle shonen I have ever read. You can tell the passion and effort he put into this to make sure the world and its characters are relatable, fun, and multidimensional while the plot is consistent and doesn't overstay its welcome. This series felt like Ohkubo's swan song. For a final series to wrap up one's career, I felt like he hit a homerun with Fire Force!

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