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urbanbreathnyc.com > Anime Reviews > Summer 2019 > Fire Force Episode 3 Review: The Rookie Fire Soldier Games
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What can I say? Fire Force is starting to grow on me… slowly, but surely I’m warming up to the series despite some questionable elements. Episode 3, ‘The Rookie Fire Soldier Games’, had some surprising depth to it and after a bit of ambivalence after Episode 1, I can honestly say I’m invested in Fire Force… 

Japanese Title: 消防官新人大会

Plot

The Rookie Fire Soldier Games are finally here and rookies from each of the 8 Special Fire Force Companies gather to show off their abilities and bring glory to their respective teams. At the games, Shinra recognizes Leonard Burns, the fire soldier that saved him after the fire that killed his family 12 years ago. However, Burns denies ever having met Shinra or even remembering the fire in question, which is both suspicious and a bit disheartening. But Shinra pushes it from his mind and gears up to start the Fire Soldier games challenge; the recruits are required to enter a building filled with traps in order to take down crewmen posing as Infernals. 

When Shinra enters the building, he is met with a strange man who promises to reveal important information about the fire that destroyed his home 12 years ago. Shinra is having none of that, attacking the man only for his opponent to release the same mysterious ash that destroyed the Infernal’s house in Episode 2. Arthur and Tamaki both come to his aid and they manage to get away, but not before the man reveals that Shinra’s younger brother, Sho, is still alive. 

After the encounter, Shinra has a heart to heart with Captain Obi, who reveals the truth behind the various Fire Force companies and that Company 8 has a special mission: to investigate the other 7 companies…

Episode Highlights

Rookie Fire Soldier Games: This week’s episode focuses on the much-anticipated Rookie Fire Soldier Games, an event where all the new recruits from all the Special Fire Force companies compete against one another. The event varies by year, but the Games are meant to test the abilities of the new recruits and instill a bit of healthy competition amongst the members of the Fire Force. In this year’s competition, the rookies have to navigate a test building full of various traps and take down one of the crew members posing as an ‘Infernal’. Both Shinra and Arthur are competing for Company 8, but we also meet one of the rookies from Company 1, Tamaki. 

Captain Leonard Burns: Shinra encounters the Captain of Company 1, Leonard Burns, the man who saved him from the fire that claimed the lives of his mother and brother. A gruff looking older man, Burns is a veteran of the Fire Force and a respected leader. While he denies knowing anything about the incident from 12 years ago, it’s clear that Burns knows much more than he’s letting on. 

New Villain – Joker: Upon entering the test building, Shinra encounters Joker, a mysterious man who reveals that he has information about the incident from 12 years ago. However, rather than just telling Shinra what he knows, Joker goads Shinra into a fight even employing the same ash that was used during the Infernal encounter in Episode 2. 

Animation Wins – Joker v. Shinra: One of the few things I’ve enjoyed in this series is the animation during the fighting scenes and I think the Joker fight in this episode tops the Maki v Shinra/Maki v Arthur fight in last week’s episode. Most of the fights in this series involve a lot of fire and movement and the animators did a fantastic job of showcasing both. The character movements are fluid and full of energy, while the fire operates as an extension of the characters. 

World Building: This week’s episode had some great world building! We learn that after the Infernal/Spontaneous Combustion Crisis most of the world is uninhabitable, and the areas that are have been cordoned off. In Japan, the habitable regions are divided up Hunger Games style into 8 districts. Each district is under the protection of one of the 8 Special Fire Force Companies, which are in turn backed by either Haijima Industries, Holy Sol Temple, or The Tokyo Armed Forces. 

Themes and Trivia

Amaterasu: Captain Obi mentions a thermal energy plant developed by Haijima Industries. The plant is named after Amaterasu, a figure from Japanese mythology and one of the major deities of the Shinto religion. Amaterasu or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami is the Goddess of the Sun.

Nekomata: Tamaki’s pyrokinetic abilities give her cat-like appendages (a flaming tail, claws, and cat ears), which she refers to as nekomata. A nekomata is a cat-like youkai from Japanese myth. There are two types of nekomata, those that live in the mountains and those that live were once domesticated cats that became nekomata through immense age. 

Comments

So, I expected an episode named ‘The Rookie Fire Soldier Games’ to actually focus on the Rookie Fire Soldier Games, but instead the event was little more than a plot point to facilitate some more world building and the incident from 12 years ago. Shinra meets Leonard Burns, the Captain of Company 1 and the Fire Soldier that saved him from the fire 12 years ago. Burns denies knowing anything about the incident, which plants seeds of suspicion in Shinra’s head that makes him question the Fire Force and everything he ‘knows’ to be true. He then meets Joker, the ‘antagonist’ that claims to know the truth about everything, further disrupting Shinra’s world view… and then, he has a chat with Cap’n Obi who straight up tells Shinra that the Fire Force is shady af. Now, I’m not complaining, because I will be the first to admit that I don’t care for tournament arcs very much (Haikyuu aside) and I really liked learning more about the world of Fire Force. However, I kind of wish they’d have focused on the Rookie Games in a separate episode and then do a separate episode with all these ‘reveals’. That way we can interact with the other rookies and Fire Force companies without this spectre of suspicion hanging in the air. 

That being said, I really enjoyed the world building and the expansion of Obi’s character. He went from genki guy to secret spy in no time flat and I definitely can’t wait to see more of his serious side. 

Now, Joker… or anime Gambit is definitely an interesting antagonist. Even after attacking Shinra and Co at the games, I’m not exactly sure that he’s really the bad guy. Sure, he’s no angel, but I’m not getting evil vibes from him either. Hey, maybe I’m wrong and he’s the big bad of the series… but, I can’t help but feel like the real villain of the series is some corrupt organization, especially after Cap. Obi’s big reveal at the end of the episode. I suppose only time will tell… 

Also… 

BRUH, SERIOUSLY?!! This series has an issue with introducing female characters in a way that doesn’t involve inappropriate touching… Tamaki was on screen for all of five seconds and they manage to sexualize her and have Shinra ‘accidentally’ grope all her naughty bits. I watched this episode on my phone in a Starbucks and there were two little girls sitting next to me the whole time and this is what shows up on my phone… a little warning would have been nice! 

Secrets and Lies

Episode 3, ‘The Rookie Fire Soldier Games’, definitely changed the narrative a bit, dropping quite a few big reveals that shake up everything we’ve been told from the beginning.

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So far, Fire Force is shaping up to be a rather interesting series (fanservice aside), there is some great world building and I really like this new mystery element. I’ll definitely be sticking around for the rest of the series and you guys should too! 

I’ll be back next week with another Fire Force review, but in the meantime, be sure to check out urbanbreathnyc.com’s other amazing Summer 2019 reviews!!