Atsushi Ohkubo, creator of the popular Soul Eater manga and anime is back at it with a brand new series, Fire Force. Let’s take a look at the first volume and see if Ohkubo has done it again.
Fire Force Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
Translated By: Alethea & Athena Nibley
Lettering By: AndWorld Design
Fire Force Vol. 1 introduces a deadly phenomenon that has overtaken the city of Tokyo: spontaneous human combustion! But people bursting into flames out of nowhere is only the start of the problem; the victims either turn into Infernals/Infernis, demon monsters with flames that cause mass destruction and death… or they’ll gain fire-based superpowers. To deal with this trouble, fire departments have their own special forces trained to deal with these problems; enter Shinra, a young man with a troubled past who is joining Special Fire Cathedral 8 and preparing to help anyway he can. Oh yeah, and he’s got his own, unique fire power called the “Devil’s Footprints”,
The Initial Reaction
I was quite greatly surprised after my first read-through of Fire Force as it’s one of the fastest moving mangas that I’ve read in a while. This series wastes no time at all in introducing the main character, his background, his rival, the supporting cast, the villains and the overarching narrative. Creator Atsushi Ohkhubo establishes all this in the span of six chapters and his impressive pacing makes this one of the better manga debuts I’ve seen in some time.
Well I guess catching the train today is out of the question.
While there is certainly a lot of setup going on, Fire Force Vol. 1 makes it all interesting. The story being built is rather familiar of a lot of other shonen style series, with Shinra trying to figure out what happened in his past and having to deal with being an outcast, but the execution and steady pace to keeps things from getting boring.
Obviously, since it is only the first volume, there’s not excessive depth to anyone, but most of the characters are likeable and fun. The main character, Shinra, obviously gets the most development, having a clichéd, but strong backstory. His biggest character trait and gimmick is that he unintentionally smiles in tense or awkward situations. While this does provide some amusing bits, I appreciated the fact that it’s not being played just for laughs, as the quirk added to his problems over the years with how people view him. He also has a desire to become a “hero”, which we’ve also seen before in plenty of series, but it’s used well here and ties into his past tragedy. Not a bad main character overall.
The supporting cast definitely needs some more development — but they are fun. Takehisa Hinawa and Iris are your serious, straight shooter characters, being the most mature and down to Earth characters that play well off the rest of the quirky cast. Maki Oze and Tamaki Kotatsu have elements of being the female lead, one being very serious but with a playful and fun side to her while the other wants to be serious, but completely fails at it almost all the time. There’s also Arthur Boyle, the rival to Shinra and a guy with a deep love for Knights and chivalry. However, he really doesn’t understand those elements as well as he thinks and and instead acts like a complete dumbass most of the time. The best of the supporting cast is the captain of the group, Akitaru Obi; he’s likeable and fun-loving, but also respects and understands his job very well. He has a believable and understandable view about the job he is doing and what fighting and destroying Infernals really means, wanting his fellow friends and allies to understand as well. He’s a character to keep an eye on I feel.
The dialogue is fun and lively, never feeling exposition heavy (outside of one moment that is clearly played for laughs). Despite being a book that’s both serious and funny, the tones never really collide. The weakest element I felt was the use of fanservice; I’m not against fanservice if done well, like it’s playful or done for laughs. However, the fanservice here feels very shoved in, out of place, and when it is played for laughs feels incredibly awkward and rather gross (Tamaki’s character trait of being a klutz that constantly gets grope is so bad and her outfit looks like if Quiet from Metal Gear Solid 5 cosplayed as a fireman).
The artwork overall looks great. It’s definitely got a lot of Soul Eater‘s feel and style to it with the fighting of demons and creatures, while some of the characters have familiar design elements in their overall appearance. However, that style ultimately does fit with the book and those who liked Soul Eater‘s energy and look will get a kick out of this. Fire Force‘s characters are all drawn fairly well and their uniforms are nicely designed (besides Tamaki’s). The layouts are put together well, with scenes and moments that flow well from one panel to another. The action is energic and flashy, really emphasizing how powerful some characters are. The designs of the Infernals and characters’ special abilities are good as well, with nothing that looks badly drawn at all anywhere. Overall, this a great looking shonen series.
Give her a few seconds and she’ll jab your weak point, completely knocking you out.
Is It Good?
Fire Force Vol. 1 is a great start for a new action series with an interesting premise, strong lead character, fast-paced story, and solid writing and artwork. It’s not the most original series I ever read, but I had a great time with the first volume (arguably as fun as when I first opened up and started reading series like Naruto, Blue Exorcist, and One Piece). If you like Soul Eater or any of those others series I just mentioned, definitely give this series a shot. Fire Force is one of the most fun, new action-based series I’ve read in quite a while.