We've reached a point in the run of Fire Force Season 2 where the show has established a firm grasp of its pacing and general storytelling flow. This is an unqualified success on Fire Force's part, since I feel consistency is one of the most important qualities for any long Shonen Jump style adventure to possess. The past couple of arcs have proven that Fire Force will still have plenty of high octane climaxes to keep things fresh, but this season's consistency means that we're less likely to have multi-episode stretches that leave us scratching our heads, wondering where the hell the show is even going with all of this, anyways. Instead, you get a baseline of quality that resembles episodes like “The Ashen Reaper”, which spend most of their time moving the story along as efficiently as possible, while still tossing in some of that sizzling action goodness to whet our appetites for even bigger battles down the line.
As I've been saying ever since the Holy Sol Temple Investigation started winding down, the biggest chink in Fore Force's chain right now is how abruptly it has switched its focus to Haijima's nefarious ties to the Evangelist. The Corporation's key role to the plot was always obvious, but never highlighted very well. You'd be forgiven for having completely forgotten about Licht's ties to the organization until recently, and if the show has even mentioned Shinra's time spent being studied by Haijima before, it was news to me when the fact suddenly become really important this week. To Fire Force's credit, though, we're not forced to sweat the details for too long. Licht himself reveals his role as a spy, and the company's plans to capture/kill Shinra, within the first couple of minutes of the episode, and it is swiftly decided that, even though walking straight through the front doors of Haijima is a terribly dangerous idea, it's the only way to save all of the kids that Haijima has been continuing to experiment on in Shinra's absence. Just like that, the thrust of the next arc is clearly sketched out for the audience to get invested in, and we're off to meet the next Pillar, along with some fresh new bad guys to hate.
The Pillar in question is Nataku, one of the poor scamps that got Insectified by Rekka all the way back when Shinra and Tamaki had the warehouse brawl with the traitor back in…let me check my notes here…Episode 9!? Is this the first time Fire Force has meaningfully revisited that whole series of events? Well, if you forgot who Rekka was, or why the show is better off with him six-feet under, you get plenty of Ghost Rekka tormenting the mind of poor Nataku, who just wants to go home, but keeps getting hounded by Haijima scientists and his “Uncle” Reaper to show off his fledgling Adolla Link abilities.
Rekka's just a sideshow to the main Big Bad attraction this week; that would be “Uncle” Kuroko the Ashen Reaper, who got some nifty ash-based pyro powers and a pair of bonkers crescent shaped eyes. You know, just in case you couldn't tell that the guy is completely out of his mind. I'm of two minds about this Ashen Reaper guy, because on the one hand, he is the kind of bastard you just want to see get kicked in his stupid looking eyes real hard, preferably by feet that were on fire and moving at impossible speeds. This is the second viscous child abuser we've gotten from Fire Force lately, though, and Kuroko doesn't even have the thin veneer of religious fanaticism to make his motivations ever so slightly more complex. Kuroko himself goes weirdly far out of his way to announce ¬– very loudly – just much he likes abusing children to anyone and everyone that will listen. It's his job, his hobby, and his one true passion.
So, am I looking forward to seeing how Shinra gets out of this latest mess he and Licht have gotten in? Hell yeah, but the jury's still out on whether the Ashen Reaper can shoulder the burden of being the villain of this Haijima Corporation Investigation Arc all by his lonesome. I'm not saying that I need Fire Force to start giving us nuanced paragons of human nature's most fundamental paradoxes whenever we meet a new villain for Shinra and Co. to beat up. I just think that the show could stand to take about 20% off its Edge-O-Meter sometimes, you know?
Odds and Ends
• Can I just say, though, that those ash powers are just supremely badass? Like, if I was playing an action RPG version of Fire Force that let me make my own overpowered Company 8 OC, I would pick the spooky ash powers nine times out of ten, no question.
• Best joke of the episode: Iris is the only person who ever thought Licht wasn't a spy. Everyone else is so nonplussed, as a matter of fact, that when Iris finally starts to question whether Licht is really “one of them”, Maki just rolls her eyes and assures her that it isn't even worth worrying about.