Maki Oze is another character that you could write a laundry list of complaints about when it comes to how underutilized she's been across Fire Force's two seasons. The longstanding joke of her beefiness making her a “gorilla” is another of Fire Force's “so dumb that it's really just kind of dumb” running jokes that has never done the show any favors, and as much as I appreciate the show doubling down on how the vast majority of its characters are simply too stupid to live in a society, Maki's general competence has made her a truly invaluable member of the cast. All of this is to say that I was very pleased that Fire Force looked like it was going to round out its recent Iris and Tamaki Power (Half) Hour with a long-overdue Maki-centric episode. Did “The Oze Family” deliver? Well, it's definitely about Maki! That's…that's something, right?
Look, I don't want this whole review to come across as ol' James chowing down on those sour grapes he seems to love so much, so let's start with the positive. First of all, I enjoyed getting a peek into Maki's bizarre home life. Her father, Danro, is a General of the Imperial Army, and he and his wife Madoka possess the same dichotomy of character that Maki has always been said to have. Danro is a bullish war hawk type whose fierce countenance is the stuff of legends (one of the best gags of the episode involves his eyebrows being so overpowering that they break out of the barrier of the letterbox bars on the screen), yet he becomes a cooing puddle of mush whenever he's dealing with his little angel of a daughter. Her mother is likewise the model of a picture-perfect military wife, a professional hostess who will not hesitate to roundhouse her entire family when they get on her nerves. Though I'm still not a fan of how Fire Force insists on painting Maki's ultra-toughness as being fundamentally opposed to her “femininity”, the joke lands better when you learn that her whole family operates at both ends of their respective personality spectrums.
Then there's Takigi, Maki's brother, who is a completely unremarkable cipher of a character. He's the kind of guy whose sole purpose is to be fundamentally decent and to move the plot along, which happens when he and his partner from the Imperial Army's Criminal Investigation Division begin running their own investigation on the White Clad's operations in the Nether. It's cool that Takigi is willing to put himself in harms way when he and his partner both get caught in a suicide bomber's blast — let's not dwell too much on that particularly loaded imagery, since Fire Force sure as hell isn't going to — though Takigi's involvement in the story can't help but rub me the wrong way because it introduces “The Oze Family's” single worst development: Because he fears for his daughter's safety, and has never approved of her “inappropriate” involvement with the Fire Force to begin with, General Oze demands that Maki quit the team and come back to work as a military secretary.
I'm not foolish enough to think that Hanezawa's insistence that Maki accept her father's terms is really about him thinking she's too weak or unprepared to fight against the White Clad. She's literally one of the strongest characters in the entire series, and it would be incredibly out of character for the Lieutenant to just ignore Maki's invaluable contributions to Company 8's adventures. That said, the episode doesn't put nearly enough pressure on whatever alternative motives the Lieutenant and the Chief might have for putting Maki out of harm's way, and that ambiguity makes the fact that Maki actually does quit the team feel like a cheap dramatic shakeup, at best. Is Hanezawa trying to protect Maki because he suspects that Company 8 is doomed? Is this the start of some underdeveloped romantic subplot for the character? Does Fire Force have some kind of plan for Maki to contribute to the team's mission from within the Imperial Army, one that even Maki isn't privy to?
It's simply too unclear, and when the audience can't get a proper understanding of what the show is even trying to do, that leaves us to simply react to the face-value consequences of Maki's abrupt departure, and it kind of sucks. It sucks having to see Maki doubt herself and contextualize her worth by sizing up how the men in her life value her strength, and it sucks knowing that the show is kicking off its Nether Laboratory Investigation Arc by intentionally sidelining a character who has already spent too much time on the bench. I'm looking forward to getting more developments on the White Clad story as much as anyone, and I truly hope Fire Force has more planned for Maki than a half-hearted “Welp, I guess we'll see her when we see her!” The show's second season has built up just enough goodwill for me to hold out a bit of hope for the company's Best Buff Mom, but given Fire Force's track record on the whole…I don't know, y'all. I just don't know.
Odds and Ends
• I don't want to be a total hypocrite after lambasting Fire Force's handling of fanservice for the past two years, but am I going to lie to your faces and tell you that I didn't appreciate the show's reverence for Maki's chiseled physique? No. No, I will not.
• Another detail that I loved: Maki's been feeding Sil-burro's severed head trash for weeks now, just…well, just because.
• No follow up on Tamaki's showdown with Assault from last week, so I can only assume that her genitals and breasts came at the man with such unrelenting force that he was knocked clear out of his world and into another dimension entirely. Or something like that.