By Keith Reid-Cleveland
“Causes of death are many and varied…old age, illness, suicide. But out of that long, morbid list, there’s one end that people fear above all others: death by fire.”
If you’ve heard those words, you likely know two things. First, they’re usually followed by some of the most hype opening theme songs in anime today. Second, that it’s the perfect introduction to the world of Atsushi Ohkubo’s Fire Force.
The anime series about pyrokinetics who can control and manipulate flames as they try and save (or destroy!) what’s left of the world is currently in its second season and continues to grow in popularity with each new episode.
What is Fire Force about?
Fire Force takes place in the Year 198 in what’s left of Tokyo after a disastrous event called “the Great Cataclysm” destroyed most of the known world. About 250 years later, humanity is constantly under threat of “spontaneous human combustion,” which is what happens when a person essentially bursts into flames at random and turns into a walking fire monster—an Infernal—that can destroy anything it touches!
To combat these creatures and grant the victims of spontaneous human combustion some mercy, Fire Soldiers are dispersed to put them to rest and protect the city. Those soldiers are typically aligned with a Special Fire Force Company, elite teams that work to take down the Infernal threat.
While there are a couple of normal humans in these Companies, most Fire Soldiers are born with the ability to manipulate fire in a wide variety of ways, categorized into pyrokinetic “generations.” Most can only control fire that’s already present, while a handful of others can manifest their own and then control it, bringing new meaning to the phrase “fight fire with fire”!
Who are the characters of Fire Force?
When Fire Force starts, viewers are introduced to its main protagonist, Shinra Kusakabe. Shinra is part of a newer generation of pyrokinetics that can create and control flames, and he does so by having them come out of his feet like jet engines.
Outside of that, he’s also obsessed with the idea of being a hero due to his troubled past, and he suffers from a nervous smile that makes him inappropriately grin in awkward and tense situations. Seriously, people call him a Devil because of it.
Shinra soon joins Special Fire Force Company 8, which is one of eight groups of Fire Soldiers who regularly fight Infernals. Company 8 is run by Captain Akitaru Obi, a normal human with abnormal strength and a strong sense of leadership.
His stern second-in-command is Takehisa Hinawa, who can control the speed and trajectory of bullets. Then there’s the convinced-he’s-a-knight Arthur Boyle, who wields a plasma sword; Maki Oze, the stern and powerful Second Generation who you’ll often see with her fire companions, Sputter and Flare; and Sister Iris, Company 8’s representative of the Holy Sol Temple, who prays for the departed souls of Infernals.
Of course, plenty of other compelling and colorful characters team up or join with Company 8 as the series continues. You’re just going to have to watch to meet them!
How does the whole pyrokinetic generations thing work?
OK, this part is admittedly a little complicated at first, but is very important to know. Folks who become Infernals are essentially viewed as members of the “First Generation” of people to experience spontaneous human combustion. For reasons to be determined later, they weren’t able to control or create their own flames and fell victim to them instead.
The Second Generation includes most members of Special Fire Force Company 8, including Hinawa and Maki, who can manipulate existing flames. They can even control flames from Infernals and members of the Third Generation!
Speaking of which, the Third Generation includes people like Shinra, Arthur, Tamaki and others who can create and manipulate flames to a degree that no one else can. The drawback? If they overuse their powers, they can easily overheat and cause permanent damage to their bodies.
Oh, and they’re also (obviously) fireproof, which really comes in handy if they ever want to kick or punch an Infernal or other pyrokinetic and not worry about getting burned.
How do the Special Fire Force Companies work?
As stated before, a Special Fire Force Company’s main responsibility is to deal with Infernals after someone spontaneously combusts and causes a scene. Well, another part of their job is to find out why this is even happening in the first place.
To do so, each of the eight companies work together in various capacities to investigate the cause of Infernals and learn more about the Great Cataclysm that occurred 250 years before. But before someone can even join a specific Company, they need to graduate from a training academy where they learn to use their abilities for good and adopt the philosophy of the Holy Sol Temple, which is a combination of religion, firefighting and military tactics, all in service to great Amaterasu (basically a giant, mysterious power plant).
Out of the eight Companies in existence, no two are alike. One leans far more into the religious aspect of operations, while another maneuvers as if they’re from the Edo period of Japan, with traditional culture and architecture.
They also have varying degrees of autonomy, as some work completely independently, while others are essentially extensions (read: puppets) of the potentially-up-to-no-good government.
Who are the villains of Fire Force?
As entertaining as it is to see the Fire Soldiers fight giant Infernals every episode, it’s even more fun to watch them fight others with similar fire-controlling abilities.
In some instances, this means that the companies are actually fighting each other, either because they have conflicting motivations, or because someone turned evil and needs to be dealt with. This where you’ll meet the likes of Princess Hibana and Shinmon Benimaru (as he likes to be called).
But there are also many other enemies in the world, such as the Evangelist and their band of baddies, known as The White-Clad.
The White-Clad is a cult organization that essentially wants to destroy the world and follows the orders of the mysterious Evangelist. They’re zealots, out to destroy the fabric of society and create another Great Cataclysm.
But to do that, they’ll need to gather the Pillars. Who are they? How can they destroy the world? Well, now that you’re up to speed, it sounds like it’s time for you to watch Fire Force, right here on Funimation!