And now it’s time for the marquee match of the Summer 2019 Anime TKO! An out and out Shounen Showdown!
Voyager: Eh. Let’s just get right to it with this one, shall we?
EvilBob: Yeah… sure.
Voyager: Hm? Where’s your usual gusto? Your vigor? Your certainty that I’m going to lose?
EvilBob: I dunno. As the last three rounds.
EvilBob: Dr. STONE’s first episode is an interesting one. The whole “trying to save humanity from thousands of years of petrification” is not something you see every day. And I love how the green light is something we have no clues about. It could be magic, aliens, even some human scientist that caused the disaster. And then we have the characters. Senku himself seems very much like the mad scientist of the show. The guy could probably compete with Norman from The Promised Neverland. And then we have Taiju. He’s basically a character out of any other shounen, complete with the yelling. So far not bad. Of course, we only have two characters, this episode, so there’s that.
The second episode was just as good if not better than the first. It introduced a third character – Tarzan. Okay, that was a joke. His real name is Tsukasa and I’m pretty sure he ain’t human. Where’s my proof? The lion skin he ends up wearing. Tsukasa is the one they turn to for fighting and hunting which is great because the other two aren’t that great at gathering food. There does seem to be one problem though. Tsukasa wants older people to die. Yeah, that just might conflict with Senku’s plans to revive everyone. So I guess “Impossible Shounen Goal” unlocked.
Voyager: The opening episode of Fire Force is, in a word, gorgeous. People harped on it for all kinds of reasons I personally find silly – the absolutely tiny amounts of negligible fan service, for example. But the opening and closing action sequences and the establishment of Shinra’s character were just fantastic. I also think they somewhat expanded on his background with his mother a little, so as to let that bit hit home a little more. It’s really tragic.
But nowhere near as tragic as the following episode, wherein we’re introduced to Shinra’s rival from his academy days – Arthur Boyle. The episode starts out as little more than a showcase of their kinda friendly, kinda unfriendly rivalry. And we also do get to see Maki in action! Those scenes were great, and all, but I think the thing that sells the episode is the end of it all, bringing things down a bit with a really gutwrenching conclusion that showcases the honest to god tragedy of living in a world like this and choosing to go into such a profession. If the first episode showcased the highest heights of being in the Fire Brigade, then this episode exists to showcase its lowest lows. After all, being a hero isn’t necessarily glamorous and we often forget that heroes exist because of a need for them. Any situation that requires a hero is likely rather grim. It’s really interesting, in its own right.
Voyager: All right, the combatants are set. Time to see what they bring to the table. Starting with Episode 1, of course.
EvilBob: Yeah, whatever. Let’s just cut to the chase.
Voyager: Okay. Well. The characters in Fire Force are-
EvilBob: ‘I wanna be a hero.’ Deku. Sure, it’s not an exact 1-1 comparison, but the end goal is basically the same, albeit for different reasons.
Voyager: The themes of the two shows are… entirely different. Like… entirely different.
EvilBob: Are they? Both are basically just dissecting what it means to be a hero. Sure, they’re approaching it from two very different angles, but the idea’s basically the same. It doesn’t exactly help that Fire Force actually has so many characters from the start. We’re not made too familiar with any of them aside from Shinra.
Voyager: Well, we get more familiar with them over time.
EvilBob: But what about right now?
Voyager: Er… well it’s not like Dr. STONE has much to brag about. Its characters are about as one-note as it gets. We don’t even know anything about them beyond face value, just yet.
EvilBob: We know that two of them stayed alive for almost 4000 years on sheer willpower, alone. And they only know it’d been that long because one of them literally counted the seconds. The other one stayed dedicated to completing a promise to confess to the girl of his dreams for all that time. If nothing else, the Shounen is STRONG with these ones.
Voyager: Well… sure, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bet-
EvilBob: They’re also just more fun. Taijo would probably be kind of annoying on his own, but he and Senku pull off this odd couple dynamic pretty much flawlessly. They complement each other really well. And that chemistry is was sells pretty much the entire first episode, after they’re both revived.
EvilBob: …Wait, did I just win a category?
EvilBob: Huh. And that chemistry returns in the second episode, but this time they’re also joined by Tarzan… I’m just gonna call him that from now on, ‘kay? And he actually adds a pretty fun dynamic overall before the end twist that establishes him as a pretty awesome character, in his own right.
Voyager: Well… my show gets Arthur in the second episode.
EvilBob: …But he’s an idiot. His interactions are pretty funny, but not as funny as what we get out of Dr. STONE. And we still don’t have anything more than a teaser of an antagonist in Fire Force, yet. We know exactly what Senku might be up against, going forward. And he even goes a step further, himself, by challenging that guy. I remind you that Tarzan stands, like, two heads over Senku. But our hero’s smart. He knows that in order to pull off what he wants, Tarzan needs him. It’s actually a brilliant gamble. Anything that clever come out of any of your characters?
EvilBob: Hey, is that… the Sound of Silence, I hear?
Voyager: You start singin’, I throttle your watchlist for a year.
EvilBob: Oho! And now we’re reduced to threats, are we?
Voyager: I’d consider taking this win gracefully if I were you.
EvilBob: Yes sir.
EvilBob: Okay. While I have this momentum, I might be able to do it! Let’s move on to the stor-
Voyager: Fire Force.
Voyager: Bob, let’s be honest, here. When it comes to Dr. STONE, what story? So far there’s hardly been any change at all. Just the promise of things shaking up. Character perspectives and perceptions haven’t really been challenged or altered. The world hasn’t started changing around Senku and Senku doesn’t strike me as, himself, being likely to evolve much, at all.
EvilBob: But the only growth out of Shinra was seeing him gain a little confidence!
Voyager: So? It’s small, but progress is progress. His nervousness is, like, his defining feature. The entire point of his reputation is that he makes that Soul-like grin when he’s nervous. Developing some confidence is a perfectly viable mini-arc.
Voyager: Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Shinra’s learning what being part of the Fire Brigade entails is actually a pretty great bit of character development for him. He learns early that the heroes coming to save the day is absolutely not always a joyous thing. In that regard, it is a lot like Deku. Because he’s learning that being the hero isn’t always the idyllic position it’s built up to be.
EvilBob: Okay, that’s just not fair! I didn’t even get to talk, this time!
Voyager: Hm? Oh. Whoops. Tell you what. You can talk in the next category.
Voyager: All right, ‘buddy.’ Take it away.
Voyager: Hm? Is something wrong?
EvilBob: N-no! Just… trying to think about how to describe how great the visuals in Dr. STONE are! Heh. Hehehe. Hehehehehe…
Voyager: Is that so? Well, I suppose the environment art is absolutely gorgeous, is it not?
EvilBob: Uh… yeah! It’s totally beautiful! And it even has a ton of sweeping shots, unlike Okaasan Online. So we’re actually able to appreciate the environment a lot more!
EvilBob: Wait, can we talk about this?
Voyager: We can. But I’d honestly rather talk about how friggin’ beautiful the action sequences in that first episode of Fire Force were. They were fantastic. A lot of incredible fire effects, of course, but joined with stupidly dynamic camera work and some really hype moments. Talk about incredible. Right, Bob?
EvilBob: Pfft. It wasn’t all that amazing.
Voyager: You sure?
Voyager: Your silence speaks volumes. And here I thought you had a lot you wanted to say.
EvilBob: Not in this category you-!
EvilBob: -Wonderful, Fair, Intelligent person…
Voyager: Aw. Thank you! I think I’ll just take my win, now. That okay?
Voyager: You’ve still got your chance.
EvilBob: Just give this one to Fire Force.
Voyager: Hm? You sure? I had a whole list of taunts and everything prepared. You don’t want to look over them, at least? Tell me which ones would’ve worked?
EvilBob: Dude. Fire Force is visually stunning and you know it. Dr. STONE is great, but the style is way more simplistic and hasn’t really pushed for especially impressive animation on anything yet.
Voyager: Well, to be fair, there don’t appear to be superpowers. Not yet, anyway. Effects like that do generally add a whole layer to the visuals that grant a series like Fire Force a pretty distinct advantage.
EvilBob: Dr. STONE can get away with the style for what it’s doing. But when it’s competing with something like Fire Force? Winning for visuals is just a pipe dream.
Voyager: Man. It’s no fun when he gives up…
Voyager: Boo. I can’t enjoy a win like that? Much less, two of ’em.
EvilBob: How do you not get bored with winning, all the time?
Voyager: It gives me a chance to put on my critical thinking hat and show off. Besides, who likes to lose?
EvilBob: There are a thousand lessons in defeat, you know.
Voyager: Hm. I guess you’d be the expert. Do any of them include how not to lose again?
EvilBob: Ouch. My pride.
Voyager: Ah, you’ll be fine. And what about the rest of you? Did Fire Force earn these two wins? Or should Dr. STONE have brought home at least one of these? Let us know, down below.
EvilBob: Thanks for letting us waste your time, people.
Voyager: And, as always, thanks for reading, folks. Keep up the Awesome!
EvilBob: And Keep it Classy.
Voyager: Take Care.