A rare situation in which the phrase “It’s gettin’ hot in herre” does, indeed, have a double meaning.
Voyager: Two episodes that are ripe for discussion, this go around.
EvilBob: So let’s just jump into the Opening Thoughts.
EvilBob: These episodes are amazing. Shinra threw down with Princess Hibana and punched some sense back into her pretty head. Meanwhile, Bell had some misadventures in the red light district. I’m not sure which of these episodes is gonna win this but, at this point, I don’t care.
Voyager: Oh, no, it’s fine. Just leave me to provide all the meaningful commentary. *cracks knuckles* ‘ight, let’s see here… Well, yes. These episodes were both fantastic, and for a lot of reasons. One of the prevailing criticisms about Fire Force is that it doesn’t really give us enough on the characters to be invested in them just yet. And while I don’t personally have that issue, I can see why others might. This episode manages to deliver some more characters, and from a very unexpected position as it delves more into Hibana and her perspective than… any of our heroes, really. And it’s remarkably effective. On the same token, though, she’s the one character that presently stands out massively.
Then there’s DanMachi, which starts out with a really fun romp in a pursuit throughout the aforementioned redlight district. But the thing that honestly elevates the episode to more than just silly fun is the encounter with a certain fox and the tragedy she ultimately brings to the story with her own admiration of heroic tales and adventure epics, while at the same time feeling that, because she’s a prostitute, she’s undeserving of the right to dream about such things (although, let’s make one thing clear. She’s not a prostitute. She’s a slave. Period). And the way it indirectly calls to attention the old trope of “the maidens must always be pure” is excellent in an uncomfortable way. She obviously doesn’t want to be in the position she is. But even if she did, in fact, choose to be there, it wouldn’t matter. Because the end message is that your life’s value doesn’t depreciate. Not because of your life choices – whatever society deems them to be “worth” (a whole discussion for another time) – and especially not because of circumstances beyond your control, in the first place. The one thing that bothered me about this whole bit is how Bell didn’t just… say as much. Especially given what he went through with Lili, and even himself. I mean, the entire point of the series is about people being told their value by the outside world, only to find a family that truly values them. Bell should’ve been frothing at the mouth to shut down the girl’s pity party. Rather than writhing in his seat about it like he didn’t have an answer or the words for her. But overall, still an exceptionally solid episode.
Voyager: Can we just all agree that DanMachi wins this category in perpetuity? …And Hestia isn’t even in this episode!
EvilBob: Bell is, though! And he’s just as adorkable as ever.
Voyager: [Insert Fox Girl Name Here] is also a nice addition. And the rest of the Hestia Familia is still really entertaining to watch. They just have some really nice character dynamics between them.
EvilBob: Fire Force’s characters are, in no way, bad. But they just aren’t on the same level.
EvilBob: We get it. You read the manga.
Voyager: And while I definitely appreciate what this most recent episode did for some of the characters… well… we’ll talk more about that in a second.
EvilBob: Fire Force?
Voyager: Fire Force.
Voyager: See, this is where I’m having issues. Because it’s another example of how winning the Characters Category, while certainly making it far easier to win Story, doesn’t guarantee anything. I genuinely think that, from a purely narrative place, Fire Force told a better story, this week.
EvilBob: Better than the tale DanMachi is setting up?
Voyager: Well… yeah. Because that’s all DanMachi did… setup. And while it was really good setup, it’s still just getting us ready for the meat of the story. Fire Force, meanwhile, his the climax of its arc and did so in a very poignant fashion by shifting our perspective from the heroes… to the “villain.” A lot of this episode delved into Princess Hibana’s PoV, and that was an excellent move. Because it allows us to take the one standout character the show’s thus far introduced and see how their mind works and how she got to where she is. Both psychologically and societally. And it ties the arc up with a nice little bow that I’m perfectly fine with. Because it’s not the main focus of the overarching story. Dragging that bit on for too long would’ve been a bad call. So I’m glad it nipped that one quickly, while also doing so in a relatively satisfying way.
EvilBob: Hm. Well, there was also a character evolution taking place. By the end of it all, Hibana’s… more cooperative, if nothing else. I mean… she was never evil, but she was warped as all get out. And Shinra decided to take some notes from Touma, punching her in the face so hard the impact on her skull shattered all her delusions.
Voyager: Yeah. Still trying to figure out if Shinra’s supposed to be a Flat Character or not. He’s definitely written like he isn’t. But he definitely has shades of that in there. This is a prime example.
Voyager: Really, this was DanMachi’s category to win or lose. Fire Force took place entirely in the 5th’s Base and Hibana’s memories.
EvilBob: Yeah. DanMachi explored a little bit more of Orario and also gave us a tease of more of the world outside of it.
Voyager: And here comes the tough one.
EvilBob: There’s always one of these, isn’t there?
EvilBob: Honestly, I might actually give this one to Fire Force.
EvilBob: Well, yeah. The atmosphere was helped out a lot by the presentation department. Things like Hibana’s flowers and her memory of the church burning. It was all really effective at setting up the mood in a big way.
Voyager: Yeah. And it also helped really get us into Hibana’s head. I mean, there were a lot of weird angles and compositional tricks there, as well as good use of repetition to help us navigate the hellscape that was her mind. It was really dark at times and sad at others and also helped set the pace of the episode, as well as paint a picture of her bleak, almost nihilistic perspective.
Voyager: So I guess that’s that. Fire Force actually puts a point on the board. There’s a surprise if ever there was one.
EvilBob: Eh. We knew if any of these would be a fight, it’d be these two. A solid episode out of the hotblooded Shounen makes this a real match. Now let’s just see if it can keep this momentum.
Voyager: Well, what about you guys? Did Fire Force earn this win or do you think this should be more one-sided? Let us know, down below. As always, thanks for reading, folks.
EvilBob: And for letting us waste your time.
Voyager: Keep up the Awesome!
EvilBob: And Keep it Classy.
Voyager: Take Care.