Blu-Ray Review: Fire Force – Season 1 Part 1

Does the soul burn brightly within Manga Entertainment UK’s Blu-Ray release of Fire Force – Season 1 Part 1? Let’s take a look and find out.

Synopsis:

A crisis plagues the world: Spontaneous Human Combustion. The only ones trained to stop these blazing mortal infernos are the brave members of the Fire Force. Shinra is determined to become the greatest hero among them, but his past leads him down a different road—a path marked with the Devil’s Footprints.

Our View:

Adapted from the manga series by Atsushi Ōkubo, and animated by David Production, a studio known for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Ben-to and Inu X Boku SS, comes the first instalment into the Fire Force anime series. A series which sees Tokyo protected by a combination of fire force teams and religious beliefs in hopes of stopping the ‘infernal’ outbreak that has been plaguing the city. A unique setting, with an interesting objective; but the story here isn’t just about protecting innocent civilians from the fire – it’s about uncovering the truth behind the flames.

In this case the story follows Shinra Kusakabe who joins the Fire Force team in hopes of locating his younger brother and uncovering the truth behind the fire that occurred at his home. A generic agenda, especially from an anime perspective; but surprisingly this detail isn’t revealed until much later in the series. Regardless in Fire Force the teams, unlike traditional rescue teams, consist of those able to wield fire abilities with different generations of users being able to control fire at different levels. Shinra is a third generation and is able to wield fire using his feet; but this – along with his devil like grin – has earned him the nickname of Devil’s Foot.

Shinra’s back story aside he is recruited into Fire Force Company 8 as in this world each company of the Fire Force team oversees an area of Tokyo and when an infernal breaks out the Fire Force team of that district is called into action to put them to rest – which is where the religious connection comes into play. Each Fire Force company is a church and each company has a nun (or sister) that enacts gods will on each one of the infernals they put to rest. Personally I feel this religious connection is an unnecessary addition to the already context-heavy-story; but it is what it is and based on what I’ve experienced so far will make sense later in the series.

Regardless the events of this first half of the first season act as your introduction to the world of Fire Force and the team members that inhabit company 8. At first it starts off like your simple ‘hero must save the day’ kind of story but as the episodes roll on we start to learn more about each member, their objectives and their desires.

Shinra aside each character within the team has their own purpose for joining; and in case of the unit leaders, Akitaru Ōbi  and Takehisa Hinawa, it is about uncovering the truth about the Infernals. This initially starts with an investigation into Company 5, who have been experimenting on Infernals after they have been captured, and this investigation continues into Company 1, which sees a member of the team forcefully creating Infernals to satisfy a higher power. That higher power being the evangelists, a group of people that seemingly want to control the world through their own twisted desires.

Fire Force is, without a doubt, an entertaining series and each episode within this first half of the first season delivers more than you would expect; but it has flaws that kept me from thoroughly enjoying the experience.  The animation quality is acceptable and the detail to the flames is astounding for a TV anime production, but a lot of scenes are very simplistic with many characters being faceless and poorly animated.

The pacing of the series, as brisk as it is, can also feel sluggish at set moments with certain scenes even repeating themselves consistently through a single episode. Flashbacks are a powerful tool of expressing a characters personality and tragedy; but at times they are overused and feels nothing more than filler. As an example the church that Iris attended saw her friends burn to death and it is a scene we see repeatedly through the course of two episodes and as such looses the emotional impact it was trying to delivery for that character.

It’s not just the overall presentation of the series that left me with mixed, but positive, feelings as the character personalities, their development, and how they are presented to the viewer are also varied. As an example the English dub – for some of the cast at least – felt unfulfilling and lacked emotion to the sees that were being portrayed on screen.

Some characters are portrayed beautifully (Maki Oze (Sarah Roach), Iris (Alexis Tipon) and Arthur Boyale (Eric Vale) to name a few) while others, such as Akitaru Ōbi (Jeremy Inman), Takehisa Hinawa (Chris Wehkamp), feel rather mundane and robotic. Whether this is intentional is unclear; but the Japanese audio offered a more casual and realistic approach – especially during critical scenes.

So far, in this first half of the first season at least, Fire Force can be seen as an ‘OK’ series as while elements of the series are exceptional, some elements are just questionable. More importantly than that while the episodes within this set were entertaining I never found myself engrossed within the story or the events that were happening on screen. For me It was just “ok” from start to finish, but I do look forward to see where the story goes in future parts.

Extras:

Once again Manga Entertainment UK are using modified disc masters from their North American counterpart, FUNimation, and as such we find a variety of supplementary content that is ‘standard’ for a FUNimation production release; with highlights being “Inside the Episode” segments and an Interview with the creator of Fire Force himself.

In this case the first disc features an English Cast Commentary for a single episode, of which we would strongly advise not to watch (or listen) until you have seen the episodes from this release due to spoilers discussed. The second disc meanwhile features the bulk of the content as it features another English Cast Commentary as well as three “Inside the Episode” segments  in addition to textless songs.

The “Inside the Episode” segment is a trend that FUNimation have set for their home video releases and is most noticeable on Black Clover releases. Within each segment viewers get a behind the scenes look at how that particular episode is produced and dubbed by the relevant voice actors. Personally this is the type of content, along with Japanese promotional material, that I like to see included on home video releases and it is great to see FUNimation, and in turn Manga Entertainment UK, including even more of them on their releases.

Another element to these “Inside the Episode” segments is interviews with relevant cast for each episode and once again it goes beyond the scope of the show to highlight what the actors thought of the characters they portray as well as how they embodied the character. For those that liked the English Dub of Fire Force then these elements are worth checking out and they further enhance the home video (or in this case Blu-Ray) release of Fire Force.

To round out this selection of ‘English produced’ content we then have a Q&A Session with the creator of Fire Force, Atsushi Ōkubo, in which he answers various questions about his lifestyle and the idea behind fire force as well as a ‘speed drawing’ session in which Atsushi Ōkubo draws Shinra from scratch. Fans of the original manga will be interested to know more about Atsushi Ōkubo while the speed-drawing session of Shinra is interesting in its own right.

Naturally the inclusion of these bonus features, along with the English-created content, further enhances the overall appeal of this release and it’s great to see FUNimation continuing to deliver this kind of content for English-speaking audiences.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50, BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 2:47:53 (Disc 1), 1:59:55 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) & Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Fire Force – Season 1 Part 1 brings us the first half of the first season across two blu-ray discs with the expectation of a Fire team protecting the public from the danger of fire. In reality it is something far greater; as Fire Force follows new recruit Shinra Kusakabe as he becomes accustomed the eighth company in the Fire Force team and the challenges that it brings. This introduction, of which sees him protect humans by extinguishing infernals, is cut short by the truth of his motivation; to find answers to his childhood tragedy and to find his missing brother. Alongside this truth is also the discovery that Fire Force Company 8 was set up to investigate the reasoning behind Infernals appearing and the seven other Fire Force companies.

With the objectives set, and new recruits edged into the team, the eighth company begin their investigation into other teams and this starts with company five. The fifth company, while doing their daily duties, conduct experiments on infernals and so the eighth team take charge to put a stop to it.

Shortly after this escapade has ended the story switches focus onto a different story line, one which sees Company 1 under investigation after ‘man-made’ infernals are spotted in their district. Upon closer inspection its revealed that one of the higher-ups is actually involved and he is doing it to help the needs of the evangelists; a group of people with a higher purpose that those set out within the current reign of the world.

Fire Force is not simply, a fireman series; and instead offers something more darker and sinister – especially when key members of the fire force team are able to wield the fire they are so desperate to put out. In this story at least those with fire wielding powers are considered heroes amongst the crowd; something which Shinra wants to be – but above all else it just adds that “superhero” flair to what should be a relatively mediocre series.

Naturally Fire Force is brisk, informative and full of interesting turns; but its simplistic animation style and presentation leaves much to be desired – with the only saving grace being the impressive animation of fire and the way people wield them. Shonen elements with a bit of religious attachment; but while its generally a ‘good’ series it fails to full gauge my interest and I fear the hyped surrounding its initial simulcast overreached my expectation of how good the series would be.

From a release perspective then Fire Force – Season 1 Part 1 is on the ‘higher tier’ lists of releases – even if the English dub is rather lacking at some points – that is further enhanced by its selection of bonus features. If you enjoyed what Fire Force had to offer during its simulcast then you’ll love what this first instalment of the series has to offer, and for newcomers it’s definitely a series with some potential; but for me the overall elements of this first half of the series were just “ok” and failed to full interest.

Score: review-stars-3

Fire Force – Season 1 Part 1 will be available on Blu-Ray from the 4th May 2020.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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