In Fire Force episode 6, "The Spark of Promise," Shinra Kusakabe arrives at Princess Hibana's palace. After running over a speed bump (otherwise known as another team of 5th Angels Three), he finds Hibana with Iris, who begs Shinra to leave. Iris, after all, knows how powerful Hibana is. Shinra tries to attack, but Hibana extinguishes his flames just like she had done before. Can Shinra figure out how to thwart her Heat Syncope in time? What was it that so changed Hibana from Iris' fellow sister to the power-mad, greedy despot she'd become? And will we find out why Akitaru Oubi hadn't joined them on this mission?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
Moment 1: Shinra and the Heat Syncope
According to Hibana, Shinra should not have been able to stand. Lt. Hinawa gets point for drilling his company so hard! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Have you ever been disappointed when the protagonist can stand, or stay in the fight, or whatever, and there's no logical or narrative explanation for it? Like all of a sudden the hero finds inner strength that no one -- even the viewers or the writer! -- knew he or she had, then overcomes? To me, any victory resulting from that power up feels hollow. It doesn't satisfy my craving for dramatic moments.
Fire Force avoided doing that in this episode, and I am pretty happy about it.
Shinra tried to attack Hibana even after Iris warned him to leave. Hibana used her Heat Syncope on him, and he crashed to the ground, unable to ignite his feet (04:37). Even though she was foolish enough to describe what she'd done to him, he found it terribly hard to even stand.
But for some reason, her taunting only made him feel more confident. He equated her attack, which made him feel lightheaded, with the effects being in his head, so he was able to stand. Maybe weak reasoning, but it gave him a mental handle to pull.
Even better? When he heaved himself to his feet, even though he was terribly unsteady, Hibana complained that there was no where he should even be able to stand.
"Compared to the drills Lieutenant Hinawa put me through, this is nothing," Shinra said (06:17). All of the training he had gone through paid off. There was a valid narrative-based reason he could do what he did! That's the kind of thing I like to see!
Moment 2: Shinra's Stretch Goals
The idea that she might be wrong never entered into her mind. It took someone of Shinra's strength and naive devotion to his own definition of heroism to make her reconsider. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
"Princess Hibana," Shinra asked (10:31). "You're a victim of the flames, too, aren't you?"
This was the start of my second favorite moment, when Shinra decided he didn't just want to be a hero and save Iris. He wanted to be the kind of hero who would save the villain, even from herself.
His question hit Hibana so hard that she unleashed a terrible attack -- Sakura Blizzard, where each of the "cherry blossoms" was itself a flame attack. It was beautiful and would have been deadly against a foe who wasn't himself a third generation pyrokinetic. Standing despite the attack, he loudly proclaimed that he couldn't let himself fall here. His courage was so over the top that it forced her to take a step back.
He said the usual hero stuff about getting back up again and again if he had to, and then he said something that I found both surprising and delightful.
"For your sake," he said (11:27).
Hibana was shocked. She tried to object, but he said everything he was about to do "is for your own good" (11:41). Before she could pull herself back together, he launched himself at her and punched her right in the face.
Touma Kamijou would have been proud.
Shinra decided he would not be satisfied with just rescuing Iris. He had decided he was going to rescue Hibana, too -- from herself. It helps to give yourself a stretch objective!
Moment 3: A Truly Religious Sister
This was no doubt that Hibana's flame art was beautiful, and even though it was showy, it wasn't hurting anyone. That's why the older sister's reaction was so unexpected -- and welcome! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I've seen it again and again, in anime and in most other mediums. The Rising of the Shield Hero gave us an evil pope. A Certain Magical Index gave us religious figures who were flat out evil, like Fiamma of the Right. Chances are, if there's a religious character in anime, it's going to be portrayed as either overtly evil, or outwardly nice as it prepares to do evil.
It's not like organized religion hasn't asked to be portrayed like this. No organized religion is immune from accusations that it hasn't adequately protected its children, for example. But as often as I've encountered almost cliche examples of religious figures behaving badly, I've encountered the polar opposites.
And then there's the older sister in this episode.
Sister Sumire seemed to be honestly concerned for all of their safety. That was kind of refreshing! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
In a flashback, Hibana was showing her flame art to the other little sisters. She was able to make her flames take the shapes of flowers, and by combining certain chemicals, she was able to change the flower's color. Everyone was delighted, even shy little Iris. One of the girls even said she wanted to be like Hibana, because Hibana could "control flames, and you're good at science!"
That's why when the older sister showed up (14:22), I figured she'd call Hibana a devil or otherwise berate her. Instead, she called to her to task for doing something dangerous -- because if she mishandled the flames, people could get hurt. No histrionics. No false accusations. Just a concern for Hibana and the other young women.
I can't tell you how refreshing that was!
If you're going to be a villain, you might as well have style, class, and beauty. Hibana's tree of fire was as beautiful as it was deadly -- well, to anyone but Shinra (07:55).
This episode did a lot to further humanize Hibana (more on that later in this section). Do you remember my third favorite moment? The one where Hibana showed off her flame control? Iris was hiding behind a corner, too shy to join the group of other young women around Hibana. Hibana saw her and gently called her over. Delighted, Iris joined them, and feeling emboldened, she reached out to stroke a flower. Gently, Hibana touched her hand and warned her: The flowers were beautiful, but they were still flames (14:12) and were dangerous to touch. Then she smiled to take the sting out of her words. This isn't the Hibana we've come to know in the "present." Yet, it's the same person.
Hibana was stern and kind to the young Iris. Quite a bit difference from the Hibana we met in the "present!" Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
What did you think of the Captain's reaction when he learned that the confrontation with the 5th Company was already finished? He had been on the phone, laying the logistical and bureaucratic framework for the fight. He'd apparently been working hard! He was almost disappointed when Takehisa Hinawa told him the conflict was complete.
I think that's probably a good problem to have!
So now, Hibana likes Shinra and she's an ally. All tidy and neat, right? I mean, how can we not celebrate when the good guys not only win, but gain powerful allies in the process?
The thing is, Hibana tortured an Infernal. It's pretty clear that wasn't her first experience with torture. She was cruel to Iris (which all by itself borders on unforgivable!). She treated others like they were gravel (her words!). She did a lot of stuff that was clearly in the "evil" column. Shouldn't she be held accountable? Shouldn't she have to make amends?
There's a cynical part of me that answers, "Well, she's beautiful and has great cleavage. Of course we're going to forgive her!"
The cynical part of me sees two big reasons to forgive Hibana... But is that the right perspective? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Honestly, I think there's evidence for this position. Let's say a goblin had been in Hibana's place. An ugly, drooling, fang-y goblin. Would the sight of it with its head in Iris' lap, with Shinra supporting Iris' back, be so heart-warming?
That's one way to look at the question. There's another way, and it's something I started talking about in my review of C³ – CubexCursedxCurious episode 1. Presenting Hibana as a beautiful woman was a way of humanizing a character who was doing bad things. It helped us be more open to taking her past into account, like seeing how gentle she had been with Iris and the other sisters.
Does that mean we should forgive everyone with a rough childhood for murder? That's hyperbolic, but I asked it that way to make a point. I don't think Fire Force is trying to establish a universal truth here. I think they're making a statement about the world of Infernals, and Hibana is an example of what can happen to a character who's on one hand very powerful, but on the other has experienced a terrible loss. I'm ready to forgive Hibana because the narrative softened me up with her looks, then used her past to convince me she was worth saving.
Hibana had no idea how to react to Shinra saying he'd save her anytime. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Shinra, maybe because of his own set of delusions, was certainly ready to accept her. Iris seemed perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones. It's not a clear-cut answer by any means, but if it's a narrative device, I fell for it!
By the way, did you see Iris's grin? The one she had when she saw how Hibana reacted to Shinra's pledge to save her any time (19:13)? Was Iris playing matchmaker? Shinra and Hibana might make a very interesting couple...
What did you think of Hibana's conversion? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts about This Series
Other Anime Sites
This Site (Crow's World of Anime!)
- Review: Fire Force Episode 1: Shinra Kusakabe Enlists
- Review: Fire Force Episode 2: The Heart of a Fire Soldier
- Review: Fire Force Episode 3: The Rookie Fire Soldier Games
- Review: Fire Force Episode 4: The Hero and the Princess
- Review: Fire Force Episode 5: The Battle Begins
- Review: Fire Force Episode 6: The Spark of Promise
- Review: Fire Force Episode 7: The Investigation of the 1st Commences
- Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Infernal Insects
- Review: Fire Force Episode 9: The Spreading Malice
- Review: Fire Force Episode 10: The Promise