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Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Mini Excaliburs and Seriously Broken Trust

Quick Summary

In Fire Force episode 8, "Infernal Insects," Shinra Kusakabe and Arthur Boyle continue their investigation of Special Fire Company 1 from within. While on run that involved multi-Infernals, they see something highly unusual -- someone in vestments placing a tiny jar against a civilian's back. That civilian immediately became an Infernal! And the vestments? They looked just like those worn by the Company 1 lieutenants. Can Shinra and Arthur successfully investigates the lieutenants? How will Arthur's mini Excaliburs help? And is there anyone within Company 1 they can trust?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Shinra's Strategic Caution

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Shinra was surprised to find 2 Company 1 lieutenants

Shinra was surprised to see not one but two Company 1 Lieutenants. That complicated matters. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Shinra's maturity continues to impress me. He's made several very smart decisions in this series, and my first favorite moment is an example. As he and the other transfer fire soldiers were finishing breakfast, the alarm goes off. There's a multi-Infernal situation, and Company 1 deploys. When they arrive, Shinra's impressed with their speed and organization (6:52). So far, he's seen nothing suspicious.

He and Arthur are assigned to stand guard (basically stay in reserve) because they're unknown qualities to the first company. As annoyed as they felt, that decision made sense to me. Neither of them had had a chance to train with the first company, after all. As they were standing guard, Shinra had a sense that an Infernal was nearby. But it was only a civilian walking out of an alley. Shinra, ever the helpful hero, approached the man and asked if he were okay. That's when Shinra saw someone in robes that looked just like the ones the first company's lieutenants wore come up behind the man. He pressed a small jar against the man's back, and then the man burst into Infernal flames. 

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Shinra had to think fast to quiet Arthur

Shinra had to think fast to prevent Arthur from tipping their hand too soon. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Shinra lost no time -- he launched himself after the priest/solider, leaving the Infernal for the other fire soldiers to handle. Arthur followed him. Shinra made several twists and turns until he found... Two first company lieutenants: Karim Flam and Rekka Hoshimiya. He immediately realized he had to be careful and not tip his hand, because if both lieutenants were both in on it, confronting them now would be lethal. And if only one of them were in on it, the other could likely convince the other that Shinra was crazy and send him back to the 8th.

That's when Arthur came around the corner and did his usual blunt knight-announcement thing. Or he tried to. Shinra elbowed him in the stomach just enough to knock the wind out of him. He successfully maintained their cover. That was fast thinking -- and it almost seemed like Arthur caught on.

Moment 2: Arthur Says Something Intelligent

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Arthur said something intelligent!

Kudos to Arthur for thinking through the implications of using his mini Excalibur. Heck, the very idea of a mini Excalibur is pretty smart. Talk about convenient! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Yes, I was shocked too, but it really happened! Arthur said something intelligent! It happened just after Shinra had asked him why he was dressed with a mask, and Arthur answered, "I made a job change, from knight to assassin" (10:26). 

They decided to investigate Karim's room first because he was out. Shinra tried the door and found it locked. He was both surprised and annoyed when Arthur sliced the lock with a tiny sword. Arthur explained that it was a mini Excalibur that he'd made out of plastic, so it was single use. Shinra complained that it was now obvious that someone had broken in. How did Arthur plan to cover that up?

This is where Arthur said something intelligent.

"If solving the mystery of human combustion could be done cleanly, it would have been solved a long time ago" (11:06).

The knight has a point.

Moment 3: Tamaki's Reaction to Shinra's Arrival

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Tamaki was shocked to see Shinra

Tamaki went through a lot in this episode. I think she'll come out of this with a renewed dedication to saving people from Infernals. And a serious distrust of religious figures. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

The last half of this episode was tough to watch. We learn that Rekka is not only a traitor to the Fire Solider cause; he's a monster who experiments on mothers and children. He had tricked Tamaki Kotatsu into helping him, and when she learned what he was doing and objected, he first knocked her unconscious, then beat her almost to death when he saw she wouldn't stay unconscious. 

What made the situation even worse is that Tamaki not only trusted Rekka. She looked up to him. I think that's why she didn't fight back, even though she's a Third Generation pyrokenetic. 

I'm not a fan of the damsel in distress. Tamaki's predicament, though, wasn't that. She was a human betrayed who reacted in a reasonable way. She was being pummeled to death by someone who didn't flinch when it came to burning children alive. So when Shinra crashed in through the roof and used a flaming foot to drive Rekka's head through the floor, her reaction was utterly normal and expected.

She started at Shinra in shock (21:47). 

She held it together until Shinra asked if she was okay. Truth be told, I'm not sure I would have reacted quite as well as she did.

Thoughts

After Shinra stomped Rekka's skull through the floor, I would not have been in the least bit surprised if he had said, "It is fine. Why? Because I am here!" All Might would have been proud.

For Tamaki, who endured a really tough episode this week, preparing for this moment happened in the previous episode when she showed such concern for Rekka, like when she said she'd pound Shinra if he sparred with Rekka and hurt him. In this episode, just after Shinra and Arthur found Karim and Rekka, Tamaki showed up reported that the Infernals had been laid to rest. Her glowing smile when Rekka praised her (8:46) was difficult to watch knowing what was coming.

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Tamaki wanted to earn Rekka's respect

Tamaki just wanted to do the right thing, and she enjoyed praise coming from someone she admired. Betrayal is a terrible thing. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

The last scene was well-setup and as well executed. So why do I feel so uneasy about liking it? Why do I feel like I have to justify myself (even more than usual -- you should see what goes in inside my skull on a daily basis!)? 

If you don't mind, I'd like to talk through this problem. Maybe you can help.

I don't care about political correctness (PC), but I understand the problem it was trying to solve. It seriously went off the rails in the attempt, but the idea that different groups should have more control over their own portrayals resonated with me. I've studied a lot of history and I pay attention to current events, to the extent possible. I've seen where native Americans were portrayed as savages, only to learn later about topics like the Iroquois Confederacy. I've heard men in my own profession try to convince me that women don't make good computer programmers -- after I've had the honor of working with some spectacular women programmers. So yeah, I understand that some stereotypes really need to go away, not because they're not PC, but because they are false.

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Tamaki was not okay after the assault

I completely understand why some stereotypes need to go away. But it doesn't mean that similar ideas can't be portrayed with honesty. Tamaki's reaction to Shinra, for example, is completely understandable and is consistent with her character. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

The crying woman being rescued by the big strong hero -- that's a trope that used to inflame the imaginations of many young men. The problem was, this presentation of the Damsel in Distress cliche had another message: namely, that women more often than not needed saving. It was the default, in fact. As the father of a daughter, I can say this particular cliche was insulting. Again, not because it wasn't PC, but because it was false. My experience with my daughter, and my wife, and my women co-workers exposed me to the fact that at least in the battlefields we operated, they were as likely to save my bacon as I was theirs. 

But that doesn't mean a woman character like Tamaki will never need help. That doesn't mean that receiving help wouldn't make her feel relieved or thankful. There have been political battles where I would not have survived (in a business sense) without cover fire from a woman co-worker. So of course I thanked her; of course I was grateful. 

Review: Fire Force Episode 8: But Tamaki would be better later

Tamaki didn't sit around wallowing in her helplessness. She let her tears flow, then started pulling herself back together. Tamaki herself took charge of her condition after Shinra had removed the immediate threat. That's good team work. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Equally "of course?" I wasn't a helpless waif sitting around waiting to be saved. Neither was Tamaki.

I loved the final scene. I thought the buildup showing how much Tamaki respected Rekka was spot on. I thought the animation was excellent. I thought showing Rekka's disregard for the mother and the children was a perfect way to dramatize just how deranged and unhinged he was. Because of this, it felt so plausible that Tamaki couldn't fight back. Rekka was a horrible person who was going to kill Tamaki. She knew that, even if by that point she was too emotionally and physically battered to fight back.

So when Shinra asked if she were all right (21:54), her tears were heart-breaking. Aoi Yuuki, the voice actor/seiyuu did such an emotionally satisfying job. The animators, do, produced a scene that was painfully beautiful. I thought it fit the story. It fit the characters. And I don't think it was an example of a negative stereotype.

Did you notice that, at the very end of the scene, Tamaki pulled herself together and almost smiled? I think that's a testament to her emotional strength. We all sometimes need a moment to pull ourselves back together.

What do you think about Tamaki's scene at the end? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!  

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3 thoughts on “Review: Fire Force Episode 8: Mini Excaliburs and Seriously Broken Trust

  1. Ah, I can’t see Tamaki’s scene like that. You know what Irina says about Tamaki (walking collection of fanservice tropes)? It’s pretty much how I see her, too. That’s really just another blip on the radar. Why does the camera linger in close up on her crumpling face? That’s not what you do when you respect someone’s grief. It could be a detailed psychological study, but the entire moment is too cartoony for this to plausible. It just feels like a fanservice moment to me, like most of the rest of her scenes.

    I do agree that Yuki Aoi did a great job here: if you want to get emotion out of goofy scenes, there’s no one better suited (as she proved time and again, especially in Symphogear.)

    1. “You know what Irina says about Tamaki (walking collection of fanservice tropes)? It’s pretty much how I see her, too.”

      You know, quoting Irina’s border on unfair! Her character analysis skills are well established; so are yours. Part of me wonders if my differing perspective is another example of my, let’s say, unique perspective. I’m only partly joking when I say I view people as if I’m in high orbit, watching patterns unfold, trying to emulate what I can only see through a filter.

      Yet, the foreshadowing, the way i’ve seen other people react to abuse from respected figures, it all fit together. I can see the patterns merge into that scene.

      It’s not that I think you’re wrong; I suspect different perspectives yield different conclusions. It’s not like this is a mathematical equation. It’s fiction, and perspective plays a huge role.

      “Why does the camera linger in close up on her crumpling face? That’s not what you do when you respect someone’s grief.”

      I’m not sure I’d call this respect. Did Re:ZERO respect Subaru? The point is to put your characters through a meat grinder and see how they come out. I guess a more gentle way of saying that would be to use Billy Wilder’s plot outline: Put a character up in a tree; set the tree on fire; Get the character down from the tree. Without the lingering shot on Tamaki, her eventual tenuous smile would have had less an impact.

      “as she proved time and again, especially in Symphogear.”

      I have got to make time to watch that whole series. I’ve seen the first season, and it was fantastic.

      1. This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about different weighting of aspects, which result in different framing effects. For example, I have no problem accepting your interpretation at an in-world factual level. This wouldn’t have any impact, though, on my impression of the meta game. The way the dramaturgy played out Shinra was Tamaki’s hero (and the children were more or less background). At least that’s how I saw it.

        Same thing with my “respect” comment. It’s not about what’s happened, it’s about how it was presented. They could have taken a slightly longer shot. But this sort of close up is very common in visual novels, where they’re supposedly looking at you. I usually find this moments silly rather than intimate, as I suspect they’re supposed to be. I’m not good enough at visual analysis to go into detail. For example, there’s a scene in Non Non Biyori, where Renge starts to cry. They hold the close-up for about minute before it sinks in, then she starts to cry, then the camera draws back and we watch her walk away. This feels different to me, but I don’t know why. My speciality is words not pictures.

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