Anime

Review: Fire Force Episode 14: Benimaru On High and Shinra Fast on His Feet

Quick Summary

In Fire Force episode 14, “For Whom the Flames Burn,” Akitaru Oubi and the other members of the 8th Special Fire Company can do nothing as the citizens of Asakusa fall farther and farther into panic. Sagamiya Konro knows there’s only one answer: Benimaru Shinmon must step up and address the people! But he’s reluctant to take on that role. Can Konro convince him in time? Meanwhile, the white-robbed figure, companion of Arrow, ate a fire bug at the end of the previous episode. Now, he became not only an Infernal, but one of the huge, hulking, horned-demon Infernals. Can Arthur and Shinra stop the ferocious monster? Is there anyone who can send them any help? And will Maki Oze and Tamaki Kotatsu ever find Hikage?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Benimaru’s Reluctance

Benimaru did not want the responsibility of leading the people. Konro, however, insisted there was no one better — and no one else the people would listen to. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I have nothing against the hero wanting to take on responsibility. In fact, I think that’s an integral part of the protagonist’s journey to becoming a hero. This episode gave us another view: a powerful character who just didn’t want to step up to the responsibility. I found it kind of refreshing!

The episode opened with Akitaru telling Takehisa that only a small percentage of people were listening to the Fire Soldiers of the 7th Company. Most, in fact, were simply immobilized with fear at the number of Infernals that have appeared. He concluded by saying that only the “demolishing king of Asakusa” could turn things around (01:06).

It was actually kind of tough to see Benimaru so hesitant and conflicted. Great dramatic fodder! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Benimaru saw how quickly the situation had deteriorated. Benimaru found Konro, who was shocked at just how panic-stricken his friend seemed to be. In fact, Benimaru begged Konro to make a speech to the people to calm them down.

Konro flatly declined and said that the people “want to hear the words of Beni” (02:26).

Benimaru was so frustrated that he could only grind his teeth. Seeing a character of his obvious strength in such doubt was a dramatic treat. It made the later scenes so much more powerful. I loved how this scene contributed to the build up.

Moment 2: Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown

A moment of decision is a wonderful thing. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Once Benimaru accepted that he was, in fact, the best one to restore order, he wasted no time. He used his power to blow off the top of a tower and maneuvered it over the city center.

He started off with by giving them a straight-forward explanation of what was going on — how invaders could masquerade as townsfolk to sow fear, and how there was no way to tell them apart from the real towns folk (05:50). I thought that was pretty gutsy. Then Benimaru raised the “gutsiness” factor by declaring, loudly, that “I don’t give a damn!”

Now, the tactician in me wondered just how the hell he was going to pull this together. The townsfolk were ahead of me, though. One of them came out and said (06:10), “You must have something in mind to be saying that!”

He’d just explained to them that the situation was dire and probably hopeless — but that he didn’t care about that. And the crowd was elated. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I’d like to ask you to think about that for a second. The people trusted Benimaru so much that, even after most of them had been paralyzed by fear, as soon as he showed up, they knew they’d be okay. They trusted him so much that even though he just told them the situation was more or less hopeless, they knew he’d come up with a way to save them.

This is the moment Benimaru was afraid of. This was the weight he didn’t want to bear. But guess what? He didn’t need to bear it alone. From within the crowd, Konro asked, in a loud voice, what Benimaru’s orders were. The rest of the 7th Fire Company were in perfect formation behind him. In a single instant, Konro and the rest of the company cemented Benimaru’s authority.

Their action actually brought a smile to his lips. His solution — telling everyone that they should just “clobbering” each other — was perfectly in character. Even better, it was a good tactic in that it rendered the enemy’s methods completely useless. But to me, though, that was beside the point. Benimaru stepping up to lead the people after all the indecision he’d shown was beautiful and well-executed character development. That’s good stuff.

Moment 3: Shinra Substitutes His Reality

Any hero can waver. It’s what they do afterward that’s important. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

On multiple occasions, Arrow had told Shinra that he didn’t belong in Fire Force. She flat out told him, “Devil, yours are the flames that exterminate mankind” (09:50). At that time, Shinra had been so shocked at the sight of the demon, so debilitated by the memories it evoked of his mother’s death, that he wasn’t at all sure of himself.

It didn’t help that even as he tried to shake off that effect, the demon Infernal smacked him and Arthur around like they were children. Nothing they could do, not even Arthur’s sword, made any difference at all. He didn’t show it, but I think it likely Shinra was relieved when Benimaru showed up to take over.

Benimaru, worried that the fight would destroy even more of the town, decided to take to the air. Using a matoi, he used acceleration to pin the demon Infernal to the tip, and he rocketed into the sky.

Arrow wasn’t about to let that happen. She fired her arrow and made it clear that if it hit Benimaru, it would kill him. Konro tried to intercept it, but he was far, far too exhausted. He remembered what Shinra had told him in the previous episode and screamed for him to help.

The encounter with the demon shook him to his core. But Shinra remembered who he was and what he was about. And he showed Arrow just how wrong she was. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

At first, Shinra didn’t understand the call. But it made him look up, and he saw an arrow on a collision course with Benimaru. With great effort (nearly tearing the skin off his own face with the G-forces he pulled), he actually caught up to the arrow, but he couldn’t deflect it. Arrow’s words mocking him echoed in his mind. His confidence failed. Her words saying his flames were meant to extinguish mankind — maybe they were right?

“Screw that,” he panted (15:45). “Mine are the flames the preserve mankind!”

I’m not sure how you experience moments like this in real life. Maybe as a resurgence of confidence? I’ve learned to live without that kind of baggage (which is a way cooler way of putting it than saying “my coping mechanism is…”). I see this kind of moment as a reaffirmation of mission. This is Shinra rejecting any attempt to keep him from his goals, and I just love that sort of thing.

Thoughts

With all of the dramatic fighting going on, you might have missed this minor but important point: Tamaki Kotatsu’s clothes stayed on for the entire episode. Again! That’s what, two in a row?

Oh please be a trend…

Did you know Hikage and Hinata could turn into Fire Foxes? I didn’t! I had no idea they were Pyrokinetics! I wonder what generation they are…

Pretty impressive display. No wonder they have such attitudes… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What did you think of the audio effects in this episode? The series has never been shy about using bass, and this episode was no different. However, there were times when it just seemed to be even better than usual — for example, when the demon Infernal charged. The effects added to the dramatic punch of those scenes.

Effective soundtrack, too. Energizing without being distracting.

I mentioned in my first favorite moment that I liked how Benimaru was reluctant to assume authority. Power is one of the worst things that can happen to a human. I’ve seen it destroy morals and ethics. I’ve seen it turn normal people into megalomaniacs. In fact, it almost did that to me.

Want to come with me on a walk down memory lane?

Back in high school, I started a literary magazine. Well, more a science fiction anthology, but we called it a literary magazine so the teachers would support us. One of my friends actually had the idea, and it was at this time that I began to understand that I am a better second in command and implementer than I am a leader or innovator in my own right. In other words, I prefer to take an amazing idea from someone else and making it a reality to coming up with the idea myself.

Was Benimaru motivated by self-doubt? It certainly wasn’t fear. Or maybe power scares him more than an Internal? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

There were five or six of us, and as we started to see some success, I noticed my behavior changing. It wasn’t anything Earth-shattering. I mean, it was a high school magazine that made about $5.00 every month. That’s hardly the foundation of a media empire! But the process of deciding who got published and who didn’t, and the authority that came with being the one who laid out the magazine and actually printed it, affected me.

About the same time, I read The Lord of the Rings (printed on paper books — I know, primitive, right?). Did you read it? Do you remember Gandalf’s attitude towards power? In the last book of the trilogy, the ruined Saruman ridiculed Gandalf for discarding the tools of power after he’d finished the War of the Ring. That impressed me, though. It got me to thinking about the true use for power. Was it power for power’s sake? Or was it to accomplish something — something noble? Then to be discarded as no longer needed?

He may not have wanted power, but once he decided he was in, he was all in. Dude knows how to make an entrance! That’s him on top of the tower he severed and turned into a hover craft. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I was also starting to become acquainted with Thomas Aquinas around the same time. He approached the problem of power from a different angle — humility — but he still had a lot to say about it. So from this time in my life onward, I developed a profound distrust of power. I loved structures created to moderate how much power and individual in government could hold. It’s why I have such profound respect for the founding fathers of the United States. As flawed as they were (and who among us humans isn’t flawed?), they still had a deep understanding of the dangers of power. Checks and balances are built into the Constitution, for example. And look at what George Washington did: He walked away from power — of his own accord!

That’s a little background on why I thought so highly of Benimaru and his choices. He had to to be convinced that he was, in fact, the best choice for the job. Even then, he had enough humility to understand who he was, and his choice of solution — having everything good-naturedly beat the crap out of each other — was just perfect for his personality.

What did you think of the flaming twins? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Review: Fire Force Episode 14: Benimaru On High and Shinra Fast on His Feet

  1. I haven’t read LotR. I think it’s a stylistic mess, hard to read for me. I’ve read The Hobbit, which I think was better since it was written like a fairy-tale all the way through. From the appendices of LotR, I suspect that I’d enjoy the Silmarillion more than the trilogy. But I’m not a fan of the story anyway. It’s okay, entertaining, but doesn’t move me.

    And I think it’s pretty much the power aspect. Power and its corruption is Serious Business (meriting capital letters). Yeah, well, okay. You may remember that I said in the RE:Creators thread that my way into the story was Magane. And it’s all about the attitude to power.

    See, a hero may be powerful but there’s usually a cause to subjugate the power. Everything looks like the same problem. Eventually they forget to look sideways and… corruption. It’s an old story, whether it’s captued in a ring, or in black-clad wannabe-space-samurai with a breathing mask. With great power comes great responsibility? Is it linear? With no power comes no responsibility? With some power comes some responsibility?

    I’m a relativist through and through, and I’m also skeptical of humility, or walking away from power. There’s quite simply not one answer. My personal hang-up with great power? Don’t let it put blinders on you. (And you’re not that powerful anyway.) The character type that personifies that? The trickster.

    Not all of them are powerful, but all of them are curious, and usually don’t consider many people their enemies. When they see a beautiful and intricate plan, they just have to mess with it. I tend to see this as the equivalent of just having to pull a loose string on your clothes. You know you shouldn’t, but it’s just so inviting. Tricksters are inherently curious. Not all of them are amoral, but many are. Why? Because every single fabric has a loose thread or two somewhere, and can you really resist pulling it? For a trickster, the loose thread is the point of the fabric.

    Anime has lots of those characters. And Asakusa is village based on the theme. Not quite tricksters, really, but definitely people who’d prefer a trickster god over Sol. You say Hikage and Hina can transfer into fire foxes, but have you considered that they might be able to take human shape? Sow chaos, bring dispair, and tempt them with a strong-man leader. Can you see that working in Asakusa? Even without Benimaru, this is a village that celebrates destruction as an opportunity to rebuild. The ups and downs of life. If everything’s temporary, so is dispair. This was my favourite Fire Force arc.

    1. “I think it’s a stylistic mess, hard to read for me.”

      TBH, there are times when its style infects how I think. I say “infects” because I start thinking and speaking in very long periodic sentences. Very annoying.

      “I suspect that I’d enjoy the Silmarillion more than the trilogy. ”

      It has a 10,000 foot perspective that I really enjoyed. I just listened to the Audible book recently, and I enjoyed it. I recommend you try it, with one bit of advice: Don’t give up until the Eldar make it across the Grinding Ice. It can be pretty obtuse before that.

      “Is it linear? With no power comes no responsibility? With some power comes some responsibility?”

      I think it’s logarithmic. But I’d love to see a more nuanced exploration of the subject!

      “There’s quite simply not one answer.”

      I’ll grant you that. My throwaway line was dismissive of other perspectives, though I didn’t mean it to be. I was focused on two things: sharing my past, and not sharing my past to the point where it got boring. Which, being my past, was a difficult equation to solve!

      “When they see a beautiful and intricate plan, they just have to mess with it. ”

      Have you ever read about the Irish mythic hero Cú Chulainn? I don’t think he’s a complete match to trickster, but for some reason, he puts me in mind of that.

      “Tricksters are inherently curious. Not all of them are amoral, but many are. Why? ”

      Ah! That’s why trickers reminded me of Cú Chulainn. He used to make me think of the embodiment of the human spirit, but honestly, I think your definition of trickster is closer. It boils down to curiosity.

      “Not quite tricksters, really, but definitely people who’d prefer a trickster god over Sol.”

      That’s a great perspective! Re-visiting this arc with that makes me like it even more. It’s not only curiosity (though that’s a key component), but it’s that they choose to rely on one another and Benimaru instead of a distant emperor or a mythical being. Gotta respect that approach.

      “You say Hikage and Hina can transfer into fire foxes, but have you considered that they might be able to take human shape? ”

      In all honesty, I had not.

      Now I can’t unsee that idea…

      “Even without Benimaru, this is a village that celebrates destruction as an opportunity to rebuild. The ups and downs of life. If everything’s temporary, so is dispair. This was my favourite Fire Force arc.”

      It’s Fire Force at its best. If they can keep this up — or even make the attempt — I’ll be happy.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this episode — you’ve got me thinking…

Please let me know what you think!

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