Review of Fire Force Episode 16: An Unhelping Hand and That’s Not a Horse

Quick Summary

In Fire Force episode 16, “We are Family,” Shinra confided in Arthur and Iris: he had a premonition that Giovanni was going to try to kill Vulcan. He told Iris and Arthur to warn Vulcan while he tried to follow Giovanni. If Giovanni really planned to kill Vulcan, and if he’s as powerful as everyone thinks he is, is it wise for Shinra to follow him — alone? Will Vulcan listen to Arthur and Iris, or will he think it’s a trick to convince him to join Special Fire Force Company 8? And just how serious is Giovanni about killing Vulcan?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Shinra’s Brush with Greatness

Giovanni wondered what kind of monster Shinra was for withstanding so much voltage. Bird, may I introduce you to feathers? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I’ve often mentioned how impressed I am with Shinra’s presence of mind. He’s often showed a lot more tactical awareness than I’d expect from someone his age, and it’s served him well.

Until this episode.

Shinra had been up in a tree, on the lookout for enemies, when a cable-attached hand, propelled by fire, smacked him on the back of the head and knocked him off the branch. As he fell, the cable wrapped itself around his neck, and he almost strangled as he hung in midair. Before he passed out, he thought to use his flames to propel himself upward.

After he caught his breath, he fended off another attack. But this time, he traced the cable back to its origin. He expected to find the attacker. But no suck luck. Giovanni had simply anchored the cable to a device attached to the tree. In the meantime, he positioned himself on a branch where he could see Shinra. As soon as he saw our hero, he fired two tasers into his back. Shinra simply said, “Ow.”

“What kind of monster are you? This is two million volts of current,” Giovanni said (08:28) — as he jacked up the voltage. Shinra collapse.

I like that Shinra’s still really, really bright — but inexperienced. He’s not over powered (OP). I just hope he recovers from this (he will, of course, since he’s the main character — but things look dire at this point!).

And for the record, I was wrong. Last week, I wondered if Giovanni was portrayed in such a negative light to make us believe he was evil when he really wasn’t. Nope. He’s evil.

Moment 2: Arthur and His Steed

This is the Arthur Vision version of the scene. The “real” version looked just a bit different… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I spend most of the center third of this episode not knowing what to think. It started when Vulcan realized they were surrounded by what looked like dozens of soldiers from the Evangelist. Vulcan demanded that Arthur and Iris, as Fire Soldiers, “Do something” (09:46). Arthur, clearly the only one of the two who had any offensive capability, simply said, “I don’t feel very knightly right now, so I can’t get going.”

Don’t feel very knightly? What the heck, Arthur? Vulcan, though, seemed to understand a least a little of what Arthur was saying, so he tried to throw something together that would help Arthur feel more knightly.

The next time we see Arthur, he has stepped out in front of the enemy line. He’s wearing a blue cape that’s billowing in the wind. Seems reasonable; costumes can inspire people, right? Then we see that Arthur has what looks like a donkey’s head on a post. He mounts it, as if it were a hobby horse, and we see Arthur Vision for a moment. He’s on a magnificent white steed, on a mission from the king, to protect the princess “and the other VIPs” (11:36). Then we see he not so much mounted the donkey as he attached its head to his crotch via a belt.

On the other hand, if it works… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I think you can see why I didn’t know what to think.

Then he drew his sword, and the blade was brilliant. It was about twice as long as it usually was. Even Iris confirmed that it was “stronger than usual” (11:52).

We can joke around about how stupid Arthur is. But he clearly understands the link between his imagination and his power, and he’s learned how to make the best of it. The raw might he projected is proof of that! Unfortunately, it has a fatal flaw…

Moment 3: Through a Looking Glass Clearly

I’ve decided. I like Arthur. And in this moment, I felt really bad for him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

That “fatal flaw” is that his power is linked to his self image. Flail, the on-site leader of the Knights of the Ashen Flame under Giovanni’s command, was, unfortunately, smart enough to figure that out.

Flail was initially taken about when Arthur blocked him. Sure, the “knight” wearing a crotch donkey looked anything but intimidating, but when Arthur destroyed the entire line of Knights (who were really just “shimmers” or figments Mirage, Flail’s companion, had created), they realized they had to take him seriously.

I had to chuckle when Vulcan, watching from inside the building, said, “That idiot is ridiculously strong, isn’t he?” (13:00).

On the plus side, Vulcan acknowledged Arthur’s raw power. That’s something! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Flail said something along the same lines as he adjusted his tactics. Working with Mirage, he protected an exact mirror image of Arthur to confront the knight. Without thinking, Arthur started ridiculing the specter, until Flail pointed out it looked just like him.

“This isn’t knightly,” (14:15)Arthur said in such a devastated voice that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

I really like Arthur’s character. I hesitate to even call him an idiot. He’s just who he is, and who he is isn’t consistent with the expectations of a lot of folks.

Come to think of it, I think Akitaru Oubi understands him…


Was I the only one who wondered if “swordly” was really a word? As in Arthur saying (10:03) “Something more swordly would raise my firepower?”

I wonder if Arthur sometimes represents folks who process sensory input a little differently from others. If that’s the case, then I like Vulcan’t idealism even more. Instead of berating Arthur for his “swordly” dialogue, he started looking for ways to help. Reaching out to meet others where they are is something that really impresses me. It also makes Vulcan’s condition at the end of this episode all the more painful.

I learned “swordly” is a word. It’s a good day. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Can we talk about just how evil Giovanni is? He’s not a unidimensional villain. If he were, I could ignore what he did in this episode. Instead, the episode portrays him as a long-term planner who relies on his intellect — but who, much to his own chagrin, can still fall prey to emotional outbursts.

It started with his lecture to the unconscious Shinra about tactics. Yes, he was right: Shinra should have considered additional tactical options. In his arrogance, though, Giovanni didn’t allow for Shinra’s age and level of development. As a tool to demoralize Shinra (had he been conscious!), his diatribe might have been effective. But it gives me a little hope for Shinra’s fate: Giovanni is vain, and he doesn’t understand as much as he thinks he does.

Lisa’s betrayal hit Vulcan hard. Me, too, truth be told. But I thought it was even more cruel how Giovanni rubbed it in. He asked (19:02), “Was it fun to play house with Lisa?” Cruelty seems to be a job requirement for people who follow the Evangelist.

As Vulcan denied over and over again that he knew anything about the key Giovanni sought, the villain pointed to Yu and asked if he were part of “your little make-believe family.” Giovanni pinned Yu to the wall, then shot him in the chest.

Not cool, man. Not cool. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What’s past the feeling that you want a villain dead? That’s how I feel about Giovanni. His cruelty built upon cruelty until the point it evoked a certain visceral response. At this point, it was clear that Vulcan didn’t have any idea what Giovanni was asking for. And Giovanni decided to take it out on everything around Vulcan. Including the projector that had shown such wonders in the previous episode.

There were two episode this weekend that evoked very primal feelings in my heart. The first was seeing Eri so terrified at the beginning of My Hero Academia Episode 67. The second was the final shot of Vulcan. Five episodes ago, if you suggested to me that Fire Force would have that kind of impact, I would have been skeptical.

Now? I’m getting more and more hopeful that we’re watching something special. Something that’ll have lasting impact.

And at the very least, I got a laugh out of the crotch donkey.

What did you think of Arthur’s power in this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Review of Fire Force Episode 16: An Unhelping Hand and That’s Not a Horse

    1. “After this episode I think I’m well and truly in love with Arthur now.”

      He’s such an interesting character! The show’s not ridiculing him, and he’s clearly not neurotypical. I like that.

      “Also I need to find a way to drop the phrase ‘crotch donkey’ into a conversation. It’s a new life goal!”

      If you manage to do it, please do let me know! I’d love to know what kind of reaction you get!

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