Review of Fire Force Episode 23: An Ill-Advised Hug and a Truth Withheld

Quick Summary

In Fire Force episode 23, “Smile,” Shinra saw a gap in Sho’s emotional defenses, and he tried to leverage it. Victor Licht repeated his warning about the dangers of Shinra using his newly-discovered skills when he was so close to exhaustion. Meanwhile, Haumea and Yona arrived and threatened to disrupt everything Shinra had worked so hard to obtain. Can he sway Sho before Haumea and Yona can stop him? And even if he can, what more can he do in his exhausted state?

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

What’s in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: The Slow Blade Penetrates the Shield

What made this moment so effective was that the story did everything needed to prepare us. It wasn’t an instant conversion, either; Shinra had to earn it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

With apologies to Gurney Halleck (Dune) for the title of my first favorite moment…

Toward the end of the previous episode, I started to get a sense that Shinra’s constant attempts to remind Sho of his childhood might be starting to make a little progress. The signs were subtle: increased response time to an attack, for example. But I thought that was both realistic and satisfying. This episode took it to the next level.

As Shinra became more adept at using the Adolla Link to share some of his memories with Sho, Sho became more curious about those memories. Initially, he spoke cruelly about his mother, but as he saw her through Shinra’s eyes, his position became to soften. One memory was of their mom giving both of them a hug and telling them she loved them.

“This woman… is our mother…?” Sho asked brokenly (05:04). Not only was he not dismissive of the idea, as he had been before. But he actually said “our” mother!

This was one of the memories that melted Sho’s emotional shields. It also started to awaken Sho’s suppressed memories of this time. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Another memory was actually from both Shinra’s and Sho’s perspective. Maybe Shinra’s Adolla Link was reawakened memories Sho had suppressed — or were suppressed for him. Sho’s perspective was the coup de grâce in terms of his resistance to Shinra. In this memory, everything went black for baby Sho, and he began crying out of fear. The wind had caught a newspaper that had been stacked near the window, and it landed on Sho’s face. Shinra rushed into the room and removed it, restoring Sho’s vision.

“See? Don’t worry,” Shinra told him with a big smile. “Your big brother will always be in your corner.” Then Shinra give his little brother a warm head-pat.

Back in the present, Sho wept (06:15). What made it so powerful was that it was well-earned. It look multiple episodes and Shinra’s unrelenting resolve to try different things until he found a way through Sho’s emotional shields.

Moment 2: Sure, It was Arthur’s Plasma Blade…

Haumea thought Arthur’s plasma blade interfered with her powers. I’m not convinced… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Based on how she spoke to Yona, we were starting to get the idea that Haumea is, not to put too fine a point on it, bat-crap crazy. The animators gave us a clear indication of her mental state by having her tongue loll out of her mouth at odd moments, but honestly, given her tone of voice, the way she walked, and her other mannerisms, I think it was pretty obvious otherwise.

Shinra, in his rush to embrace Sho, had accidentally impaled himself on Sho’s sword. He was not only in no condition to fight; he was in no condition to be conscious! So when Haumea approached him, Sho, his memories newly restored, stepped in front of her to stop her — and realized his Adolla Link had been revoked. With a simple gesture of her hand, an electric spark bridged the gap between her finger and Sho’s forehead. It was almost as if she had shut him down.

At about that moment, Arthur and others from the 8th Company arrived, and none too soon. Arthur’s sword drove Haumea back. She wasn’t happy about that at all! So she tried to shut Arthur down (11:30).

Haumea was taken aback when Arthur didn’t respond much — okay, at all! — to her attack. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Nothing happened.

Haumea was at first surprised then seriously annoyed. She cursed Arthur’s plasma blade for interfering with her powers.

To be honest, I’m not so sure it was his blade. I think Arthur is wired just a little differently than most. But whatever the reason, I’m glad he arrived. Given how effective he was against Haumea, and given how susceptible everyone else seemed to be to her electrical attack, Arthur saved Shinra from becoming either a casualty or a prisoner of the Evangelist.

Moment 3: The Brother-less Sky

Having to come away empty handed, after having tried so hard to rescue Sho, had to be hard on Shinra. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This was a very short moment, but I thought it honestly captured where Shinra’s head was after everything he’d just been through. I mean, he’d just convinced Sho to come home. He almost had his little brother back, but circumstance conspired to rob him of that goal.

When he awoke after Kayoko Huang’s treatment (which was pretty cool — I think I’m going to like that character!), he simply said, as if it were a minor surprise that he wasn’t dead, “I’m awake” (19:01). It had been three days since the battle, and he looked gaunt. His stomach growled. But the next thing on his mind wasn’t food.

He looked out the window at the white clouds scurrying across the deep blue sky. Quietly, he said, “I should be looking at the sky with my brother…”

It had to be hard, after coming so close, to be denied. It was through no fault of his own, though that would probably be cold comfort.


Am I the only one who got serious Himiko Toga vibes from Haumea? Especially when she talked for any length of time? I was going to say that Himiko is a much better developed villain, until I remembered her series is in its fourth season, so she’d better be more developed!

Did you notice that when they delivered Shinra to the hospital (er, excuse me, the Holy Temple!), they left the sword in? It’s a little thing, but details like that are important to me. Okay, granted that the location of the wound would likely have been fatal (to the extent I understand human anatomy), but since it wasn’t, the best thing to do would be to leave the blade in. Removing it in the field would have made the bleeding much worse. The best place to deal with that would be the hospital/Holy Temple.

Shinra was a wreck when they brought him in. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What did you think of Captain Burns’ reasons for not telling Shinra the truth 12 years ago? That not only left Shinra only open to tons of self-doubt, but to the scorn and ridicule of most of the students and adults around him. On the surface, it seemed pretty cruel not to at least let him in on part of the secret.

Before my wife and I had kids, I think it’s likely I would have sided with Shinra on this. “Honesty is the best policy” and all that; “Shinra deserves to know,” too.

But sometimes, when you’re in a position of authority (or heck, sometimes even as an adult in general), you come across a situation that is less clear. Burns summarized his reasoning by saying (21:39), “After 12 years, you’re all grown up, and you still nearly died, so if I had told you, what do you think you could have done?”

Let’s think about that for a moment. Best case scenario? Shinra would have kept it to himself, and though he’d still have to endure the scorn of those around him, he would have been secure in the knowledge that he had been blameless. He could have consoled himself by planning to rescue Sho when he was strong enough.

But do you see a pre-teen being that patient? Or having that kind of self control? Of being able to put up with the taunts day after day after day without blurting out the truth?

It’s likely that only now, after he’s gone through extensive training and after he’s gathered the right allies, can Shinra have a hope of accomplishing his goal. And even now, it’s not a sure thing. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Or being able to wait until he’d gone through enough training?

Or finally, having the allies he needed to survive the initial attempt? The entire 8th Special Fire Force Company almost perished in the descent. Shinra alone would not have stood a chance.

Burns was right. Waiting until now was likely the most merciful thing to do. Even if it wasn’t, it was still the best approach to keeping Shinra alive until he was better prepared. Now, he has a shot of rescuing Sho. And I think that Shinra will come to see it that way.

What did you think of Burns’ decision? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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