The first volume of Fire Force was a lot of fun and a joy to read. I had some minor problems with it, but it was great time overall. Let’s see how the second volume holds up. Is it good?
Fire Force Vol. 2 (Kodansha Comics)
Written and Drawn By: Atsushi Ohkubo
Translated By: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Lettering By: AndWorld Design
The Rookie Fire Starter Games take a dark turn when a mysterious figure enters the area and starts causing mayhem. Shinra is forced to face him head on, while also learning that this individual knows something about his past. Also, we also find out that the different Companies that make up the Special Fire Forces all have their own agendas and that things aren’t exactly amicable between everyone.
The second volume of Fire Force is another fun outing for the series, but some issues are cropping up as time goes on. The first part of the book deals with Shinra confronting the mysterious “Joker” character as we learn a few small details about his past, while also getting bits with other characters that have been just introduced, like Tamaki and Juggernaut (who I quite like from just two appearances so far). There are some good reveals as well, which helps add a certain urgency to Shinra’s goal, but also setups a conspiracy. Said conspiracy from there builds up into the rest of the volume, which focuses on the inner politics and trouble between each of the Companies, who have their own goals and are being influenced in different ways. It’s interesting stuff and gives a wider scope to the series, which should be fascinating to explore over the course of the series. We are just leaving setup territory, but things are proceeding in a way that leaves me eager to read what happens.
Now, as good as the story is right now, there are some issues; the breakneck pacing, which continues at the same quick speed as the first volume. While I praised, and still do, the pace at which this story is being dished out to us, it can be a bit hampering at times. It’s not obvious until near the end of the book, where the fast pace of the manga is sucking out time that could be spent on characterization and buildup. Fire Force Vol. 2 ends with our heroes, Company 8, facing down the morally corrupt and dangerous Company 5, especially after it seems like they kidnapped one of their members (they didn’t, but still). It’s an interesting angle to approach, but it feels too quick; we don’t know enough about Company 5 to feel a sense of real threat from them other than their leader is masochistic and they don’t see to be on the up and up. Plus, this introduction of the connection between one of the heroes and the company leader just seems out of left field and a forced excuse to get things going. I’m sure that in the near future we’ll get necessary focus on Company 5, but I think there should have been more chapters focused on developing everyone to make this new arc have higher stakes to it. As it stands, it seems more like everyone is acting irrationally and without clear motivation.
That’s a shame, because the characters are still generally enjoyable and fun. Shinra is a likeable and competent protagonist, quick to figure out a plan and trying to live up to the image of a skilled firefighter; he’s just a bit of a bland and typical Shonen-style lead character currently. Arthur Boyle is a complete fanboy of knights and chivalry, which can be rather annoying, but he is competent and works well off of Shinra as a different type of rival figure. Maki Oze plays double duty as both the female lead and a mentor figure, as she tries to help Shinra do his best and help him out; she’s also a hothead at times, but secretly loves all things cute, which is an interesting dynamic. Takehisa Hinawa is a super-serious, straitlaced guy with little background so far, that has had great comedy around him/in contrast to his attitude and an interesting fighting style. Akitaru Obi is a good captain and mentor figure, having a past with lots of connections to the present day in the series that offers potential to explore later on. Princess Hibana makes for an intimidating villain due to her unknown powers, masochistic tendencies, and her general competence. The only real weak links are Iris, who we still don’t know anything about, and Tamaki, who just feels like an excuse for fanservice (even more so than Hibana feels). This is a solid cast of characters, but we need some time to really develop and distinguish them more.
Despite the pacing issues, this is still not a badly written manga by any means. The characters, most of them at least, are not poorly written and the dialogue is not bad either. It has some personality to it, the banter between characters is nice to read, and the exposition doesn’t feel awkward or overcomplicated whenever it comes into the manga. The humor is pretty good, with plenty of moments that got smiles and laughs out of me, especially during scenes with Takehisa. The story never feels dull or slow, every chapter never feeling drawn out and always having something to it. The expansion on how the Companies operate and finding out some more about the Infernals was kind of interesting as well.
The fanservice is a bit problematic and awkward a lot of the time, making it one of the weaker elements of the writing. Sometimes, it is just amusing and almost quaint, like Angels Three’s uniforms, and how silly they come across. Then there is just the awkward comedy with Tamaki and her “lucky leecher lure” as the book describes it. Or, in one of the big moments of the book, Iris confronts Hibana and the latter rips the former’s clothes off, which is followed by some people oooooo-ing, ruining what was a serious moment (it would have been way more effective if that was a slap or punch). The fanservice just needs to be dialed back in some areas or avoided completely during serious moments, since it doesn’t help the story much.
The artwork looks great, even a bit better than the last volume in some regards. The characters are all drawn well and have a nice, wide range of facial expressions and body language that help sell the mood and tone of the scenes. The designs of the characters and the new Infernal are all memorable and distinct, allowing you to easily identify every single person in the story. The designs can be very fanservice-focused, but they are unique at the very least. The layouts are well strung together and things never feel hard to follow. Maybe there are a few awkward cuts from scene to scene on occasion, but it’s not often. The best thing goes to the action and fighting, which feels very creative and smooth to read. There’s a great sense of motion in how things are laid out and move from each panel, making things look dynamic and exciting to follow. For instance, the fight scene between Shinra and Joker is particularly good as Shinra dives and weaves between each attack. As for creativity, the fire powers each person uses are really interesting to see being used and played out, like with Takehisa or the guy who blows bubbles filled with flammable gas. It’s a really great-looking book overall, surpassing my expectations at times.
Is It Good?
Fire Force Vol. 2 is a solid follow up to a very strong and exciting first volume. There are a few problems that need to be addressed, like the pacing and the use of fanservice; however, there is still plenty of fun and intrigue to be found in this series, making it more than capable of overcoming these problems. Without a doubt, this is one of the strongest brand new Shonen titles to hit book shelves, so definitely don’t miss it if you’re a fan of Soul Eater and other similar books.