While not as strong as the first, the second volume of Fire Force was still a good read, with a great sense of humor and plenty of fun and intrigue throughout. How does the third volume fare? Is it good?
Writer: Atsushi Ohkubo
Artist: Atsushi Ohkubo
Translator: Alethea, Athena Nibley
Lettering: AndWorld Design
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Company 8 has arrived and stormed the compound of Company 5 in a desperate raid to rescue their friend and comrade Iris from Princess Hibana. However, the leader of the operations isn’t going down without a fight, fueled by a tragedy that struck her and Iris years ago. If the team pulls things off, they’ll not only rescue their friend, but also perhaps learn more secrets about the Infernals and their creation.
As Fire Force continues with its proceedings, I can’t help but feelthat the quick pacing that really helped the series get off to a great start is starting to harm it. The latest volume brings to a close the Company 5 story arc, while also starting a new arc involving Company 1 and their connection to the Infernals. Within this time, we learn more about Iris and Hibana’s past together, witness Hibana turn around and become a good guy, and learn about a traitor that is hiding within Company 1. Overall, these are all good elements that intrigue and show potential, helping to drive the mystery of the Infernals and help add depth. I’m not against any of what happens in the story and these things should lead to excitement and great moments down the road, but the pacing is too quick. These moments are not given enough time to develop or build tension. It comes across as rushed at points, especially the conclusion of the Company 5 storyline. It may have helped if there were just a few more minor chapters dedicated to characterization and buildup to help make these moments make more sense and have more impact. The pacing is now the #1 weakness of the series.
It’s a shame, since this is not a bad series with plenty to like. The characters are still fun and entertaining to read about, especially as the story slowly develops their character and backstory. I like Iris and Hibana’s backstory and how the tragedy in their lives had sort of the opposite effect on them–it strengthened Iris’ faith to stay a nun while Hibana became an atheist and pessimist as a result, throwing herself completely into the scientific world to understand everything. While I wish we explored more of Iris’ internal reasons, I do like the chemistry the two have and Hibana’s change in direction later is not bad, but it could have been built up and developed more. Shinra doesn’t get to shine as much here as others, but he’s still fun to read about, along with the rest of Company 8. The new characters introduced are amusing and their powers, from what we’ve seen, are clever and inventive. Also, reintroduced characters, like Takeru Noto (Juggernaut who briefly appeared in the second volume), are genuinely enjoyable to see and have some great bits. There’s not as much obvious depth to everyone so far and some characters’ quirks remain more irritating than amusing (Tamaki’s lucky lecher lure and Arthur’s idiocy), but it’s still a series with a great and quirky cast of characters.
Outside of the aforementioned fast pacing, the writing is pretty good here. There are a lot of little details and subtleties in the world and character building that helps build this universe and its setting through very casual mentions or observations, like the how different the companies’ headquarters are from one another and how much influence an organization may have over them. It’s the small touches that help build this story up even when it’s moving too quickly at times. Again, the pure creativity with the powers on display, sometimes both fire-based powers and technology together to perform incredible feats, is truly fun to read and experience. The dialogue sits somewhere between normal and cheesy, with completely silly and corny proclamations of being a hero and saving the day. It’s hard to take seriously, but it is strangely endearing and amusing to read. The best part of the writing still remains the humor. It has some issues, but when a joke lands, it’s hilarious and the book constantly gets smiles and chuckles from me. Ohkubo really has a fantastic sense of timing, dialogue, pacing, setup, and art to make this humor work so well.
The artwork was strong overall, just like the rest of the series. The characters are drawn well and are very expressive and distinguishable from one another, even with only small and simple differences between each character. The layouts are strung together fine and everything flows from panel to panel without issue. While not the most kinetic and dynamic manga I’ve read, Ohkubo is able to show off a lot of energy and power in how he presents scenes, angles them, and uses speed lines. The depictions of the powers being used by the Fire Force members are not only creative, but visually interesting as well, like Hibana’s heat powers for instance. It’s a solid-looking book and while some of the fanservice is a bit too shameless instead of amusingly cheeky, I did not have many problems with the visuals here.
Fire Force Vol. 3 is another enjoyable volume of an entertaining series, but its pacing is starting to detract from its strengths. Not enough time is allotted to build up moments and characters as much as it should. It holds back what is genuinely a very fun and energetic Shonen series that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy. Regardless, given its solid writing, good characters, and great art, I still give the book a recommendation.