There’s a traitor in Special Fire Force Company 1 and it’s up to Shinra to figure out who it is in the newest volume of Fire Force.
Writer/Artist: Atsushi Ohkubo
Translated by: Alethea, Athena Nibley
Lettering by: Abigail Blackman
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
The latest volume of Fire Force surprised me to a certain extent. While it still holds several of the problems from the previous outings, this book felt like a big step up in quality. My main complaint with the story is the pace at which things are going, in the case here with how quickly the traitor within Company 1 is revealed and how little he was established in the previous book. It lacks the impact it probably would have if we had gotten to know him longer, but the book makes up for it with two factors and balancing them together well: action and revelations.
Within this volume, more than any others, we have a lot of both action and story development, and a good balance of both. During the middle, the manga is about the action as Shinra faces down with the traitor and other big things happen, but it’s not just that either. Throughout the book, even intermixed with the action, we get many different revelations, all of which are quite intriguing and surprising. We learn who the traitor is, their motivation, discover how it ties back into Shinra, learn more about the villains, and even get to meet the other Company Captains. Having a good mixture of these two elements kept things exciting and the new aspects introduced never felt crammed in or out of place. They’re introduced in spots where it feels appropriate and makes sense in context. I still have issues with how quickly plot points are resolved, such as the gigantic Infernals with multiple cores introduced in one chapter and established as a huge issue only for them to be quickly defeated in the next chapter, but the story developments and mixture of action make for a rather exciting time.
Now, how do the characters fare? The majority of main and side characters step aside for the book as we focus primarily on Shinra and Tamaki (also the traitor, but we’ll get into that). Shinra himself got a good amount of characterization as he faces off against the bad guy, learning more about the villains and how they connect back to him. We see just a little bit about how it affects him and makes him start thinking about his past, while also giving him a chance to shine in a cool action scene. While he doesn’t exactly grow or change, given how the last chapter in the book played out, I’m quite eager to see more of him in the future and how he’ll react to some of things we’ve learned here.
When it comes to Tamaki, we’ll need to hit some spoilers.
After everything, I feel like there was a missed opportunity for this character. The first chapter of the book ended on a surprise that indicated Tamaki may be involved with turning people into Infernals. Whether she’d be the true traitor or merely assisting them, that would’ve been a great twist instead of just one of the Lieutenants by themselves being a villain. She was a character who’s been around for a while and has mostly served as the joke and fanservice character, so her being evil all along would have been a great twist. But it sadly turns out that she wasn’t and was just being used by the traitor for their own goals, which is a little less exciting. Plus, the big character moment of her being betrayed and heartbroken is also lessened, both due to her still being used for fanservice and the relationship between her and her lieutenant just unexplored. It’s a good moment that can bring about change in her, but it lacks the impact when we’ve barely seen the two together at all.
Regardless, I did find the writing to be very good for the most part. Despite the issues with the pacing and rushed areas, the storytelling is fine and flows very well from page to page. There’s not a lot of character growth or focus to go around, which is a little disappointing considering it feels like we should really get more reactions or check in on many of the characters from Fire Force Company 1 given the situation. I will say the traitor, despite not having too much depth, is delightfully insane and he and his group’s motivations are crazy in a fun, old-school supervillain kind of way. The new characters and reveals we get are all pretty cool, offering plenty of potential and excitement to keep you hooked. The dialogue is enjoyable and some of the humor still works, like Arthur getting completely lost. Though, some attempts at using fanservice for humor falls very flat since it always seems to come up at pivotal, emotionally strong moments where it is out of place.
The artwork was as good as it usually is, but with the bonus of having some nifty new designs and action. The usual cast is drawn as well as they usually are–good with conveying emotion in their faces and throughout their bodies. The new characters are pretty designed very well, from the new Infernals to how each of the fire captains are depicted. The layouts are decent and allow the story to flow well, outside of the second to last chapter where it ends in a rather confusing, janky way that feels like it needed another round of editing. The action was the true star, depicting some really amazing, flowing shots as Shinra and the traitor fight against one another. It’s energetic and you can feel the force and power in these scenes. Add in some well-drawn and angled pages, like Shinra swooping in to save the day or the traitor’s execution, this is easily the best looking edition of the series to date.
Fire Force Vol. 4 is a fun, action-filled ride with plenty of twists and reveals to keep you surprised and excited for the road ahead. Its main fault lies still squarely within the pacing that keeps things moving too quickly for its own good. But, if you like shonen action series and still haven’t tried the series out, it’s definitely worth a shot for sure.