One of the things I’ve really enjoyed so far about the Fire Force series is that it takes totally standard plots and characters, and makes them interesting and entertaining. Vol. 17 of the manga really shows off these qualities.
The basic story and hero are straightforward: in a world where people often spontaneously combust into mindless demonic fire monsters, teen-age Shinra Kusakabe joins the Fire Force who help take down these monsters before the wreak too much havoc in order to both protect people and solve the mysteries of his past, namely what caused the fire that seems to have killed his mother and potentially his baby brother Sho. Shinra himself is on the one hand the typical hero of this kind of adventure story in that he has an unusually powerful ability to control and manipulate fire, and that he is always ready to run right into a fight without thinking since yelling and trying one’s hardest always works, right? The thing that makes him interesting is that he actually has a little bit on an emotional IQ; he notices how other characters are feeling and tries to help, like when Sister Iris has some doubts about her faith, he talks to her about it, and they both feel a little better afterwards.
This volume covers the second half of a fight with the probably evil corporation Haijima Industries which is doing human experiments on children and may have something to do with the human combustion problem etc. The very strong and very twisted adversary Kurono decides that he’s going to help Shinra stop one of the test subjects whom Shinra is trying to save after the kid has started to lose control of his power. Another character on the villain side helps Shinra understand that the pair (Kurono and Nataku- the kid) might actually be what the other needs to balance themselves, providing an interesting little tweak on bad guys being a teeny bit good in places. There’s also another baddie, Haumea, whom the other bads don’t seem to like because she doesn’t think before causing trouble and who seems to have no problems causing trouble for her supposed allies. Haumea herself is a standard unapologetic selfish style villainess, but her presence does allow for characters like Charon to be a little more complex and interesting.
There are some things about the story that don’t make much sense, like how Vulcan (team good guy) is suddenly willing to accept help from Haijima which has betrayed his family in the past and possibly tried to kill him without wondering if the company has a hidden motive. Then there’s Arthur, who seems like he’s supposed to be comic relief on account of being incredibly dumb but strong when he’s living in his own fantasy world. The only point of Arthur seems to be to give Shinra someone to fight with in less extreme life threatening circumstances.
If you’re familiar with Soul Eater, then you’ve got an idea of the art style (same author), a little angular and the figures often have strange postures and faces. For me, the style actually works pretty well here in the world and characters. The thing that I don’t really like about it is that most of the women have unnaturally proportioned chests. It’s even pointed out directly in Sister Iris’ character profile, that she has really big boobs. The thing about Sister Iris that’s a little worse than some of the other ladies in the series (several of whom can kick butt) is that she’s about 16, she’s a nun, and it’s a really sexist, creepy thing to add to an otherwise cutesy character.