Fire Force, vol. 1
Writer/artist: Atsushi Okubo
Kodansha Comics; $10.99
How exactly does one follow a super-successful manga series like Soul Eater? Well, with a spin-off series, like Soul Eater Not. And, once you’ve finished with the spin-off series, how do you follow that? Well, if you are Soul Eater creator Atsushi Okuba, you would do so with Fire Force, a series that shares with Soul Eater a pretty unique, and rather complex, setting with its own unusual rules and a likable hero surrounded by a sizable cast.
In the world of Fire Force, human beings live in constant fear of death by fire, thanks to an epidemic of spontaneous human combustion. Rather than simply bursting into flames—as if that weren’t bad enough—these victims of spontaneous human combustion transform into “Infernals,” ever-burning, undead creatures that set everything around them ablaze and can only be put down by having their cores somehow punched out.
Fighting the Infernals falls to the courageous firefighters of Special Fire Force, who are like a fusion of a typical firefighter, exorcist and vampire hunters; using highly specialized weapons, these squads attempt to put out the fires and drive axes, spikes, or flaming weapons into the hearts of the Infernals, all while their nun prays for the Infernals’ souls.
But wait, there’s more! Along with the spontaneous human combustion and the Infernals, the world is also full of pyrokinetics with the powers to control fire. Second-generation pyrokinetics can control fire, while third-generations can create and control their fire in highly specialized ways.
Our hero is Shinra Kusakabe, one-such pyrokinetic. His specilization is that his feet can burst into flames, and he can use those flames to run super-fast, jump super-high, propel himself like a rocket, and deliver devastating fire kicks. Because of his power, and his uncontrollable nervous tic of grinning wickedly when nervous or annoyed, he’s earned the nickname “Little Devil.”
We meet Shinra and his unit, Company 8, on his first day in the job, as Ohkubo fleetly, efficiently reveals this new world in the course of a more-or-less typical call for the Fire Force. The rest of the first volume contains the introduction of Arthur, Shinra’s long-time rival to the very same company, the appearance of a mysterious stranger who seems to be setting fires and perhaps controlling the Infernals as well, and the beginning of a sort of Olympics-style games for new firefighters like Shinra and Aruthr.
Naturally, Shinra lost his family in a mysterious fire when he was a child and decided to devote himself to being a hero to make up for it. His power was blamed for causing the fire, but he swears he saw an Infernal of some kind there, even though no one else believed him. In addition to giving our hero some motivating angst, it also provides an ongoing mystery to be solved in future volumes.
The tone as well as the character designs are quite similar to Soul Eater; there’s a great deal of action tempered by humor, some of which can occasionally be fairly bawdy. Beyond the characters and drama though, Ohkubo once again demonstrates a remarkable penchant for world-building and has turned what was already a pretty dangerous, exciting occupation into something that involves the supernatural, super-powers, and cool weapons and vehicles.
The second volume of the series is already available, having just been released last month, and the third volume is set to drop next month.