One of the anime that I’m enjoying the most right now is last season’s Fire Force. Fire Force is set in an alternate Japan where the phenomenon of human combustion has become a very real, very serious threat. To combat this, the special fire force, made up of various brave and talented pyrokinetic firefighters, was born. Our hero, Shinra, is one of these firefighters. The show follows Shinra as he sets out to become a hero, unravel the mystery surrounding human combustion, and discover just who’s responsible for his family’s death.
Fire Force is super fun! It looks stunning and has a varied and entertaining cast of characters. Not to mention that I’ve loved watching the mystery at its core be slowly teased apart. But… the more I watch Fire Force, the more I realise that, for all its strengths, it’s actually pretty unoriginal. It’s like its creator, Ookubo, in a crazy bid to create the ultimate battle shounen, stitched together all of the best parts of all of the best-loved battle shounen in existence, to create this, a Frankenstein’s monster of a series…
Don’t believe me? Here are but a few of the similarities between Fire Force and some other popular shounen shows:
- Both Fire Force and Bleach feature different squads, each with their own credos, set of abilities, and slightly unhinged captains
- In both Fire Force and D.Gray-man anybody could suddenly and without warning turn into a monster. This meant that nobody could be trusted and that a fight could break out at the drop of a hat
- You can’t trust the authorities in either Fire Force or Fullmetal Alchemist. Both shows involve a government-level conspiracy
- Both Fire Force and Naruto have a misunderstood hero who’s been labelled a monster their entire lives. These two heroes also have a tendency to beat everybody into becoming their friend
- Both Fire Force and Soul Eater love to use tacky and tasteless fanservice (which makes sense, since they both share a creator)
When I try to think of anything groundbreaking or original about Fire Force I, regrettably, draw a blank. Yes, Fire Force looks awesome, even by today’s incredibly high standards, but in terms of its actual content, I got nothing… That being said, it’s still so much fun to watch and is one of my favourite anime of 2019. Which got me thinking, can a show be great without doing anything groundbreaking or original?
A couple of months back I wrote a blog post called “The End of Classic Anime…?”. In this post, I identified a few features that make up a classic anime. Doing something groundbreaking or original was, of course, mentioned, but so was generating discussion amongst anime fans and enduring in popularity over time. Fire Force certainly isn’t groundbreaking or original and, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem to be generating much discussion online. Whether it continues to be popular years or even months down the line remains to be seen. But while Fire Force may not have the potential to become a classic anime, a cursory glance at its stats on MAL reveals that a lot of people are watching it (nearly 200,000), the majority of which (31.8%) think it’s worth at least an 8/10 from what they’ve watched so far. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the general consensus on Fire Force is that it’s a pretty great show. Why might this be when it is so unoriginal? Here’s my theory…
I think a big part of why Fire Force is so darn good, in spite of its unoriginality, is, ironically, because of its unoriginality. It incorporates all of these elements from all of the anime you grew up on, or else the gateway shows that eased you into the anime fandom, thus tapping into your sense of nostalgia. Watching Fire Force takes you back to a simpler time, your childhood, or to a time when everything was new and exciting, when you just started delving into the weird and wonderful world of anime, making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and endearing you to the show.
Perhaps all of the similarities between Fire Force and the other anime I mentioned are coincidental and perhaps I’m reading too much into things (it wouldn’t be the first time), but if my theory is right on the money, this is actually a really clever strategy to hook viewers, particularly those that’ve been around a while. So, what do you think of my theory? Can you think of any other shows that might have tried a similar strategy? Let me know in the comments section below!