Packing Heat: Why Fire Force has the potential to blaze a brand new path

With the spring anime season coming to an end, a particularly hot dosage of series come rearing their heads as we turn our calendars over to summer. One show in particular has already staked its claim above the rest, mainly based on the animation quality burned into our minds from the promotional trailers: Fire Force! David Production will be tackling the adaptation of this firefighter focused story from Soul Eater mangaka, Atsushi Okubo.

We’ve already planned to cover the series in-depth over the course of its run, but what we’ve seen so far has given us enough to be hyped over that it deserves its own preview post to highlight all the main staff!

Director: Yuki Yase (Zaregoto, Mekaku City Actors)

Yuki Yase is an interesting case, being somewhat of an underdog amidst a studio in SHAFT (that was) loaded with personalities. His presence as a director just wasn’t as impactful or lasting as his peers, the likes of Tomoyuki Itamura, Yuhihiro Miyamoto, and Naoyuki Tatsuwa could all be found boasting beloved hits such as Monogatari, Madoka Magica, and Nisekoi, respectively. While in the meantime, Yase’s work always felt a bit more off the radar in comparison, which makes sense since his projects didn’t meet the same success. But that doesn’t mean Yase can’t be just as strong considering he has proved to be a capable and quirky director at times! Take his fondness of water effects and super imposed reflections for example, or perhaps his extensive use of block shading (and lack there of). For what it’s worth, his boards on Mekakucity and Zaregoto showed off some neat ideas as well. All these smaller nuances have overtime evolved into a large part of his directing vocabulary. Additionally, his collaborations with exceptional artists like Taiki Konno and Yasuhiro Nakura are certainly his biggest achievement and we can only hope to see them on Fire Force. Currently, Yase finds himself at an interesting turning point for his career, I’d say he’s a bit of a wild card even. Free from studio SHAFT’s culture and Akiyuki Shinbo’s supervision, there’s a real chance he could use what he learned from his time there and ignite it into something genuinely unique. I can’t shake off the feeling of him being the next Shinichi Omata (also known by his pen-name: Mamoru Hatakeyama), another Ex-SHAFT vet who started coming into his own after he left the studio. He’s now universally loved for his work on Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and the recent phenomenon Kaguya-sama: Love is War.

All this to say, Yuki Yase got an insane amount of potential to grow as a director right now, especially with so many pals supporting him on this show, and I’d hate for it to go to waste. But if anything, the PV is reassuring as it features interesting shot composition and more of that abstract aesthetic he’s so fond of. I would especially note the shots with strong color contrasts. Evoking particular atmosphere through simple yet ingenious ideas is certainly a strength that could be attributed to SHAFT as a whole, but it will be interesting to see how Yase will adapt to another environment on a more grounded action-heavy series.

Use of color contrast found in Fire Force and others episodes directed by Yase.

Character designer/Chief animation director: Hideyuki Morioka (Kizumonogatari, Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei, D Gray Man)

Much like Yase, Hideyuki Morioka is another (former) staple member at studio SHAFT. He’s been at the studio for almost twenty years doing designs for iconic productions such as Zetsubou Sensei or more recently Kizumonogatari, as well as other titles like Maria Holic and Rec. He’s no-doubt a trusted veteran, and his presence here doubling as chief animation director is also quite the rarity, since the last time he took on this task for a TV anime was ten years ago on the last season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. We can be sure he will maintain consistency, and moreover might even bring some interesting acquaintances on the show as well.

Hideyuki Morioka’s animation on Sangatsu no Lion.

Sub character designer/Chief animation director: Yoshio Kozakai (Chaos;HEAd)
Main animators: Hiroyuki Ohkaji, Riki Matsuura

Speaking of those acquaintances, one without any doubt is Yoshio Kozakai. Kozakai was a regular animation director and animator at SHAFT (though he works for many studios), especially on the Monogatari franchise. He was trusted enough to be credited as main animator on the first Kizumonogatari movie along-side studio aces like Ryo Imamura and Gen’Ichirou Abe. Assisting Morioka with designs and supervision feels like a logical next step for his career.

The duo of main animators were also regular animation directors and key animators at the studio. Can only make you wonder how many SHAFT alumni are going to show up on the series!

Key animator: Kazuhiro Miwa (Action animation director on Fate/Extra Last Encore)

You may be thinking “what’s the difference between main animator, and key animator?” and well, in this case there essentially isn’t one. Don’t let the titles fool you though, Kazuhiro Miwa is an exceptional action and effects specialist who will almost certainly be tasked with animating the series’ most important and high-octane scenes. Eureka Seven director Tomoki Kyoda, praised him as, “a person who draws really well and with impeccable speed.” You won’t have to look very hard to find a lot of series out there that can corroborate Kyoda’s claims.

While we will have plenty of occasions to talk about Miwa throughout the series’ coverage, it’s plain to see his animation is already at the centerpiece of the promotional material! His cuts are very recognizable due to the shapes of his effects tending to be drawn with smeary edges, which maintain themselves constantly and consistently through movement. It serves to add a fair bit of dynamism in his work. My favorite quirk of his, however, is how he includes colored elements in black and white impact frames. That’s quite neat considering Yuki Yase will also make use of that contrast, albeit in a different way.

On top of his effects expertise, Miwa’s also an exceptional action animator particularly known for his highly dynamic pieces.

The fact that nearly the entire backbone of this production is affiliated in some way to SHAFT coincides with rumors suggesting that the studio underwent an exodus, with many departing for David Production. We’re already able to feel the effects of this migration on the currently airing Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, which features some SHAFT alumni such as its production desk Shou Sugawara, as well as action animation director Yasutoshi Iwasaki. We can surely expect as much and more on Fire Force, as it’s bound to be a gathering of great effects animators, be it traditional or digital ones.

It’s also worth pointing out the way some of those effects are being handed by the photography and post-processing teams. From the PV we can see a lot of color gradients within the shapes themselves, this delicate approach to compositing will hopefully give a lot of different flavors to the various techniques the characters use. Definitely a good thing considering the exact same style of fire could get boring over its ~50 episodes run, otherwise.

It would be cruel of me to drop the number 50 and just end the article there, so yes, it’s going to be a very long ride… The anime is confirmed for four cours, with the likely hood of a 3-6 months break between. We can also surmise they’ve finished at least approximately ten episodes based on where the promotional material coincides with the manga, so the schedule should theoretically hold up well enough? Always risky to assume things though, especially with such a huge workload before them. That sentiment doubles for us as well, as we’re hoping to cover the series over its run- or at the very least the highlights (there should be plenty so stay tuned!).

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