WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 1 of Fire Force, "Shinra Kusakabe Enlists."
Within the first minute of Fire Force's premiere episode, a train passenger goes from puffing smoke to erupting into flame. The burning carriage pulls into a station in an alternate version of Tokyo -- Solar Year, 198, the opening titles tell us -- where a teenage boy with red eyes looks much happier to see the charred entity alighting the train than the rest of the screaming commuters around him.
The boy is 17-year-old Shinra Kusakabe, Special Fire Force Company 8's newest recruit, and a third-generation pyrokinetic. This generational line stems from a freakish global disaster that happened decades earlier, in which people inexplicably began turning into living fireballs, otherwise known as Spontaneous Human Combustion. Second generation pyrokinetics are capable of controlling, but not producing, fire, while those like Shinra can create fire from their bodies, an extremely volatile power.
We see just how volatile later on, when flames shoot out from Shinra's heels, propelling him -- like twin jetpacks -- at blistering speed toward his target. He gears up to do this at the train station, but not before assuring us that its for the creature's own good: "You must be in pain. I'll put you out of your misery now."
These monsters of the week aren't your usual guilt-free, slash-and-dash fare. These are "Infernals," human souls that for some reason or another, catch alight and transform into demonic beings. Dispatching them is a two-part process, destroying the body but also putting the corrupted soul to rest. Who else but exorcist firefighters could be up to the task?
Before Shinra can act, however, the rest of his new squad are on the scene, with glow-in-the-dark coats, holy crosses and significant, mechanized firepower of their own. We get proper introductions later on when our grinning hero arrives at their headquarters: A slightly dilapidated cathedral (of course) that Shinra describes as "a dump," getting him on the bad side of the bespectacled, Lieutenant Takeshisa Hinawa immediately.
Takeshisa is without any special powers, as is Company 8's eccentric captain, Akitaru Ōbi, and Sister Iris, whose job it is to perform each troubled souls' last rites. The final squad member we meet is Maki Oze, a second generation pyrokinetic, who, unlike the stern Takeshisa, takes a shine to the "adorable" Shinra. (From his blushing, the feeling seems mutual.)
As well as establishing the series' premise and ensemble cast, Fire Force's premiere efficiently and effectively establishes Shinra's motivation for signing up for the "Blue Stripes," as the special firefighting force is nicknamed. When knocked unconscious for a few seconds during his first official assignment with the team, the flames of the Infernal Company 8 have been sent to fight triggers memories of the death of Shinra's mother and brother in a terrible house fire.
Naturally, given Shinra's young age and his destructive ability, neighbors place the blame on him. Shinra's uncontrollable habit of smiling whenever he's tense didn't help him look any less like the "devil" he was accused of being at the time. But, the truth is clearly far less cut-and-dry. "There was something there, during the fire," Shinra insists, as we see an actual devilish figure grinning through the melting infrastructure of his childhood home. "Something other than Mom, or Sho, or me. [...] Ever since that day, I haven't been able to smile genuinely.
In the present, an awakened Shinra gets to his feet in time to do what he set out do -- prove that his powers can be used for good rather than bad. With a flying flaming kick to the Infernals' hardened chest, its body is extinguished and Sister Iris' prayers ensure its soul returns to "the great flame of fire." Finding out the truth of what happened to his family not only gives our central hero a reason to get fired up each episode, but also a wider mystery to sift through the ashes of in the long-run.
New episodes of Fire Force are released every Friday on Crunchyroll, and on FUNimation Now as SimulDubs.