WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 11 of Fire Force, "Formation of Special Fire Force Company 8/The Mightiest Hikeshi."
Episode 10 of Fire Force introduced us to Benimaru Shinmon, Captain of Company 7, and told us the young officer, who brazenly turned his nose up at the Tokyo Emperor, was the Force's strongest member. Episode 11 swiftly delivers on this claim, proving to us -- and an impressed Shinra -- exactly what the renegade leader is capable of.
In "The Mightiest Hikeshi," Company 8 travel to Company 7's district to continue their investigation into the mysterious Evangelist. The district, Asakusa, looks like the town that time forgot, styled after Japan's Edo period. Fittingly, with his flowing garments and use of sword-based martial arts, Benimaru has more than a touch of samurai about him. His grouchiness carries through from when we last encountered him at the Captains meeting; the "Imperial dogs" of Company 8 aren't welcome on his turf. Shinra, true to form, wastes little time in challenging Benimaru to a duel to test his hyped-up skills.
While we do get to see Benimaru in action, it's not against the plucky Company 8 recruit. The alarm is raised for an Infernal manifestation and the Captain knows the victim personally, as he does everyone under his duty of care in Asakusa. Rather than panic, however, the district's residents are jubilant when they see Benimaru calmly make his way out of his Fire Station, exclaiming "The festival has begun!"
The festival they're referring to could be a fictionalized version of the real-world Sagicho Fire Festival, which involves burning parade floats, and the Hikeshi are also a historical nod to a fire-fighting tradition in Japan that dates back to the 17th century, a tradition on which Fire Force as a whole is clearly inspired by. Fires in the Edo period were so common, the city formed local units across the worst-affected locations, known as the Hikeshi.
Just like Benimaru and his crewmen, the Hikeshi used huge, tasseled flags called matoi to signal to other units and civilians where the danger was. In Fire Force, these mop-like banners are used as weapons, with Benimaru using his unique combination of both second and third-generation Ignition abilities to create and control the flames of the matoi that propels him through the air.
His men launch more of them skyward like javelins, which Benimaru takes control of to hurl at his target. Shinra can only observe, slack-jawed, as the Compound Fire Soldier lands, and then dispatches the weakened, burning creature with a swift hand movement that plunges through the former human's chest, right out the other side of its body.
Before this, the first half of the two-part episode, "Formation of Special Fire Force Company 8," traces the humble origin of the unit Shinra was inducted into. Though seemingly disconnected from the Benimaru storyline that follows it, the two halves are thematically joined by Company 7 and 8's "outsider" ethos. We see a younger Hinawa, a Lieutenant in the regular army, find his lack of faith in Sol tested when his roommate Infernalizes. Hinawa grabs his gun to put the screaming man out of misery but fails to pull the trigger knowing the weapon isn't baptized, meaning his spirit wouldn't be rested upon execution.
Later, he watches as Ōbi, a then-officer of the Fire Defense Agency, argues with a Fire Force unit about their points-based system of putting Infernals to rest. He resolves to take care of a lower-ranking victim that the crewmen were neglecting at the scene in favor of more high-profile targets.
Hinawa offers his assistance and, when Ōbi realizes the soldier values human life as much as he does, he recruits him to his cause on the spot. It's the same respectfulness in the line of duty Benimaru shows to the Infernal he puts to rest in the present-day -- a shared trait that could well earn Company 8 their most powerful ally yet.
New episodes of Fire Force are available every Friday on Crunchyroll, and as SimulDubs on FUNimationNOW.