WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 3 of Fire Force, "The Rookie Fire Soldier Games."
Third episode of Fire Force (delayed, understandably, due to the recent arson attack on Kyoto Animation) sees Shinra attempt to kick back and enjoy some competitive fun against his fellow Company 8 rookies, Arthur and Tamaki, at a Force-wide training simulation. Instead, the third-generation pyrokinetic finds himself on the trail of answers about the mysterious fire that claimed the lives of his mother and brother 12 years ago.
His quest unexpectedly begins when he spots a familiar face at the Rookie Fire Force Games: a silver-haired, one-eyed man named Leonard Burns, who Shinra realizes was at the scene of the incident all those years ago as the first responder. He immediately presses the stern Captain for details about that night but to no avail. This is our first clue in the episode that there's something fishy going on within the supposedly altruistic emergency service.
The simulation involves the rookie participants storming a building manufactured specifically for the event, bypassing the array of dangerous obstacles inside, and becoming the first to put the soul of the Infernal inside to rest. Shinra, who is gifted with the power to propel himself through the air at great speed by shooting fire out of his feet, takes advantage of his, well, advantage right away -- scaling several floors from the outside to give himself a significant headstart on his frustrated colleagues.
Little does the eager teenager know that this maneuver plays right into the hands of the smoking stranger waiting for him inside. As Shinra later relays to Company 8's Captain Ōbi at the end of the episode, the unnamed man, who uses explosive gunpowder as his main weapon, was skulking around the incident the team dealt with in Episode 2, and it seems he has a particular fascination with the Company's activities.
Seeing that the stranger has incapacitated two crewmen, Shinra launches into his fiery fight mode but is quickly overpowered by the grinning, gunpowder-slinger. Rather than finish the job, however, the man instead imparts a world-altering revelation on Shinra: His brother, Shō, who was only 1 year old at the time of the fire, is actually alive. He encourages the shocked rookie to "stop playing the hero" so he can get to the truth. "You think maybe someone is hiding something?"
Their encounter ends with Shinra lashing out again at him, finally managing to land a "hero's high-kick" on the agile stranger before Arthur and Tamaki rush in to assist. At this point, the smoking man decides to make an explosive exit -- which seems to be his forte -- leaving the trio to grab the unconscious crewmen and blast their way to freedom using their ignition abilities.
His suspicions raised even higher, Shinra turns to the only person he feels he can trust -- Captain Ōbi. As the two stand alone in front of the cooling wreckage of the simulation building, Shinra tentatively asks Ōbi whether the Special Fire Force is a wholly "good" organization after all. The Captain assures his new recruit that while it is, the Force's structure isn't as "monolithic" as it appears, meaning that it's vulnerable to competing, private interests at multiple points.
At this point we get a welcome exposition dump: the Special Fire Force was born out of a combination of the Holy Sol Temple, the Tokyo Armed Forces and the Fire Defense Agency, with each faction holding differing amounts of sway over the eight companies. "The influence of the Holy Sol is strong at the 1st. The 2nd reports directly to the Tokyo Armed Forces. At the 5th, the real power is held by Haijima Industries." (Haijima also has a "monopoly" on all of the Force's equipment and other assets.)
This bookends the other exposition dump delivered by the smoking's man's curly-haired, science-minded partner at the start of the episode -- the man apparently responsible for his experimental gunpowder supply. The scientist further explains that "the world is in shambles [...] space is being distorted in a way that is carving up continents, and many countries that once existed have fallen." The Tokyo Empire remains the planet's singular safe haven, powered by a "perpetual thermal nuclear energy planet" called Amaterasu. (Named after the Shinto Sun Goddess.)
It seems that not only is Tokyo hoarding all of the power, but some within Tokyo's Special Fire Force are hoarding vital information, too, as Ōbi sullenly admits to Shinra that nothing is shared between the companies. "Some companies have their own dubious motivation." Ōbi and his allies within the Fire Defense Agency began to suspect that the root cause behind spontaneous human combustion had already been discovered and undisclosed, forming Company 8 in order to "investigate companies one through seven and zero in on the truth."
Crumbling civilizations! Empires! Not-dead-brothers! Conspiracies! Corruption! Phew. Fire Force just got a hell of a lot more interesting.
New episodes of Fire Force are released every Friday on Crunchyroll, and on FUNimationNOW as Simuldubs.