The Fire Hunter continues to be a show that needs to come with a glossary. I spent most of last week’s review writing paragraphs of context, and I loathe to do it again. We do not need this many different terms to construct a full-fleshed-out world. Or, better to say, you don’t have to give the audience all this information in a single go. Eventually, your brain turns to mush, not unlike the animation whenever Touko’s side of the story is shown on screen.
In this episode, we see Touko, the truck conductor, and the only remaining bride escape a crash caused by a giant white dragon. The dragon is one of the Guardians, specifically from where the bride hails. Its deadly attack is thought to be orchestrated by The Spiders, a rebellious Divine Clan. The trio is met by the Forest People, likely an evolution of sorts from actual humans but with dendritic characteristics. They promise to take them to the nearest village.
Koushi spends this episode in a library where he info-dumps more lore on us while looking for this world’s version of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. There’s also a boat festival at the harbor that the Divine Clans will come out to view (possibly leaving them open to attack), and his new stepmom smells like something familiar. So what is that info dump? There was a war, and humanity launched some (weapon??) satellite into space, now referred to as a comet. Whoever captures the comet will become the Lord of the Fire Hunters. All the disastrous changes to Earth came from or in relation to this comet, including the fell beasts/fiends/sky-fiends/other nominally different creatures. There’s an equally specific story about the goddess and how she forged the first sickle used to hunt them and the Guardians’ relationship to her, and I’m sorry, I can’t be arsed about it.
It’s too much. There is a way to introduce this information in a series, but you can’t speedrun it and hope that your audience processes all this information and sees a reason to care about it. Touko is barely a character (still getting yelled at by adults), and the only point of interest in this episode is that she shares part of her name with the previously mentioned goddess. The convoluted system about how oil is harvested from beasts isn’t necessary, and we don’t need two different names for what is a manufactured comet. We hear a lot about the Divine Clans but have seen very little of how they interact with society. The family drama on Koushi’s side of things is also empty. We can see that he’s likely being manipulated to secure medical treatment for his sister, and Kiri might be just another chess piece to get him to marry into the family.
All of this is marred by a stylistic choice that I can’t decide if I like or not. Moments like Touko and her entourage walking through a forest looks janky but in a way that almost feels intentional. It’s like the team is trying to deliberately draw differences between the sophisticated capital and the people eking it out in the villages. On the other hand, lol, it looked like people were moving through oil for most of this episode. Characters are distilled into squares and rectangles, falling in slow motion or walking as if their hips are disconnected from anything resembling the human form.
The Fire Hunter looks like it’s settling into a snooze-worthy format of talking heads flanked by scenes of floating, ill-conceived character designs. What a disappointment coming from Mamoru Oshii.
The Fire Hunter is currently streaming on