First Look: The Fire Hunter

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Alternative title: Hikari no Ou
Novel Adaptation by Signal.MD
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

After a world-altering event, humans now spontaneously combust if they come into close proximity to a naked flame. To adapt, Fire Hunters harvest a new energy source from flamelings – twisted and dangerous creatures that contain a yellow substance that can provide heat and light without the need for fire.

After venturing into the forest to look for medicine, Touko finds herself attacked by a large bear-like flameling. She is saved by a fire hunter who takes it down at the cost of his own life, leaving her with his trusted canine companion.

Euri’s verdict: Dark horse

I really love how this show starts – diving right into a character death before, less than a minute later, playing the opening sequence. The short, pre-opening scene gives us a great little snippet of just how gorgeous this show looks, along with a story hook, before doubling down on the art with a highly-polished OP. Even devoid of the context of the scene, it did exactly enough to get me on-board without needing to get stuck into the greater story.

It’s hard to say how The Fire Hunter will fare going forward, but so far I’m into the story it’s telling. Admittedly I do have a slight, probably unfounded concern with the genre in general that there’s a very fine-line between getting into story particulars and just being boring, but so far so good nonetheless. This is also an adaptation of a completed series of four novels, which means the studio will already know what the key story moments are, and it gives me hope for a solid conclusion come the end of the anime.

A solid first episode, and while I’m sure this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s certainly in the running for biggest surprise of the season for me so far.

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Artemis’ verdict: It’s a Mood

I feel like people’s level of enjoyment of this anime is going to depend heavily on whether they’re ready to make their way through a show that places just as much importance on its atmosphere as its plot – keeping in mind that said atmosphere is fairly bleak, if not outright depressing much of the time. I’m not saying this is going to be a tragedy – I haven’t read the novels on which it’s based, so I have no idea in that regard – but tonally, it both looks and feels like the opposite of cheerful and uplifting. It’s not that it’s trying to be “cool” and “edgy” (thank god) by depicting over-the-top violence or any other ultra-explicit or sensationalist content – it’s just that the characters, setting, and visuals all contribute to a mood that’s pervasively gloomy, so your mileage may well vary based on that.

On a purely personal note, I don’t know whether I’m quite ready to commit to that kind of thing this season, but what I will say is that if you’re down for a (non-isekai) fantasy series with some pretty top-notch worldbuilding, the premiere of Fire Hunters is well worth your time. Its unique story, non-tropey characters, and attention to detail definitely make it one of the standouts of the winter 2023 line-up, and while it may not end up being an especially popular show given those very elements (i.e. not traditionally ‘anime’ enough for some folks), I’d say it’s certainly worth a look.

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