Why Kusakabe Shinra is the Best Current Shonen Anime Protagonist

    This is an opinion piece. This means that what you are reading is the opinion of a fellow weeaboo.  Do I think I’m right? Yes.  Does that mean that I expect you to think that I’m right? No, but it would be cool if you did.

    For those of you who haven’t seen Fire Force and don’t know who Kusakabe Shinra is, Shinra is a seventeen-year-old boy who lost his mother and his little brother Shō in a horrible fire at the age of 5.  In the fire, Shinra saw his mother engulfed in flames, and a Demon who he believed is resonsible for the fire. The ordeal awakened Shinra’s pyrokinesis, which caused him to launch backward, hit his head on a wall, and pass out.  Leonard Burns from the Special Fire Force Company 1 saved Shinra, and after the incident his mother was stated to be dead. Shō’s remains weren’t found, so everyone assumed he was dead as well.

    After losing his family, Shinra went through life being shunned because people thought he was the one that started the fire.  This earned him the title of devil or demon.  Shinra also developed a tick that causes him to smile when he’s nervous, which didn’t help his public image.  From the ages of 5-12, Shinra was kept in a facility where he was experimented on. At the age of 13, Shinra enrolled in the Special Fire Force training academy where he was referred to as a devil by his peers and further shunned.  Despite this, Shinra remained hopeful that he would eventually find the demon that killed his family and become a hero. 

    Even though this back story is tragic, and the level of perseverance that’s Shinra displays throughout the series is pretty great, it’s not the reason why I think Shinra is the best current shonen protagonist. 

    One of the reasons why I think Shinra is the best current shonen protagonist is because he carries himself with a lot of maturity. There is a trend in shonen anime where the protagonist is very happy-go-lucky and extremely adept on the battlefield but they’re not the most mature people. Examples of this trend include Goku, Luffy, Natsu, etc. With Shinra however, we see how confident he is in his pyrokinesis and the sheer power of his flames without the goofy personality which forces you to pay a bit more attention to him. This is especially important because remember, Shinra is 17 years old.

    We see this at the beginning of episode 1 when Shinra saves Iris from a falling light in the train station. Shinra saw the light about to fall, saw where the rest of Company 8 was, analyzed the situation quickly, and used his pyrokinesis to save her in a few short seconds. Had Shinra been a goofier character, he probably would have still saved Iris but it would’ve ruined the gravity of that scene. At that moment Shinra established himself as a person that Company 8 and the audience should take seriously, despite his habit of smiling in tense situations.

    Another reason why Shinra is the best current shonen protagonist is that he is extremely observant and can switch attacks and strategies quickly.  We see how quick Shinra is on his feet –no pun intended– when he fights often, but the best example occurs in episode 29, where Shinra fights Charon over Inca.  Shinra spends most of the fight trying to figure out how Charon channels his firepower.  When he analyzed Charon and thought he was a second-generation pyrokinetic he switched his approach accordingly.  When that didn’t work, Shinra analyzed Charon again, switched his tactics immediately, and landed a hit. Although Shinra lost that fight, the fact that he was adaptable enough to switch his approach to fighting not once, but twice, in the same fight shows that Shinra pushes himself to do his best, and he strategizes. 

    Probably the most significant reason why I think Shinra is the best current shonen protagonist is that I see similar traits in Shinra that a lot of influential shonen characters have. When I saw Shinra’s backstory, it reminded me of Naruto and his days on that one swing. When I saw how Shinra, quite literally, slapped some sense into Hibana, it reminded me of the famous fight between Naruto and Sasuke, just minus the emotional tension.  When I see how determined Shinra is to be a hero and keep everyone safe, no matter what, it reminds me of Midoriya and his journey in My Hero.  When I see how much Shinra loves Shō despite a tricky relationship that develops, it reminds me of Tanjiro and how protective he is over Nezuko in Demon Slayer.  It seems that the writers of Fire Force decided to take the best traits of some of the best anime protagonists and put them in Shinra, thus creating the best current anime protagonist.

    Although it’s clear that I stan Shinra, I know that he isn’t perfect. Shinra can be overconfident and tactless at times. Shinra can also be really stubborn even though he is willing to learn new things and adapt. Despite this, I believe that these bad traits are balanced by Shinra’s good traits. Even if they weren’t balanced, how could you possibly not like this sharp toothed bean?

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