Fire Force: Is Joker A Hero, Villain, Or Both?

Atsushi Ohkubo's "Fire Force" offers an intriguing story that turns the concept of firefighters and the flames they battle upside down in a way only a Shonen anime could do. But there are some concepts that the series shares with its other Shonen genre contemporaries, for example, the familiar conflict of good versus evil. When "Fire Force" initially started, it was easy to spot who was on either side of the coin. However, one character left everyone scratching their heads the more times he appeared throughout "Fire Force." Ohkubo may have been on the nose when creating Joker, as he's primarily existed as an actual wild card within "Fire Force." His unnerving smile, usually slightly interrupted by a lone cigarette, already screams, "...up to no good."

But perhaps, like Shinra's unfortunate smile, Joker's actions betray any villainous looks. Don't get it twisted. He is not your typical hero. His debut in Episode 3 certainly did little to paint him in a positive light, as he's responsible for some building explosions and engages Shinra in a lopsided battle where it looks like he's only toying with the young firefighter. In addition, even after their fight, Joker's offer for Shinra to join him as a devil instead of playing hero seems like an essential play from the villainy handbook. But later in Season 2, when he meets with Benimaru Shinmon, Joker introduces himself as an anti-hero, and honestly, he's not far off. Because between his further interactions with Shinra and his battles with other series antagonists, Joker proves himself neither hero nor villain, but a mixture of both.

Joker thrives in shades of gray

Joker may have had a rough introduction in the series that put him at odds with Shinra, but he does always leave the young hero with crucial information. During their initial fight in Episode 3, Joker reveals that Shinra's brother, Sho Kusakabe is alive. And later, during the "Preacher Pursuit" arc, he tells Shinra that Sho has teamed up with the main antagonist, The Evangelist. Yet, it's his actions during Sho and Shinra's first meeting in the aptly titled episode "Black And White And Gray" that makes Joker appear like he's genuinely on the side of good. Confronting the powerful Sho, he saves Shinra and his comrades from certain death. Despite literally announcing himself as a hero, Joker doesn't save Shinra out of the goodness of his heart. In fact, none of his actions are selfless.

After the tragic events of his origin with Holy Sol's Shadow and learning of Adolla, Joker's entire goal within "Fire Force" becomes finding out the truth the empire of Tokyo is hiding about the world. And it would be seen as an utterly benevolent goal if not for the fact that he isn't afraid to manipulate, involve innocent people, or even kill others to achieve it. Joker's decisions depend on whatever will benefit him closer to the truth, even if that means protecting Shinra or teaming up with Benimaru. So while heroes like Shinra undoubtedly represent the side of good, Joker is all about blazing a path on a gray road.

Even some fans seem to agree that Joker is an anti-hero

Often, a morally ambiguous character like Joker can come off as confusing when trying to figure out where they align. A question about the character's allegiance even popped up as the subject on the "Fire Brigade" Reddit. Fortunately, some fans seemed to have a pretty good grasp on where Joker stands in the series. One user best summed up Joker by writing, "He aims for good, so no, he is not amoral. Although, saying that he is not a psychopath would be a lie..." With those traits, it's difficult not to include Joker in the same league as other anime anti-heroes like "Shippuden" era Sasuke or early Light Yagami in "Death Note." All three started with the best intentions, but their methods were questionable at best and disturbing at worse.

Some fans also suggest that the current best method might be to look beyond the "Fire Force" anime to get an even better idea of Joker and his intentions. "As of recent manga events, he's more on the side of helping Shinra, though he's still a bit of a chaotic neutral type," u/_Sunny– posted. "Fire Force" may be making its return to anime with an upcoming Season 3, but its story in the manga already wrapped up in 2021. And whether we see it the anime or manga, Joker likely continues to follow his own path until the very end.