Rather than Mamoru Oshii, I think Junji Nishimura represents a better gauge as to what to expect from “The Fire Hunter.” Nishimura’s output is wide-ranging and includes solid work, outright trash, and a handful of hidden masterpieces. His 2004 series “Windy Tales” is a visually astonishing slice-of-life series made at the prestigious Production I.G. But his 1996 fantasy adaptation “Violinist of Hameln” features so little movement that fans dubbed it “Slideshow of Hameln.” Personally speaking, I suspect these two series are key to what “The Fire Hunter” is doing. The show’s use of still images, pans, and pointed cutting around character face and bodily movement are reminiscent of the budget-saving tricks of “Hameln.” At the same time, though, these decisions are evocative in their own right, building the world and atmosphere of “The Fire Hunter” through implication. Meanwhile, the animation during fiend sequences bear comparison to the stylization of “Windy Tales,” even as they fail to match its technical expertise.
While I’m loving the series so far, I have to admit that Nishimura and Oshii are playing a dangerous game with “The Fire Hunter.” Its detailed character designs, careful storyboarding, and elaborate world all require time and effort to maintain. These qualities are in short supply within today’s overstretched anime industry. The show’s studio, Signal.MD, was recently behind the disastrous adaptation of “Platinum End” (based on a series by the creators of “Death Note”). Even before that, though, the studio made the news when Japan’s FTC caught them refusing to pay a subcontracted animator who worked for them in 2019. An environment like this could spell doom for “The Fire Hunter,” even if its key creative staff are veterans.