Releasing in 1985 and based on a manga by Rumiko Takahashi, Fire Tripper often goes forgotten these days. Even in conversations specifically about old school isekai anime. I would very much like to see that changed.
The story concerns a girl called Suzuko, who lives in a quiet village during the sengoku period. One day the village is attacked by bandits, during which Suzuko would have been killed. Just before the flames engulf her, however, Suzuko is teleported to modern-day Japan. There she grows up and has a normal life; all but forgetting about her strange childhood. Then disaster strikes again and Suzuko is returned to her original time. Mere days before the village would be attacked.
Frequent readers will notice the parallels between this setup and that of Legend of Himiko, which was our feature review this week. Fortunately, I ended up enjoying Fire Tripper a whole lot more.
Fire Tripper has a lot of the usual appeals of isekai stories, which now benefit from Rumiko’s art and storytelling skills. Suzuko is a likeable character, understandably distraught at being taken away from her “normal” life yet again. She struggles a lot with adjusting to the ways of historical Japan. Particularly all the death and decay that surrounds her, as the village is swallowed up by the war around it. She has to wear clothes taken from looted corpses and eat stolen food. Both of which are understandably upsetting when viewed from a modern perspective.
A second protagonist is found in Shukumaru. He is town’s stalwart defender, in spite of his young age. A spirited warrior who doesn’t think twice about striking down his opponents. Upon finding Suzuko, Shukumaru is immediately taken by her. He demands she becomes his wife, leading to a lot of gruff attempts at being romantic.
For a 50-minute movie, Fire Tripper ends up feeling very complete. I certainly felt like I spent a lot more time with these characters than I actually did. It has an interesting romance and some good mysteries to it. Not to mention some very solid action scenes also.
My only complaint is that the ending feels strange. It’s difficult to explain without spoilers, but there’s this gnawing sense that we needed a true final battle. We get pay offs to everything else, like it’s all clicking into place ahead of a great finale. Then it turns out we don’t need to fight anymore, so the last bit of the anime is a collage of still frames set to music. I didn’t hate it, but it sure feels like the excitement was allowed to fizzle out just as it peaked.