Firefighter academy student Nanase Takemine is a promising rookie fire investigator who is haunted by her parents’ fiery death. Three years ago, she saved a man from a burning building. But he was no innocent victim–he turned out to be the arsonist responsible for the death of her parents. Now this serial fire-starter has started help her solve fire-related crimes. His intentions seem good, but how can Nanase reconcile his willingness to help with his role in her own personal tragedy?
Fighting fires and investigating their causes might not sound like an entertaining topic for a manga, except if you expect it to be filled with hot, studly men battling dangerous fires. But when you live in a state where wild fires area a part of the ecology of the region, interest can go up real fast. Fire Fighter Nanase is an enjoyable series that satisfies itches for both fire fighting and mystery fans.
Nanase Takemine is a dedicated student working to become a fire investigator. She has the knowledge and tenacity to work a case at all hours of the night to get to the truth and not just accept the seemingly obvious answer. While she puts up a tough facade, she is really a softy, feeling for the victims and dedicating herself to find the answers for them. She even went so far as to take in Shingo, the son of an EMT who died at the hands of Firebug, the arsonist who kill his father and her parents. She is ambivalent about the help Firebug offers her, and is determined to capture him, but he is often able to distract her with hints from her current case, sending her off on a sleuthing tangent. Her strong spirit and conviction to find the truth makes her a great lead.
Firebug is much more of a mystery. He reappears suddenly in Nanase’s life, saving her from the culprit in her current case and testing her knowledge and abilities in fire investigation. He is obsessed with her. He has a huge photo of her in the abandoned church he uses as his base, and he gets overly protective of her if she is attacked by anyone, often violently. He even crucifies and burns a stalker that was after her. Like most mysterious mentors, Firebug never gives Nanase the answers, but just enough clues for her to figure it out herself. His fixation on her is creepy, and as the series goes on, he takes a more demonic appearance, almost like he has possessed her.
The stories have a murder mystery format. A fire has occurred, and someone has been killed. Nanase must use her knowledge and deductive reasoning, often prodded by Firebug, to find the answer, usually contradicting the conclusion her superior Tachibana has come up with. But she always finds the criminal, though few seem to live long enough to face justice. Most of the stories are multiple chapters, but there are some slighter, single chapter stories, that involve Nanase’s personal life.
I really enjoyed Fire Investigator Nanase. I love the mystery format, and found the exposition about fires and fire fighting interesting, though as is typical of mysteries, these parts could get very talky. I also liked that Nanase’s abilities were never questioned because she was female, just inexperienced. Tachibana’s berating of Nanase were only about how she was a rookie and he was more experienced, and she couldn’t possibly be right because of it. He changes his tune though when she helps clear his son of arson and even helps them mend their relationship, unintentionally. Her main antagonist is Ogata, a fire investigator for the Metropolitan police with a nasty streak who believes Nanase and Firebug are working together, though he is only half-right in his suspicions. A possible love interest, Hayato Hikawa, is introduced in volume 3, and he seems to know something about the night Nanase’s parents died.
The art is okay, though often inconsistent, especially on Nanase. The size of her chest and waist can vary widely, not just chapter to chapter, but even panel to panel. The character designs are well done, with characters appearances reflecting their personalities. The charred husks of the victims are suitably disturbing.
The only real problem I have with Fire Investigator Nanase is that it is incomplete. CMX, the manga imprint of DC Comics, stopped publishing right before the 5th volume was released. This is almost a crime in itself, as volume 4 ends just before the resolution of the case, as well as the hints about who Firebug really is and his relationship to Nanase were about to be revealed! At seven volumes total, this series is a prime candidate for a digital only rescue. While the title is out of print, all four volumes can still be found on Amazon for pretty cheap, or at least under cover price.
If you enjoy mysteries and don’t mind charred corpses, though as a mystery reader, corpses shouldn’t bother you, then this series is a good fit. The cases are intriguing, with all the clues there for the reader to make their own deduction. Fire Investigator Nanase is definitely worth digging up.