Firefighter!: Daigo of Company M, Volumes 1 and 2 by Masahito Soda
An engaging shonen hero fights fires and learns valuable life lessons in the first couple volumes of Firefighter!: Daigo of Company M. This is an older series from Viz that appears to be out of print, although many volumes are still available. When he was a young boy Daigo ran back into his burning house to rescue his dog. A firefighter came to save him, saying “You’ve got guts, kid! You’re a little firefighter! Years later Daigo has just graduated firefighter school and is so enthusiastic about his new career he stops by his old high school to show off his new uniform to his beautiful former teacher Miss Ochiai. Daigo reports to work 2 days before his official start date. He’s dismayed to discover that the members of Company M seem to be doing anything but fighting fires. They are listening to language tapes, eating, smoking, and the leader Captain Gomi is addicted to horse racing.
Daigo thinks Company M is filled with slackers. He finds out that Company M is assigned to one of the least active districts, and that’s why he hasn’t been able to fight any fires. Daigo explodes in frustration at work, saying that he wants to shine in the field. Captain Gomi points out that Company M is a great place for a hothead like Daigo to learn to simmer down, and questions why Daigo wants there to be fires. Daigo knocks of Gomi’s cap, revealing severe burn marks all over his forehead.
An alarm sounds, and Daigo soon learns that going out to rescue people in real life is more difficult than he expected. He manages to find a man trapped in a house with a gas leak, and freezes, afraid of setting off sparks. The members of Company M come to rescue him. Daigo throws himself into another dangerous situation and needs rescuing, but he saves a fire victim in the process. Captain Gomi tells him “You’ve got guts, kid!” and Daigo remembers hearing that voice before.
The second half of volume one and the second volume deal with Daigo’s intense rivalry with Amakasu, a fellow rookie firefighter assigned to an active district with a pyromaniac. Daigo and Amakasu keep trying to race each other to the fire hydrants whenever their companies are called to put out fires at the same sites, and they lose sight of what they’re called to do as firefighters. Once again Captain Gomi intervenes to teach some important life lessons. There’s a hint of romance supplied too, as Daigo makes plans to go out to dinner with Miss Ochiai and a former classmate named Jun is not happy with this development. Daigo begins to exhibit an almost uncanny instinct for saving people, he’s able find victims that other firefighters overlooked and saves a family trapped in a car on his day off.
While a not very smart protagonist who triumphs by working hard isn’t uncommon in shonen manga, I found Firefighter Daigo quite entertaining. Soda’s art always portrays Daigo with a flushed face, because he’s so emotional and passionate about his job. The firefighting scenes are dynamic, with plenty of details. The first time Daigo tries to use a hose in the field it goes wild, and he’s amazed that the small statured Gomi has so much control. I think that this series didn’t do so well for Viz, which is a pity because I think Firefighter Daigo offers a lot to a reader who is looking for an unconventional action series. While I don’t think I’ll be tracking down the all of the other 18 volumes of this manga, I’ll definitely buy a volume here or there if I manage to run across it. I’m curious to see how this series ends and if Daigo is able to improve on his rookie mistakes and become a great firefighter like Captain Gomi.