A First Look at “Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End”

A First Look at Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
Sousou no Frieren
Frieren, the Final Farewell to the Dead (literal)

For some time now, I’ve seen posts on Twitter about a silver haired, female elf mage and some companions. Sometimes it is a party of four (with two human males and one dwarf male ) and sometimes it is a party of three (with a human male and female). In addition to seeing artwork, I’ve read folks posting positive things about the anime adaptation. Then I saw a clip where the elf mage commanded a female demon lord to kill herself. And in horror, the demon lord did just that by cutting off her own head. 😮 So I had to give the manga a look-see since that’s the source of the anime.

The Story in Brief (through 26 chapters)

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End Volume 01A party of adventurers slay the powerful Demon King, bringing peace to the world. This party consisted of the human hero warrior Himmel, the human priest Heiter, the dwarf warrior Eisen, and the female, elf mage Frieren. After the final celebration, Frieren promises to return in 50 years for the next meteor shower event. When she returns, her companions are old. Himmel dies shortly after her return. It is then that Frieren regrets she never truly got to know Himmel. Later, the ailing Heiter convinces the nearly ageless Frieren to take his young, female, orphan charge, Fern, to be Frieren’s apprentice.

After Heiter dies, Frieren and Fern travel for a few years, doing odd jobs. Frieren seems to be keen on collecting grimoires supposedly written by the mythical human mage, Flamme, who in fact was Frieren’s master. One day, they visit Eisen, who’s advanced dwarf years make him unsuitable to join Frieren on another adventure. Instead, he gets her to take his male teen apprentice, Stark, to join them. Stark is admittedly afraid of fighting monsters, but when push comes to shove, he does his duty, providing a front guard to allow Frieren or Fern to unleash their powerful magics.

The trio travel the lands, helping here and there. Sometimes the jobs are big, such as killing a dragon, or destroying some demon lords left over from the demon king’s army. However, sometimes the jobs might be simple. But all along the way, Frieren learns more about the mortals she travels with currently, as well as coming to understand the mortals she previously traveled with.

Not Your Typical Fantasy

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End Volume 02There is a long standing trope about the immortality (or near immortality) of elves. Mr. Tolkien touched upon the subject in his works. Others have as well. However, until Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, I don’t think I’d read any fantasy title that delved into the long life of an elf. To that end, the story starting with the defeat of the big boss villain is an interesting one. The ten year adventure Frieren had with her mortal companions to defeat the Demon King may as well have been ten days. And yet during that time, she never really got to know her comrades in arms.

Likewise, when Frieren reunites with her party after 50 years, she’s almost shocked at how they’ve aged. To her, 50 years were nothing. So when Himmel dies, Frieren decides to get to know humans better. That character arc is the basis that turns this fantasy series into something new. Throughout the course of the first 26 chapters, some 29 years have passed since Himmel died. With Frieren taking on a human mage apprentice, and a human warrior, she has a chance to not only get to know them, but to see her old party members through their (and other people’s) eyes. I really like that.

Finally, the story of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End combines present day situations with flashbacks. However, the flashbacks are done in a good way. While providing backstory for Frieren’s character, they also show how Frieren grows as a character. She comes to understand humans she knew in ways she didn’t know when they were alive. Frankly, I found this aspect to the story most interesting,

A Good Girl Boss

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End Volume 03Frieren is a massive girl boss, but in every good way possible. She’s been alive for maybe a thousand years or more. Frieren trained from a mage so powerful, said mage has become a myth due to the passage of time. Yet Frieren keeps a low profile. She doesn’t proclaim herself to be the elf from the hero’s party some 80 years before. She’s not flashy and will do even menial jobs to acquire some bit of magical knowledge, especially if it supposedly came from her former master.

Further, Frieren suppresses her mana, causing enemies to underestimate her. One thing Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End brings up is how the demons of this world rely on human kindness in order to prey upon them. To that end, they will say or do anything to evoke pity from a human, including taking on human form (with horns). But their purpose is always deceit so they can consume humans for food.

Earlier, I mentioned seeing a clip from the anime were Frieren had a female demon lord decapitate herself. It was horrific to look at, especially out of context. And yet said demon lord had used her powerful magics to overcome every human she encountered, forcing them to submit to a beheading, then using the corpse for her undead army. So when she challenged Frieren, the demon lord was confident of a victory. And yet her own demonic magics backfired due to how powerful Frieren truly is. Thus Frieren causes the demon lord to behead herself, ending a threat to the world, and giving the demon lord a taste of her own medicine. Powerful stuff!

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

In the end, the Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End manga is quite good. Once I’m settled in my new house, I plan to try to make time to watch the anime adaptation. That said, if you want to read a fantasy manga title that is more about an immortal character exploration, then this is the manga series for you.

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