There’s always going to be a few shows that I wish that I had the time to cover in a season. Absolutely no regrets on what I did pick up for Fall 2023. But this seems like a great time to give a shoutout to Sousou no Frieren.
I’m glad to see more purely fantasy anime coming out. The isekai boom has delivered some good shows, but there’s been a habit of just every fantasy type show…being an isekai for no reason that mattered to the story. It makes sense that authors/mangaka would go there just to try and get attention. But it’s nice to have shows that are purely set in a fantasy setting and the characters being who they are is enough draw for everyone.
This show started strong. It also started long since they dropped multiple episodes in the first week. But that just let everyone get settled in and have some idea of what they were getting into. The concept works well. Elves have been a fantasy staple for a long time. That elves are long lived isn’t anything new either. But usually, the point of view character is a human. So, the focus is more on the contrast between a human that lives fast due to their mortality and elves who have all the time in the world. Frieren is our protagonist, and her viewpoint is extremely important. That the first episode involved the death of Himmel established the tone and Frieren’s perspective on the world. From her perspective their journey was short and he died fast. But the impact remains.
I wanted to slap those people getting on Frieren for not crying right away. The moment where she did just really hit. She truly regretted not getting to know Himmel as much as she could have. She wandered off collecting spells and such for decades. The irony being that the person that inspired to collect spells like that was aging and was an old man before she ever visited again. Time passed her by and she was left trying not to let that happen again. A nice move on Frieren’s part to try and get to know every person she crossed paths with.
But all that was technically covered already when I did check out the first episode! The great thing is that the show just picked up from there. The addition of Fern and eventually Stark has built up the main cast. It’s interesting seeing Frieren travel around with disciples of those she used to travel with. There’s a connection and it lines up nicely with the established quest of reaching a place where they can converse with those that have died. It provides a tangible chance for Frieren and Fern to speak to those that they’d normally never get to see. A chance for Frieren to talk with Himmel again would be amazing.
And that opportunity also means something to Fern. When Heiter died Fern was still young. She had managed to learn enough from Frieren that Heiter could die with peace in his heart. But I’m sure she’d love to show him how far she’s come. She’s no longer a child for him to worry about and is instead now a powerful young woman who can face off against demons 1v1 and win. Right now, Stark doesn’t really have a strong motivation for that journey besides having a great story to tell Eisen. But that’s alright. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same here.
One reason I really wanted to talk about this show though was the epic episode 7-10 stretch the show has been going through. These episodes carried double duty of really establishing what demons are within this setting and delivering some amazing fights. And we got both of those without question here. It’s nice when a show can truly deliver and still have a lot of episodes to go!
The reveal for the demons was interesting. There is a tendency (especially these days) to make everything a shade of grey. Demons are usually just like humans except…humans tend to hate them for not being human. That can certainly work and I’m fine with that at times. But it’s refreshing to have a series that just doesn’t do that. Demons are monsters. They evolved from monsters and at their core are monsters that are simply incompatible with humans. The only reason they’ve learned language is so they can trick humans…and then kill them. They do have pride and a certain love of magic. There is something there with them. But as Himmel learned in that flashback…you just can’t treat them as people. If you do…you will regret it.
The fights though! Fern and Stark did fantastic work in their own fights. But even with Frieren there is a common element. Pride. The pride of the demons cost them their lives. Stark won because his opponent didn’t take him as the threat he was. If she kept wailing away at his skull when he went down the first couple times…she would have won. Fern’s opponent would have won if he kept attacking after he scored a huge sneak attack. But his pride demanded that he give her a chance to recover, get her weapon, and then he’d crush her…until he didn’t. And I’ll cover Frieren’s win in just a second here.
It was a visual treat watching Fern just overwhelm Lugner. There are just layers to it as well. She was hiding her mana like Frieren taught her. So, it’s hard to say how powerful each of them truly were. But what is clear though is that Fern is fast and even Frieren acknowledges the speed her spell casting. She’s fast and she has much greater reserves than Lugner ever imagined. He thought he could play it defensively and he really couldn’t. I’m not sure he could have escaped or won after he let Fern regain her staff. But it was fun watching her win. And same goes for Stark. He was shaken by Line’s copy skills and overestimated her decisive power. Taking that hit to deliver a killing blow was a gutsy way to win. One that paid off since she wasn’t strong enough to land a fatal blow!
Frieren vs Aura was great. It was a shame to have a demon as lovely as Aura go, but she really did have to die. It was once again pride that settled it. Aura underestimated Frieren’s age, experience, mana, and how she measured against her. Of course, Frieren did catch her by surprise intentionally. Hiding her mana was a measured choice ever since her master taught her to do so. But Aura could have left. The plan to invade the town failed and the most she could gain here was killing Frieren. Now I get she had a grudge after the Hero’s Party defeated her in the past. But she could have left. And she could have tried to just swarm Frieren with numbers. That could have worked since Frieren did want to respect Himmel’s wishes not to brutally destroy the corpses of the victims Aura was manipulating.
That just made her win all the colder and satisfying. This is how you insert a flashback into your fight! It made total sense why Frieren hates demons, and it makes sense why she’s far more powerful than anyone knows. This girl lived her life in isolation before Himmel found her and gave her the chance to do what she’s always wanted. It had to be unbelievably satisfying to crush generals and the Demon Lord himself. All her secrecy and care allowed Frieren to break Aura. That moment where Aura realized how screwed she was landed so hard. And it was beautifully cold to have Frieren tell Aura to kill herself and then to just walk away. Her job was done at that point.
This is just a good-looking show. It has that tone and atmosphere that you are sitting down to watch a classic fantasy anime like Record of Lodoss War. Just one that is made in 2023 and looks it. It’s just a very nice-looking world that Frieren inhabits. It leaves me looking forward to seeing more of it and where they go after the current arc wraps itself up. They set up this journey as being a decade long journey. They have a lot of road to cover and are just getting started. There’s so much room for surprising encounters and other epic fights. I’m not sure how many more epic fights we will get, but I’ll take whatever we get.
If they can keep this up, then Sousou no Frieren is going to be remembered as a great show. It’s already established itself and still has a lot of time to further show how great it can be. And that excitement is partly why I threw this out there. This show just nails emotional scenes like it did at the very start with Frieren at Himmel’s funeral. It’s a show that can be very somber, but also extremely fun. Hopefully people have given it a chance. But I still wanted to express how much fun I’ve been having with it.
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