Scoreboard:

Scoreboard

a
Story
92%
Characters
90%
Art
90%
Animation
95%
Sound
90%
Overall
91%
ProsCons
Beautiful animation, magic looks good, strong lead, a setting with historyThe handling of some characters might frustrate

Review:

There are some shows that make a strong impression right away and carry that onward through the whole story. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s a refreshing feeling when that type of show arrives. Sousou no Frieren is certainly one of those. It gives that feeling of following along on a classic fantasy adventure. With Frieren you get a show with a great soundtrack, good characters, and has the patience to develop the cast over time and not give up all the information immediately. It does warrant the love it has gotten through 2023 and into 2024. It won’t be all action or just heavy drama all the time. But it has a good mix of elements that keeps the show enjoyable throughout.

Story/Setting

I love when we get a full-blown fantasy world in anime. The classic iskeai world where gaming elements just happen to exist can be fine. But there’s something to be said about a world that just has magic, elves, demons, etc in it. And since Frieren is an elf and knows some other elves there’s a good opportunity to see a world that’s developed over centuries/thousands of years. The full picture of course isn’t known even at the end of this season. Frieren isn’t just going to go off on exposition tangents about various historical elements of the world. But it does feel like a world that’s lived in and thanks to her flashbacks we can see this world change over time.

We only get a glimpse of it, but I love seeing the growth of magic itself in that setting. The world grows and changes and we can see it thanks to Frieren’s perspective. Magic that was absolutely unstoppable at one point of time becomes a common part of the current world’s magical system. The unbelievable can become normal. And unlike some franchises I could name, it feels natural. Like enough time has passed and people put enough effort into it for something like that to just make sense.

Demons are a great part of this show in how it is kind of going back to classics. It’s often that we’ll see demons handled in anime and other mediums as just similar to humans. It’s all about different perspectives, but everyone could get along if they put biases aside. But in this case…demons are just bad! It’s not like “mwahaha” evil necessarily, but just differences in species. Demons are closer to predators than anything else. Monsters exist in this setting and they are very much on that side of the line between monsters and elves/humans. The real depths of demons are to be seen in the show itself. But I like how it’s not like Frieren is out of touch for how she views demons.

The story is a huge draw for this show. It can be an emotional story, action packed, or just calm view on characters on a journey. It’s flexible in the right ways while nailing whatever tone it sets out for that moment or episode. This isn’t the story about a party seeking to topple a Demon Lord. That’s already happened. Instead, it’s a journey about maybe gaining some closure on the past and growing along the way. There is a goal for Frieren’s party in this show. But there are episodes that happen before that’s determined and they are really taking in a journey as they head towards that destination. This is a show where it’s just nice to join in on the adventure.

Characters

Frieren is obviously the star of the show here. It’s a nice approach in a fantasy show to really make the elf the focus character. Elves are of course a common race in fantasy in general and that goes for their dilemma regarding outliving everyone that isn’t an elf. The story starts strong by having Frieren be rather casual about time and objectively looking at the period she spent in the hero’s party as a tiny part of her life. But she does learn to appreciate the cost of taking people for granted. That once people are gone…that’s pretty much it. The story is of course about her journey after that big adventure. But everything is coloured by her memories of the past and how she approaches things differently in the present.

Of course Frieren is one of the most powerful beings in the story. But it’s not simply her raw power that defines her character. Her approach to life really is the core thing and how she does try to spend her time better with those she interacts with. And I really appreciate how her bonds with those that are gone impact how she behaves. She treats those memories as guides for how she’ll handle her future companions. Her memory is sharp and the past effectively walks with her.

The past especially is defined by Himmel. It’s not a spoiler to say he passes relatively early in this story. Honestly, I have rarely seen a dead character stand out so much in a story. We only get the briefest of glimpses of Himmel at the end of his heroic journey and leading to him passing. But the audience gets so much as the story goes along. Himmel flashbacks are just a stable part of the whole story. And it works because Frieren is the one remembering and she cares about what Himmel did. Truly he becomes the best of guys the more we see him. We understand him better and realize how important Frieren was to him and how important he is to her. Or at least how important she’ll realize he was the more she must reflect on what’s passed.

It is funny to speak of Fern after Himmel, but he really was just that important. Fern comes into the picture early on as the main new companion that Frieren has. She is Frieren’s apprentice, and her ups and downs are a key part of this whole story. Fern is constantly maturing, growing, and changing. We meet her as a much younger character and through a few time jumps along the way we see her growing up. And that’s both physically and in ability. As a fellow mage she gets plenty of attention in a mage arc that comes up later in the season. Fern often has a strong poker face so she’ll just blast enemies with the most neutral expression you can imagine.

However, Fern is not emotionless, and we see that as the show goes along. One element I’d say is very consistent for Fern is…pouting. She pouts…a lot! You can say it is part of her character arc and how development isn’t always positive or in a straight line. Fern can be extremely childish and fairly demanding in needing to be pacified by her party. But I could imagine this is part of her overall growth so I won’t knock her too hard. But it is something that’s part of this show’s first season.

Stark is a character that was handled in a strange way. He gave a rough first impression, but quickly showed his character and value. He’s a guy without a lot of confidence and certainly feels the fear that comes with fights to the death. But he can take that step forward and his actual ability is fantastic. He’s a powerhouse that just needs to appreciate what he’s capable of. And that is reflected in his relationship with Fern. One could say he’s overly fearful, but at the very least he does pay attention. Can see that from the way he worked off Fern’s reactions while shopping for her birthday present.

Despite saying all that…Stark is kind of underused in this show. There’s no helping him not being used before he even was introduced. But after he’s introduced, he only gets two fights and one of them is his introduction arc. It can’t be helped to a degree that he wasn’t doing much during the mage exam arc. But it does mean that Stark is introduced relatively late and gets less time to stand out. Hopefully in future story arcs he gets more to do. But in season 1 he only gets so much.

There is an absolute ton of side characters. I could go on forever about all of them, but I’ll resist that and let people experience them for themselves. But I will say that this is one of the better side casts that I’ve seen in a while. It does a lot with what screentime these characters get. There are characters introduced at the start of an arc that give off one impression but over multiple episodes the layers are added and a completely different picture emerges. That’s easy to intend from a writing perspective, but it’s hard to pull off well. And this show does that!

People will have their favourites just from this category. From Übel to Land to Wirbel. To say nothing about Frieren’s other companions from her adventuring party. They really feel like characters and thus are easier to get interested in for however long they are actively in the story. Since this is a classic fantasy setting and the story does move along (minus a few arcs). It does make me look forward to hopefully seeing some of these characters again as the journey progresses.

Visuals/Audio

This is a true strength for Frieren. MADHOUSE is a truly great animation studio and they gave their best to this series. There’s no guarantee for the story (since that will vary for each show) but Madhouse generally puts out series that look good and handle the material about as well as you can ask. And Frieren benefited nicely from that. The backgrounds are beautiful, the character designs translate well to animation, and the animation itself is just smooth. There are a few fights where you just must marvel at the spectacle on screen or just how well characters are moving. I don’t think this show could have been this good without Madhouse making every scene look as good as possible. And yes, they slipped some fanservice moments. But mostly in a sense of between thigh “camera angles” for some moments. It’s not heavy, but it’s fanservice done well.

There’s no problem with the audio either. Atsumi Tanezaki brings her A game as Frieren, Kana Ichinose as Fern, and Nobuhiko Okamoto brings out the heroism of Himmel. Everyone has their own personality and the voice acting doesn’t drop the ball. I don’t think there’s a single voice that was downright bad in this cast. All the main characters had the right amount of personality that their characters required.

The music itself was great. The openings and endings were both strong with songs that just highlighted adventure, the sense of journey, or just a sense of emotional weight of the show. The music will step back when moments need it. But some scenes are light on dialogue and just let the visuals and music tell the story. And in those moments the music rises to the occasion.

Final Thoughts

This was just a strong show. There are very few outright flaws that I can point at. Some character behaviors might not appeal to everyone. Some characters like Stark are underutilized, but that’s balanced out by certain arcs just not being made to cater to them. The tone and pacing may not be fast enough for the tastes of some. But honestly, I think the show is strong on an objective level. It’s just a question of subjective enjoyment for whether the show will work for you or not. This is one of those shows where it is just a good idea to give it a few episodes and see if it appeals to you. It simply might not, but it did for me and obviously it has for others.

The great thing with Frieren is that it is just one part of a story that could get many more seasons. I think it highlights how a good adaptation can be full of thrills. It takes a good story and adds some great animation, music, and voice acting to the mix. Frieren is a good lead and I look forward to seeing how characters like Fern and Stark develop as they continue onward. A good show and I think it’s worth giving an A to.

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An older member at 25, yet a new addition to Anime Evo. Recently graduating University and in the difficult point between school and a true career. Anime being a salvation and blogging a good way to put all those hours of writing essays to some use. Enjoys talking about series, yet not taking on so many that the quality dips. A Canadian who enjoys his anime and hearing what others think about the series he enjoys watching.

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