Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End earned my first 10 in the ‘Animated Series’ category for 2024. “Frieren’s immortal perspective is the beating heart of this richly-tailored, sumptuous, and beautiful narrative feast.”

May be an image of text that says 'THE ANSWER MAN'S FLASH REVIEWS Frieren: Beyond Journey's End earned my first 10 in the 'Animated Series category for 2024. "Frieren's immortal perspective drives the beating heart of this richly- richly-tailored, sumptuous, and beautiful narrative feast." SCAFA .radio THADDEUS HOWZE SCIFI. SCIFI.RADIO 10'

This series was everything I hoped it would be and more. One of the best aspects of the series is the development of the main character whose sagely demeanor hides the habits of an immortal child whose connection to the world is at best tenuous and often outright tedious.

It is in those moments when her veneer slips we learn about Frieren, her relationship to the Legendary Heroes who helped her slay the mythical menace of the Demon King, revealed as a complex series of events the nearly immortal Elf appeared to have sleepwalked through.

This story is not about that adventure. Instead, we begin Frieren’s story at the end of that great adventure, when the Heroes, having spent a formative decade through trial and tribulation, return home, successful from their quest. Each finally separating from what has become a close-knit familial unit to retire from their life of what had become a perpetual adventure.

We have no idea of the nature of the world, no idea what our heroes have gone through, their calm demeanor hiding any idea of the threat they have survived, Frieren demonstrating the most detached perspective of all, bidding her friends farewell, for what appears to be the last time in their Human lifespans. The group, at a festival on their behalf agree to meet again fifty years at a regular meteor shower.

Frieren says this with the same detached manner as if you were going to the store for milk. Fifty years in her life, meant nothing to her. She alludes to this period as little more than a blink to her long-lived species.

This is the moment the series comes to life. As Frieren walks away from her Human companions, she falls into Elf-time, wandering the world, apparently aimless, seeking out new minor spells, scattered across the world, handling odd jobs for whomever might have a scrap of that magic for her to study.

Her life is simple. Without stress. And yet, we get the feeling of discomfiture, of a subtle dissatisfaction with the status quo. You have the impression she might have, in her Elven way been looking forward to meeting her friends again.

As she returns to see them, they have aged greatly, she looks almost unchanged despite those fifty years. You feel her disconnect, her first real understanding of their passing years. We begin to realize she has no true understanding of Humanity’s frailty because she appears to have, until her Heroes Journey, appeared to have spent no real time connected to humanity, more likely to remember a tree or a building than the people who lived in it.

I felt her realization and thought it was a great touch to showcase the ephemeral nature of humanity in the face of one such as she, apparently ageless, at least a thousand years old and coming to realize as Humans might with a beloved pet, she would outlive them. She would lose them.

Never a problem before now because she refused to befriend them and you begin to wonder why.

This series delivers on its fundamental premise by letting you learn about Frieren through her apprentice, foisted off on her by Heiter, the priest of her companions, who had in his old age taken on a young child whose magical gifts he could not help her develop. Tricking Frieren into staying with him for a time, she agrees to help young Fern while she decrypts a tome for Heiter.
Remember, Frieren says it will take her five or six years to decipher the tome and doesn’t even blink at the span of time. Fern is approximately eight or nine and will be tutored by Frieren this entire time.

You already know how this turns out. Heiter dies. Frieren feels obligated. Fern knows no one else and becomes Frieren’s apprentice. The energy of youth and the sagacity of immortality clash as Frieren’s habits of spending a decade in a town on a whim, become intolerable to the very mortal Fern who insists the two keep moving.

Fern’s energy awakens Frieren’s passive sense of time and the Elf realizes she didn’t know her companions as well as she thought she should. She remembered the events as they happened, likely a side effect of her immortality, but they were hidden by her emotional detachment.

The two decide to take on a quest to follow the previous path of the Heroes and return to the plateau of the Demon King, Frieren hoping the journey will stir her memories of the Companions and their true meaning to her.

This series pays off on this premise with a clever collection of real-time adventures, humorous flashbacks, and eclectic characters scattered across a thousand years. I enjoyed this story because the immortality isn’t an afterthought, it IS the driving element of the story, revealing Frieren’s understanding of the world has been far more influenced by her adventures with the Companions, a psychological evolution she hadn’t realized she experienced.

The MVP of this story is Fern, whose willingness to stand up for herself even against Frieren reveals a strong but kind individual whose emulation of Frieren is far greater than we realize. This story wouldn’t have happened without Fern’s quiet and sometimes not so quiet influences.

This is no shonen. There are no long scenes of power-ups, most fights last only a few moments. This is a tale of psychological exploration bounded by character set pieces and the occasional epic fight scene. This is a fantasy adventure where the exploration is the mind of an immortal being discovering the beauty of the people she overlooked by dint of her never-ending existence.
Smart storytelling, smooth pacing, beautiful artwork carry this tale of quiet adventure to one of the most satisfying conclusions I have seen in quite a while. I have great hopes it will get another season, but if it didn’t I understand. The story it told was grand, filled with moments, great and small, and with more than a few surprises.

I am certain you will enjoy this lovingly-crafted piece of work. Frieren the Mage and her apprentice, certified 3rd Class Magician, Fern are a wonderful addition to the Universe that is anime entertainment. May there be many more like it. I will be right here waiting as patiently as an Elf, for season two.

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End can be found on Crunchyroll and Amazon Prime.

— The Answer-Man, Thaddeus Howze


Thaddeus Howze
Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.