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Crunchyroll’s Latest Fantasy Anime Will Make You Call A Friend Just To Catch Up

Have you ever caught yourself doing something mundane, like picking at a blade of grass or walking on the sidewalk’s curb, only to be hit with the intrusive thought that your group of friends won’t be able to attend each other’s funerals? Heavy stuff, right? Well, the new fantasy anime Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End unpacks that emotional gut-punch of a premise and explores the value of reveling in the world’s beauty with our loved ones while we still can.

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Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, by Studio Madhouse, starts at an exceptionally unusual place for a new anime series: at the end of a party of heroes’ epic quest to slay a demon king. After our heroes’ 10-year journey, the world has entered an era of peace. Citizens are dancing in the streets and playing music in jubilation and the king plans to erect statues in their honor to remember their selfless act of heroism. However, what won’t last nearly as long are the lives of the conquering heroes, except, that is, for that of the party’s mage, Frieren.

While her friends fret over how they’re going to live out the rest of their lives hunting for regular jobs, Frieren casually reveals she’ll probably spend the next hundred years wandering the lands collecting spells with all the enthusiasm of a college-bound student writing H.A.G.S (have a great summer) in friends’ high school yearbooks. Frieren, you see, is an elven mage who’s lived for millennia and will go on to naturally outlive her companions a thousand times over, or something like that. She’s gonna be around for a while.

While Frieren does make good on her casual promise to clear up her schedule to come visit occasionally over the next 50 years, members of her former party gradually pass away, leaving her to set out on a seemingly aimless journey of low-stakes adventuring without her friends.

Frieren, which is streaming on Crunchyroll, is also doing something else that’s rare for the animation industry: airing a two-hour premiere of its first four episodes. The only other show to do this in recent memory was Oshi no Ko on Hidive, which, in my mind, did so to expedite the tried-and-true three-episode test period anime viewers sometimes give new series by getting viewers hooked on the show in one sitting. And I’ve got to say, Frieren’s first four episodes haven’t left me disappointed.

Crunchyroll Collection / Madhouse

Over the course of the show’s first four episodes, Frieren makes a new friend in the form of a mage apprentice named Fern. However, the more time Fern spends with Frieren, the more she begins to question whether her journey with Frieren has a purpose. Frieren eventually confesses she’s actually been retracing her old adventures. We learn that the frivolous magic spells she’s been accumulating, like a spell to turn grapes sour or a spell to clean rust from a statue, are meant to, in some small way, let her relive and honor the glory days she had with her party. For example, Eisen, her party’s dwarven warrior, would often eat sour grapes during their quest and statues of Hiemel, the party’s hero, have degraded since his passing.

Ultimately, Frieren’s journey is a selfish one to belatedly experience events she once declined to accompany her party to, like a local festival or watching a sunset over the sea. She wondered, why did they insist on inviting her in the first place? (Psst, it’s because they liked her and wanted to experience those small insignificant moments in her company. Pain!)

Frieren, whose temperament oscillates from distant to downright lazy, slowly learns to be more considerate of her new companion’s time and keen to discover the beauty in the world she never got to experience firsthand with her old party. A journey that, according to her, was barely one one-hundredth of her lifetime.

In a sea of seasonal fantasy anime shows whose premises read like wacky games of Mad Libs that have, if we’re being honest, little to no staying power in the consciousness of viewers looking for a show to commit to, Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End stands out as one with the potential to actually move viewers with each passing episode.

While I enjoy the show’s contemplative pseudo-slice-of-life pacing, giving Frieren countless moments of vulnerability as she learns to appreciate things like sunsets and festivals she declined invitations from her party to experience first-hand, rest assured that the show does set up another grand adventure for Frieren toward the end of its fourth episode. This quest will undoubtedly inject the melancholy with some of the peril and action that modern fantasy anime fans tune into a new series for.

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