Have you ever wondered what exactly happens to the heroes after they complete their quest and save the world? Or how those mystical elf characters in fantasy stories feel about how much longer they’ll live than all of their friends? Then Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe’s manga, Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, might just be the series for you.
The heroic party (consisting of: Himmel the knight, Heiter the priest, Eisen the dwarven warrior and Frieren the elven mage) has succeeded in defeating the Demon King and returned to the capital in triumph. After such a long and arduous journey, the group decide to split up and go their own ways, agreeing to meet up again in 50 years to watch a meteor shower together.
Sure enough, 50 years later, the four valiant heroes reunite. For Frieren, who enjoys incredible longevity thanks to her elven heritage, it seems like barely any time has passed at all. For her human friends, however, 50 years is a long time and they’ve aged significantly. Even Eisen, who also enjoys longer life than the average human, is beginning to feel the ravages of time. When Himmel, the courageous hero who led them on their adventures, passes away shortly thereafter, Frieren is struck by her own failure to get to know him while she had the chance. As Frieren continues her journey across the land to research magic, she remains physically unchanged, but has something shifted within the stoic elf’s heart as a result of this realization?
A contemplative and somewhat melancholy series, Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End presents a compelling story about death, loss and the effects of the passage of time.
Frieren herself is largely unconcerned with time – after all, she has all of the time in the world. A calm and usually solitary person, she’ll spend months searching a forest for a specific kind of flower and considers the ten years she spent traveling as a member of the hero’s party as a short journey. Wrapped up in her research into different kinds of spells, she seems to frequently forget how comparatively short other people’s lifespans are. As a result, she missed out on the opportunity to spend time with Himmel after their victory over the Demon King, something she’s deeply comes to regret.
After Himmel’s death, Frieren tries to be more mindful of other people’s time, and she reaches out to the remaining two members of her old party to see if there is anything she can do for them. This leads her to new adventures and new friends – ones who she makes more of an effort to connect with. Seeing Frieren’s small steps towards change is bitter-sweet. It’s great to see her forming new bonds and trying to be a better friend and companion, but there is a sadness to her growth. It’s too late for her to get closer to Himmel, and we know that she will eventually have to bury her new friends, as well. Frieren’s existence as a perpetually youthful elf in a world of humans means constantly having to say goodbye. We can only hope that she will learn to make the most of the time she has with the people she cares about.
Time waits for no one, and as Frieren travels for her research, she is constantly confronted with the results of time’s unending march. People she knew grow old and die, the memories of the heroes’ exploits are fading from the public consciousness, plants that once grew in abundance are disappearing and advances in magical science have transformed spells that were once considered epically powerful into everyday tricks. Frieren even faces off against an old foe who gave her a lot of trouble back in the day, only to discover that her young apprentice can battle this enemy without breaking a sweat, thanks to breakthroughs in the art of spellcasting. Little by little, many of Frieren’s contemporaries are becoming obsolete. Is this the fate that eventually awaits her as well?
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End isn’t a bombastic fantasy epic; this is a tale about living on after the adventure is over – it’s also about saying goodbye to how things used to be. It’s a fascinating premise and one that Frieren takes its time fully exploring, resulting in a moving read that stayed with me well after I’d turned the final page and put the manga away. I have a feeling this is going to become a classic.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Viz Media’s website.
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