In some respects, this was a return to the more wistful, slice-of-life style of Sousou no Frieren’s first several episodes. Flashbacks have a tendency to do that with this series, and this ep had a lot of them. In the end, though, it was a pretty dark piece of work with a pretty bleak commentary on the heroine. I know a lot of reader-viewers won’t see it that way, but to me this was the dark side of the coldness at the heart of Frieren’s personality.
Several major things became clear through these Flamme flashbacks. Most elementarily we know why Frieren has such a grudge against demons – they destroyed her entire village (which is a parallel with Fern of course). If indeed mana grows through age and training, I can see why demons wouldn’t want elves around – they live into the four figures and that’s just that we know of. For we all we know they could be immortal, but even at a thousand years they pose a great threat to demonkind.
We also now know that the great trick Flamme taught Frieren was how to mask her mana, something Flamme had been doing for so long that it was now second-nature to her. By implication Fern is doing it too, which means Lügner’s mistake was in misjudging the amount of mana she had. In effect this is like a cheat code for fighting demons, for whom the proud display of mana is the exclusive status measure in society. Not only can’t they hide their mana, they can’t even envision doing so. It’s a trump card to be played whenever a mage finds it necessary, and the counter to the demons’ silver-tongued ability to deceive humans.
The expiring Lügner calls this a disgrace to mages, and Fern doesn’t try to dispute it. Flamme didn’t either, and neither does Frieeren (do all mages start with “F”?). So is it “unfair”? Well, it doesn’t seem to me that humans (or elves) ever showed collective aggression towards demons, so I think you’d have to call it self-defense. You’d think by this point demonkind would be well aware of Sousou no Frieren’s secret weapon, but this is an area where their lack of broad social cooperation undercuts them.
Given all that, it’s almost possible to feel sorry for Aura there at the end. I mean, she’s being suckered by Frieren and we all know how it’s going to turn out – though the actual means by which the “battle” comes to an end shows Frieren at her most ruthless and terrifying. The young(er) Frieren from the Flammebacks said she wanted to eradicate all demons, and despite her going through the motions of giving them a chance to avoid a hopeless fight, that seems still to be Frieren’s outlook. She knows the weaknesses of demons, how arrogant and tunnel-visioned they are – her small talk with them before she destroys seems akin to a cat toying with its prey before ending it.
No two ways about it, this is a dark ride at times. Flamme was a cold-blooded killer, she passed it on to Frieiren, and she seems to have done the same to Fern. For all that she clearly forms emotional bonds with mortal creatures, Frieren is most definitely far from human – in many ways very alien by nature. It’s just a good thing for this story’s human race that she chose to be on their side most of the time.