This arc is really “so so” no Frieren.
I guess in theory, a breather episode (if we’re honest) should be right up Sousou no Frieren’s alley. A tonic for what ails this arc. But in practice that doesn’t quite hold up for me. Not a bad episode on the whole, but kind of a snooze – like the rest of this arc for me. Frieren is certainly good at quiet and reflective, but that really applies to when it’s pondering the big issues of existence. This came off more as time-wasting, which is pretty much no different from the rest of this arc apart from the lack of action.
In effect, it’s a check-in with the rest of the mages who got screen time in the first phase of the mage exam, who apart from Denken aren’t all that interesting. There’s a rare Stark appearance, but it’s mostly jokes at his expense and using him as a foil for Fern. Too much Fern is another of those trip-wires for this series, and she’s really at her most abrasive here. Fern has always been the stock anime character in Sousou no Frieren – the difference is that now she kind of fits right in instead of standing out like a sort thumb. And that’s not really progress.
I don’t got a whole lot else, TBH. Übel just isn’t working for me and this “empathize” angle with her magic doesn’t change that. Denken is pretty much playing the role of tetchy grandpa, Kanne and Lawine are cosplaying romcom characters as usual, and Richter is reluctantly thrust into the role of tour guide. There is a little aside with a local restaurant which holds a special place in the memories of Frieren and Denken (just how old is he supposed to be, anyway?) but it fails to capture the bittersweet melancholy passages from Frieren’s past have conjured up. Himmel and Stark both like omurice, in case there was any doubt that the story is tying the two of them together.
The next phase of the exam kicks off next week, so for better or worse (it feels like a wash) we’re back to that now. The proctor is Sense, who we’ve seen a few times bickering with Genau, and apparently no one has ever passed one of her exams (though she claims not to be a “sadist” like her colleague). A dungeon theme is the gist of it, apparently. When things are in a rut change at least offers the tantalizing prospect of improvement, so that’s my hopium for the moment.