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Sousou no Frieren – 23

Not to be a broken record, but Denken is absolutely the MVM of this arc.  He’s really keeping it afloat, frankly, amidst a sea of predictability.  He seems to be drawing the short straw over and over in the luck department, which leads me to believe he’s being flagged to eventually fail at least, if not die outright.  But if he were to buck the odds and eventually emerge triumphant at the end, that’s probably the one thing that could make this diversion feel like it had been worthwhile.

Phase two of the exam is a dungeon raid, providing a nice companion piece with Dungeon Meshi airing a day earlier.  Tomb Raiders to be precise.  Proctor Sense – who’s kind of a dreary sort – tells the assembled mages that all the hype they’ve heard about her tests is bogus, that she’s just a pacifist who wants to give everyone a chance to win and avoid conflict.  She even gives everyone a bottle with an instant golem inside, which they can break at any time and be rescued (at the cost of forfeiting).  Everyone’s bottle will automatically break at dawn the next day, so those who haven’t reached the final level will be failed out of the exam.

The politics aspect of this is certainly interesting.  Denken quite rightly argues that if the entire group of 18 works together they’ll have a better chance of success.  But one senses that mages are not as a rule the sort to embrace the team concept, and the first phase obviously spawned a lot of bad blood.  To an extent the pairings of that exam re-assert themselves as the group splinters, with only four (including Richter and Laufen) electing to follow Denken (despite his clearly superior knowledge of dungeons).  Second only to Frieren in fact, who goes off with Fern.  Sense tags along with her because she’s the main character.

It’s a given that this place is going to be nasty, and that Sense is actually a bastard even if she doesn’t think so herself.  Frieren’s dungeon approach has basically been shaped by Himmel – yet more evidence that she’s in-love with him.  To wit, have fun at all costs.  Himmel believed that you had to map an entire floor before moving on, because the experience was not to be missed.  And it says a lot about how profoundly he influenced Frieren that despite the illogic of this she was totally won over by it.  And let’s be honest – when you’re as OP as Frieren is, it’s not that hard to have fun in a place that for most would be a death trap.  We even get an appearance by a Mimic (sorry, Chilchuck), which Frieren in effect knowingly feeds herself to on the 1% chance it’s actually a treasure chest.

Most of the non-Frieren attention falls on Denken’s group, who encounter some gargoyles and Prince of Persia style traps along the way.  One of them (I don’t know if we even got her name – let’s call her Mob-chan) ends up having to golem herself out.  Eventually, both Team Denken and the Wirbelgumi encounter what appears to be the real big bad of the tomb, or at least their handiwork – perfect replicas (apart from appearance) of themselves.  These replicas appear to have all the magical abilities of their sources, leading Denken to speculate that they might even share their memories.  And naturally, Denken draws the worst opponent of all – pseudo-Frieren.  Maybe its replica state will lower the plot armor enough for Denken to actually defeat it – but if he does, what’s left to throw in Frieren’s way when she and Fern reach the goal?

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