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Sousou no Frieren – 28 (Season Finale)

I’m certainly calling this post a “Season Finale”, even if nothing is official at this point.  And I probably would have even if that “The journey to Ende will continue” message hadn’t flashed at the end of this episode.  Series as hugely successful as Sousou no Frieren don’t just stop.  The question of timing isn’t a simple one – the manga used 60 chapters, which is just less than half the currently available material.  As such a second season could theoretically already be in production, though the production committee might want to wait a year or more now to avoid a much longer wait between the second and third seasons.

I certainly expected this series to be good, and to do well commercially.  It was good – not great – for me.  But it was a bigger hit than I ever expected.  It just missed the overall top 10 in manga volume sales for 2023 (which consisted of the usual suspects).  But it was the biggest franchise since Blue Lock and Oshi no Ko, and just edged out The Apothecary Diaries as the biggest new anime property of 2023.  In some sense perhaps that’s a little surprising, given how reflective and slow it could be a lot of the time (and it was those times when it was at its best).  A great adaptation certainly helps, but clearly this premise really resonated with people. 

This finale was – as expected, and fortunately – one of those times.  First there was the matter of the remaining mages and their arbitrary “exam” with Serie.  Denken kicked it off, and he was passed despite being old and washed-up “ashes” in Sense’s words.  Methode got through too (I guess Serie doesn’t mind being called cute).  Wirbel and Land too – and interestingly, in Land’s case it’s revealed that his real body never even left his hometown and no one, even Übel, noticed.  Übel passed too – Serie not being the sort to be squeamish about her character.

So in the end, Serie pretty much rubber-stamped everybody but Frieren, who didn’t really care either way as long as Fern made the cut.  It kind of adds to the whole sense that this arc was filler, but that ship has sailed.  It’s over and done, and I’m sure some of these mages will factor into the story later on.  As to the aftermath as usual it was Denken who was the most interesting.  He continues his role of doting grandfather – revealing along the way that he had no children of his own, his wife having passed away in her 20s.  Ehre basks in his largesse, but the old fellow even takes Fern and Stark along for some sweets.

Wirbel has an interesting conversation about the Hero’s Party with Frieren.  As usual Himmel is the star here (he’s starting to come off as dangerously close to perfect, but I guess he’d have to be to make Frieren fall for him).  He helps an old lady collect her spilled oranges while Frieren counts her grimoires and watches silently, and notes his surprise that she declined to help herself.  It was the “boring” feats of the party that made on impact on him – all the little things Himmel did on the way rather than what he did at the destination.  But then Frieren already knows all of this – for her it’s just a reminder.   

After the confirmation ceremony – which Fern must attend solo because Serie has barred Frieren for a thousand years and Stark would rather be pretty much anywhere else – there’s an encounter with Lernen which comes off as a bit odd.  Even allowing that he’s supposed to be a warrior mage, his challenging Frieren to a duel still feels like a stretch.  His reasoning just doesn’t hold water for me.  Like too much of this arc, it plays like an event that happens because the plot needs it to happen (though even that is a stretch in this case).

Fern’s spell request from Serie is very much in-character – it’s Febreze, basically.  The townsfolk make it clear that Stark has – as usual – been winning friends and influencing people (almost Himmel-like).  And with that, Äußerst is in thee rear-view mirror and the journey north continues.  Frieren’s goodbyes are quick and to the point, as her young charges note.  But as Himmel said all those years ago – and a good thing too, or this episode would have no title – “It would be embarrassing when we met again”.  And Fern and Himmel meeting again is ultimately the point of all this, lest we forget.

Sousou no Frieren was a funny sort of series for me.  I went in with pretty high expectations, and the four-episode premiere very much met them.  But my engagement with it waxed and waned a bit even before the Exam arc,  It was never less than good, but it went through flat stretches that left me a bit disconnected.  Then something clicked – Sein’s arrival definitely was a catalyst – and I felt like I finally “got” the series.  Then the whole exam thing, and I was pretty much in and out for the rest of the series.

I think this series has the ability to be genuinely profound, and I very much appreciate that it shows interest in the really big questions of existence.  For me it sometimes gets bogged down in the details – and I mean pretty fundamental ones like plot and character.  It works best when it’s true to its contemplative nature, and addresses emotion on the most visceral level.  When it does that it speaks a language we can all understand, and does so eloquently.  The less conventional a narrative it tries to be, the more successful it is.

Despite my relative indifference towards this final arc, I’m quite looking forward to the inevitable second season.  The main reason, of course, is that anime that even attempt to do what Frieren achieves so effortlessly are very rare.  But the hope is there that as the series progresses towards its inevitable destination, it will hew closer to the wind and revert more often to its essential nature.  As long as it stays out of its own way, this series can be truly exceptional, and there just aren’t many anime about which that can be said.  

The post Sousou no Frieren – 28 (Season Finale) appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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