I was pleasantly surprised by the special premiere of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End as I had expected it to be similar to Oshi no Ko‘s premiere which was a single episode that ran for an hour and a half, giving it a cinematic feel that effectively tells the prologue of the story. However, Frieren‘s special premiere turned out to be a bit different. It consisted of four consecutive episodes with the opening and ending themes played at the start and end of each 23-minute segment. Despite this format, the anime still managed to tell the magical and captivating tale of Frieren’s journey.
The Mystical Turning Point of Frieren
The special premiere covered the events of the first volume of the manga, giving us a glimpse of what lies ahead. Initially, it might seem like your typical fantasy party setup: you have the hero doing the heavy lifting and taking the spotlight, a sturdy dwarf who serves as the team’s tank, a priest fulfilling the role of the healer and support, and an elven mage capable of casting spells to aid the group in different areas. However, Frieren takes a different path. It doesn’t dwell on the mission to defeat the demon lord and save the entire world from its wake, which is the usual plotline of fantasy or isekai shows with a dungeons and dragons concept. It instead focuses on what happens after the journey. Hence, the title is “Beyond Journey’s End.”
At first glance, Frieren herself appears as a stoic and apathetic elf. Her demeanor suggests that she doesn’t particularly care too much about the personal lives of her teammates. The ten years they spent together may seem like a brief moment for her, but for a human, it means everything. To Himmel, Frieren was a cherished companion, someone with whom he shared a significant portion of his life. But to Frieren, Himmel was just another acquaintance with whom she spent some time. However, when Himmel passes away, something unexpected happens. Frieren begins to break down, genuinely grieving the loss of her former party member. At that moment, she realizes that she didn’t just lose a friend, but she missed the opportunity to truly understand him, much like how he saw her.
This emotional turning point becomes the perfect outset for her own journey: to retrace the steps of her old party, hoping to learn more about the friends she knew so little about. Frieren may often come across as a naive kid in many ways. She can appear detached or uncaring at times. However, what truly lies at the heart of this tale is witnessing her gradual journey toward coming to terms with her experiences and processing the beautiful moments that emerge from them.
Enchanting Visuals and Ethereal Music
With an extremely talented staff involved in the production, each passing scene of Frieren‘s special premiere evokes a wide range of emotions. There are moments that’ll make you smile, times that’ll have you laughing, and visuals that just wrap you in a comfy and immersive fantasy world. While some people say that Frieren is a purely melancholic series, it actually strikes a perfect balance between humor and sorrow.
Every aspect of the show was woven beautifully. While it may appear slow at first glance, as you become more engrossed in the story’s progression and grasp the narrative’s essence, you won’t actually feel the prologue’s slow burn. Keichirou Saito, who previously directed Bocchi the Rock!, once again demonstrates his solid directing skills. Remember, he’s the one who turned cute girls doing cute band things into something universally enjoyable and to this day still has people talking or “meme-ing” about it. With him at the helm, Frieren is undoubtedly set to transcend expectations and achieve what Bocchi the Rock! did, and perhaps, even greater. But it’s not just the direction that sets this series apart, the animation and music also plays a vital role in making the series shine.
One crucial aspect that keeps Frieren from feeling dull and boring, despite its deliberate pacing, is its animation. Even if the story doesn’t immediately grab you, you’ll likely stay for the stunning visuals and music. While some might draw comparisons to Mushoku Tensei and label Frieren as another “top fantasy anime wannabe,” I’d argue that both excel in delivering top-notch animation, world-building, and a sense of wonder within the genre.
If you look at how each scene is thoroughly presented, they actually showcase the intricacies of world-building as Frieren embarks on her journey alongside her companions. When paired with Evan Call’s astounding music scores (which perfectly captured the essence of a fantasy theme), it truly feels like you’re on this journey alongside Frieren. There are also some scenes that are steeped in a melancholic atmosphere, occasionally showing glimpses of the hero’s party, their journey, and the joy they share during their adventures. I find myself feeling nostalgic for these characters, even though I barely knew them. It’s almost as if also I’m experiencing what Frieren herself is feeling while reminiscing the good old times.
Not to mention, it’s really incredible how sometimes a single frame can convey such a wide range of emotions. The art style harmonizes seamlessly with the emotions being portrayed, and the music plays a pivotal role in this synergy as well. They all come together to create such a breathtaking premiere.
Frieren’s Premiere Proves Why Atsumi Tanezaki Is the Best
Another remarkable aspect of this series is the voice cast which includes both seasoned veterans and rising stars. One standout performance that I was really expecting was Atsumi Tanezaki (nicknamed Acchan). She was recently recognized as the best lead and supporting actress of the year, and it’s not hard to see why. Acchan breathed life into both Frieren and Anya, which sounds ridiculous when you compare the voices of the two. While Anya is cute, adorable, and annoying, Frieren on the other hand is portrayed with a plain and flat tone which isn’t a bad thing because that’s what Frieren’s character is all about. However, when it comes to the dramatic scenes, Acchan’s soulful and endearing voice is on full display.
One unforgettable moment that highlights Acchan’s exceptional talent is during Himmel’s burial scene. There’s no background music, just the sound effect of the shovel and her voice, delivering her lines while struggling to hold back tears. It was at that moment that I knew she deserved yet another award. The way she delivered her lines was immaculate and made you feel the emotions of her character. Again, it’s as if you’re right beside her as she mourns for her dear friend.
While there are seiyuu performances that leave you with chills or make your throat tired after their intense screaming, Acchan’s portrayal stands out for its ability to evoke genuine emotion. It was, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite scenes, and it’s all thanks to Acchan’s one-of-a-kind performance.
Frieren Special Premiere – Time Is Fleeting
The passage of time is a prominent theme in this story, particularly in how Frieren perceives it. Being an elf means having a virtually immortal lifespan compared to humans. As Frieren embarks on her journey, we witness the enduring effects of the various towns and villages saved by the hero’s party and how the memories of their heroic acts are preserved. Even in the face of monumental events like saving the world and defeating the demon king, life moves on. Stories are passed down, and statues stand as reminders, but the living memories of those who experienced it firsthand gradually fade away.
While there’s tangible evidence of their shared adventures carried in the memories they hold, a challenge lies with Frieren. She has to build new bonds while knowing that the entire lives of those around her will pass by in the blink of an eye, as compared to her own eternal existence.
In the premiere of Frieren, there are no jaw-dropping plot twists or dramatic character deaths that leave you in pain. Instead, you’re feeling sad not because of the person who died, but for those who are still alive and will now carry the burden of the painful emotion for the rest of their lives. In this case, it is Frieren, Fern, and Eisen.
Frieren’s story teaches us that it’s not just the quantity of time that defines the impact on your life, but the quality of how you choose to spend it. Time is not of equal value, and having more of it doesn’t guarantee a richer life experience. Each episode starts with a reminder of how many years have passed since Himmel’s death because even though the time she spent with him during their journey was a mere fraction of her long lifespan, it left a mark that will stay with her forever.
When you have an abundance of time, finding the motivation to make the most of it can be a challenge. This is why Frieren can be stubborn sometimes or can be deemed a procrastinator. Where do you even start to make the most of it when you know you have all the time in the world? For someone like Frieren, one year is just a flicker, ten years is a blink of an eye, and a hundred years is a small phase.
With that, in the not-so-distant future, Frieren will inevitably lose Fern, just as quickly as the passing of time. Given her abundance of time and her initial indifference towards it, this poses a fresh challenge for Frieren. Will she now come to cherish those around her and the moments they share now more than ever before? Will she realize their true worth and value her companion’s time before they also become another burden on her heart? After all, time is fleeting for her.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End special premiere screenshots via Muse Asia
© Yamada Kanehito, Abe Tsukasa /Shogakukan / “Sousou no Frieren” Production Committee