「死者の幻影」 (Shisha no Gen’ei)
“Phantoms of the Dead”
It feels kinda weird to be typing “Episode 5” a week into the season, but there you go. As it turns out Sousou no Frieren is apparently going to be 28 episodes, so that four-part premiere was really gravy. That’s a further sign of confidence in it as a commercial enterprise – just getting two normal cours is in this day and age – but it’s justified I think, based on the manga’s sales. I’m still not sure whether I’m going to fall in the love or like camp with this series, but it does seem like one that can make use of any extra time it’s given.
A big reason for that is (obviously) pacing. Frieren at the Funeral is clearly not a show in much of a hurry to get anywhere. I think this is a conscious decision on the part of the mangaka to put us in Frieren’s mindset as much as possible – to help is perceive the world as she does, where time means something different than it does for us. Yet, as Eisen notes, her experience as part of the heroes’ party – “not even a hundredth” of her life – changed her. In point of fact all her experiences with mortals are changing her, whether she realizes (or approves) or not.
And so Frieren embarks on a new one-hundredth adventure to Aureole, with only Fern for company but a sense that will eventually change. The first stop sees she and Fern stop off at a village troubled by ghost sightings and disappearances in the mountains. Frieren immediately recognizes this as the work of an Einsam (this series is full of German names and words, this one meaning “lonely traveler”). It’s a magical beast that lures humans (its only food) in with visions of their lost loved ones. She’s willing to ignore it and move on, but Fern is inclined to help the village out by dealing with the creature.
This seems like it could be the meat of the narrative – Frieren and companion(s) helping out the locals on the way to where she’s going (which has a bit of a Mushishi quality to it). I guess in medieval cultures if a wild beast is preying on humans those humans are justified in exterminating it, so in context all this killing Frieren does makes sense – though the Einsam is, like tigers or bears (or solar dragons) acting to ensure its own survival. The insidious element of this creature’s ability is that it draws directly from the memories of its intended victims, so the phantoms it conjures know exactly what to say.
Naturally enough, good girl Fern (God help me, but this is such a plain yogurt character) sees Heiter. It’s perhaps telling that Frieren sees not Flamme, who she says she expected to, but Himmel. Fern hesitates – Frieren does not. However much she’s changed it’s not so much that she lacks the detach to power through the emotion of the moment and do what must be done. Fern does what must be done eventually, but we’ll never know if she would have had Frieren not acted first. It’s also fascinating that Frieren tells Fern she’s “used to hearing Flamme beg for her life” – and that she declines to elaborate even when Fern presses her to do so.
Next up mage and apprentice come upon a solar dragon, whose nest contains a grimoire Frieren wants to add to her collection for its spell on seeing through clothes. Somewhat cruelly she lets Fern have a taste of just how formidable dragons are, then the focus turns to the next stage of the narrative journey. Frieren’s old companions are always trying to protect her from loneliness, it seems, and Eisen too is trying to get here to take on a companion, his former apprentice Stark (Kobayashi Chiaki). It was he who stared down the dragon and stopped it from destroying this village, though just why it’s declined to attack since is not entirely clear.
Stark is strong, clearly, but also skittish. He fled from his village when it was destroyed. He fled from Eisen (who sees something of himself in the young man). He’s willing to join Frieren’s party if the dragon is dealt with first, but he’s terrified at the prospect of actually facing it. Frieren seems more understanding than you might expect, in part because no one in their right mind would be unconcerned at the prospect of fighting a beast like this. He’s going to be important character clearly, maybe a regular, and this moment is a test of character for Stark. One could almost call it an audition, in fact – with Frieren as the sole judge.
In the enchanting world of Sousou no Frieren, Episode 05 takes us on a mesmerizing journey filled with emotional depth, supernatural challenges, and the unwavering bond between Frieren and her young companion, Fern. This episode, a standalone gem within the series, explores the themes of friendship, personal growth, and the pursuit of magic with a masterful touch.
The Supernatural Challenge:
The episode begins with Frieren and Fern traveling through a quaint village shrouded in mystery. Inhabitants of this village have been disappearing under perplexing circumstances—after encountering apparitions of their deceased loved ones. The villagers are plagued by illusions, but not just any illusions; these are crafted by an Einsam, a malevolent creature that lures its victims with hauntingly realistic visions of those they hold dear.
Frieren’s keen magical instincts immediately raise suspicions about the presence of an Einsam. With a mixture of trepidation and determination, she embarks on a mission to unveil the truth behind this supernatural phenomenon and put an end to the villagers’ suffering. Her character shines through as she faces this moral dilemma head-on.
Confronting the Past:
The central theme of Episode 05 revolves around confronting one’s past, a theme that resonates deeply with both Frieren and the villagers. Einsam’s illusions force individuals to face the ghosts of their history, forcing them to reckon with unresolved emotions and regrets. It’s a testament to the anime’s storytelling prowess that it can take such complex themes and weave them seamlessly into the narrative.
As Frieren and Fern delve deeper into the mystery, Frieren is confronted by the illusion of Himmel, her beloved human hero from years past. This moment is emotionally charged and speaks volumes about Frieren’s character. She must make a difficult choice: to destroy the illusion and reveal the Einsam or to let it linger, causing her pain and potentially harming her companion. It’s a powerful illustration of the moral dilemmas that often arise in the pursuit of justice and understanding.
Friendship and Growth:
The heart of Sousou no Frieren lies in the unbreakable bond between Frieren and Fern. Despite the age difference and the unique challenges they face due to Frieren’s extended lifespan, their friendship continues to evolve. Fern’s character undergoes significant development in this episode as he grapples with the complexities of the supernatural and the ethical implications of their mission.
Frieren’s unwavering belief in Fern’s abilities is a testament to the mentorship and guidance she provides. This dynamic between teacher and student is a central pillar of the episode’s narrative. It underscores the importance of passing on knowledge and values to the next generation, even in the face of daunting challenges.
A Remarkable Blend of Magic and Emotion:
One of the defining features of Sousou no Frieren is its ability to seamlessly blend magic and emotion. This episode is no exception. As Frieren confronts the Einsam, viewers are treated to visually stunning magical sequences that are both breathtaking and emotionally charged. The juxtaposition of magical battles and introspective moments creates a rich and dynamic viewing experience.
Meeting the Red Hair Boy:
Continuing their arduous journey, Frieren makes the bold decision to confront a dragon and retrieve a coveted grimoire from its perilous nest. However, this perilous task demands a warrior of great strength, leading them to seek out Stark (Kobayashi, Chiaki), a former pupil of Eisen who earned renown for an unusual feat: defeating the dragon in a legendary staring contest.
Yet, Stark humbly confesses that his victory was less a display of courage and more a result of being petrified with fear. Frieren extends a deadline, allowing Stark until morning to decide whether he will join their mission. While Fern harbors doubts about Stark’s readiness, Frieren remains steadfast in her belief, citing Stark’s formidable strength, honed through Eisen’s rigorous training, which enables him to cleave through solid rock with his mighty axe.
In conclusion, Sousou no Frieren Episode 05 is a masterclass in storytelling within the anime medium. It deftly explores themes of friendship, courage, and the pursuit of magic while presenting viewers with a thought-provoking moral dilemma. The bond between Frieren and Fern continues to evolve, and the episode’s emotional depth is matched only by its magical spectacle. It’s a testament to the series’ ability to captivate and engage its audience, leaving us eagerly anticipating the next installment in this captivating tale.
Full-length images: 36.