「同族嫌悪」 ( Douzoku Ken’o )
“Aversion to One’s Own Kind”
One thing is perfectly clear – Sousou no Frieren is going to be with us as anime for a while, even if this season is listed at two cours. The manga sales have spiked admirably (when you see back issues rank this often, that’s a big tell), and the TV ratings have been remarkable for a late-night series. I can see why, too. It’s quite good for starters, but it also overlaps a lot of commercial niches. It’s just enough of them to be included, not too much of any of them to exclude any of the others. It reminds me a bit of Spy x Family in that sense (but only that sense).
I like Frieren more than love it myself (which I guess is another commonality with SxF, though I surely like this show more), largely because the character writing isn’t great most of the time. But Frieren does do this sort of story very well, I have to say. Regret is a powerful theme in the right hands, and it’s the sort of theme that’s right in mangaka Yamada Kanehito’s butter zone. Regret is the centerpiece of Sein’s (Nakamura Yuuichi) arc, and his addition to the cast appears to represent a sort of capstone to the prologue portion of the series.
Sein is a priest in a small village the Frierengumi pass through, where she tortures him a bit before rescuing him from a swampy grave. His older brother (Hirakawa Daisuke) is that village’s chief priest. As a lad Sein would go on play adventures with best pal “Gorilla” (Tezuka Hiromichi). When they were young adults Gorilla invited Sein to go on adventures with him but Sein declined – a decision he’s regretted ever since. Gorilla promised to return for him in three years, but it’s now been ten and he’s never come back, and Sein considers his dream a ship that has clearly sailed.
As presented it was a sense of duty to his brother that literally stayed Sein’s hand when that invitation was extended (as a child he overheard his brother decline an offer from Heiter to go to the capital for his sake). One wonders if fear of the unknown was a part of that decision too – I think it’s implied that it was (I like that this series doesn’t feel the need to explicitly spell everything out for the audience). But either way, Sein’s regret resonates with me. It’s a core tenet of my philosophy that one regrets the things they don’t do and wish they had far more than the things they did and wish they hadn’t (one reason I’m now in Japan). And Sein’s aniki wants Frieren and co. to take him with them, knowing he chafes at village life. But that doesn’t mean convincing him will be easy.
It’s only because Stark is bitten by a snake (20% of adventurers die that way, according to Eisen) that the Frierengumi return at all, and I must say he’s treated as the series’ butt monkey a bit too much for my tastes. Sein is a genius healer, and even the reluctant Frieren admits that such a priest would be a useful addition. Stark is all in, for obvious reasons – he can use a male ally, and having an older guy role model (of a sort) has obvious subliminal appeal to a sprig like him. Fern appears to be neutral, but I suspect she sees the good side of Sein even if he is addicted to booze, tobacco, and gambling (which both he and Stark are very bad at).
But Sein resists all entreaties, including the “seduction” Flamme taught Frieren (I suspect as a troll – though it worked on Himmel, he was already in love with her), which knocks Fern for a loop. Sein likes older women, but not ones that look like lolimoutos. It takes Aniki slapping some sense into him to convince Sein, but he does eventually agree. For Frieren, this is about the way Sein reminds her of herself when the heroes’ party recruited her – but I’m sure there’s also an element of her recreating her glory days, and having a corrupt priest in the party must surely feel as natural as breathing to Frieren.
Again, this is low-hanging fruit for Sousou no Frieren – tonally the sort of material it can do in its sleep. But that’s okay – series should do what they’re best at most of the time, for obvious reasons. And I think Sein’s addition to the party has promising implications, just as Stark’s did. For a show where the character dynamics can feel a little one-dimensional more diversity is a good thing, and in a way I also think Sein’s addition will give a little push to the Stark-Fern thread for a few reasons. We’re going to be together for a long time, so the more narrative arrows this series has in its quiver the better.
Full-length images: 36.