「長寿友達」 (Chouju Tomodachi)
Sousou no Frieren’s first cour ends with an arch-typical Frieren episode. That is to say, full of wistful reminiscences about mortality and furtive glances into the future. There’s no way this series is on par with Yokohama Kaidanshi Kikou – that one is among the finest manga ever written while this one is just very, very good. But it’s rare enough for anything to even put one in mind of YKK, and Frieren absolutely does. For that alone I would be watching, but fortunately there are substantial charms to this show above and beyond that.
In a way, I think this story is as much as anything about how precariously one must balance to try and live in the moment. That much more so for Frieren, whose pure volume of past and future is so massive. It’s a tightrope few people in this story can successfully walk, and the past is a character forever walking alongside them, unseen. Sein is chasing a ghost from his past, and Frieren is almost entirely driven by motives related to hers. It’s almost as if her seemingly endless lifespan has made the concept of future meaningless to her, making her past that much more overbearing.
Frieren is a decidedly sentimental person, in contradiction of her mannerisms. How else does one explain a detour to visit Old Man Voll (Hoshino Mitsuaki), a 400-year old dwarf acquaintance? She wants to talk about the past, and there are so few with whom she can do it. As old as he is (we’re told dwarves normally live about 300 years) Voll is a blip on Frieren’s radar screen, but with so few of her own kind around, he’s still the most powerful link to her past she can access without actually going to Ende (and it not turning out to be a myth).
Voll himself is a creature of his past. He’s been protecting a small village for so long no one even in that village knows why. They just think he’s a senile old coot, but he’s still sharp enough to catch Stark off-guard (and provide him a week’s training). The reason Voll does what he does is to keep a promise to his human wife – gone now for so long he can’t remember her face or voice – who loved the village. Voll and Frieren have lots of talks about the past, their favorite subject. She’d stay for a decade if she could, but Fern insists on keeping it to a week. They both get something out of this, in Voll’s case a dream of his wife which allows him to see and hear her again at last.
As for Sein, he’s chasing Gorilla Warrior, whose name and face he remembers perfectly well. But if he didn’t, he has a photo of the pair of them – who knew photos existed in this mythology (and if they do, what other anachronistic things might too)? Thanks to his “impact” name, Gorilla Warrior is well-remembered along this route, and in one village Sein is directed to speak to “Stubborn Old Woman” (Kubota Tamie), who knew him well. Memorable nicknames are apparently the key to one’s legacy, and Sein too has one – “Goatee Priest” – thanks to Heiter.
One could almost say that the Frierengumi are following a trail of the impact left by their dead or absent comrades (mostly hers). We don’t know which one Gorilla is, but the old woman clearly has insight. She’s only willing to share it after putting the Frierengumi to work (well, she is “Stubborn”), though in truth I think she just wants the company. Eventually the final task is given, to polish the heroes’ statue in the canyon below the village – a monument so old no one remembers who it’s a monument to. But one of the two figures is clearly Kraft, As to the other his identity remains a mystery for now, but it seems this pair was the inspiration for Sein’s nickname, and they bear a striking resemblance to the parted friends.
The woman’s info – that Gorilla Warrior was off to a city called Tur, one in the opposite direction of Frieren’s destination of Äußerst (I have no idea which keys those are), the “magical city” – means Sein has a decision to make. Given that he’s conspicuously absent from the second cour preview released this week, it seems likely that Sein will choose to follow his past (which clearly follows the established pattern in Sousou no Frieren). That would suck, because I think he’s been an important catalyst in the show’s improvement this month. But when your protagonist is basically an immortal that makes pretty much every other character ephemeral, so I suppose it’s wise not to get too attached.
Full-length images: 36.