REVIEW: ‘Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Frieren Volume 1

What happens once the adventuring party finishes their quest? That is the premise of Frieren Volume 1, a melancholic tale about relationships, time, and life. Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End features story by Kanehito Yamada and art by Tsukasa Abe; the English edition is published by VIZ Media under their Shonen Sunday imprint. It is translated by Misa ‘Japanese Ammo,’ edited by Mike Montesa, and features touch-up art and lettering by Annaliese ‘Ace’ Christman; with design by Yukiko Whitley. The series has gotten quite a bit of praise since it debuted in Japan, and it is easy to see why. The manga follows elf mage Frieren, who is faced with her near-immortality when a member of her former adventuring party dies.

Frieren Volume 1 opens where many stories would end: Frieren and her party have returned to the city after defeating the Demon Lord. Their quest lasted a long ten years…at least it feels long to the human members of the party. Elf mage Frieren is rather indifferent to the emotion that affects her other party members. She goes off in search of more types of magic, casually proclaiming she will be back to visit in another fifty years. When one of her former friends dies of old age, she realizes that she took for granted the time she had. Frieren becomes determined to gain a better understanding of the people her human friends were when they were alive, specifically the heroic Himmel.

Time flows a bit differently in Frieren Volume 1, a single volume spans over seventy years. It isn’t uncommon for months to go by in one chapter. Nothing feels rushed however, readers experience a slowness that is likely the closest we can get to how Frieren experiences time: staying a year in one place is nothing to her. She is hundreds of years old. It is her witnessing the effects of time on her friends that gives the manga a melancholic tone, it is sad…but also comforting. The characters die natural deaths after living a long life. Frieren constantly reminds her apprentice that her journey is not selfless, but rather selfish: she is trying to learn who Himmel was as a person, to make up for the guilt she feels at not making the effort when he was alive.

The use of Himmel’s character is fascinating. Even though he is deceased for most of the volume, his presence is constantly felt. It is unclear if Himmel was trying to break down Frieren’s walls as a friend, or because he had slightly romantic affections for her. Either way, because she was oblivious it will never come to fruition. Instead, it is once again viewed as a “what if.” The preservation of memories is a consistent theme in the manga, and the more Frieren learns, the more her memories gain new meaning as she realizes what her friends’ intentions may have been.

The melancholic tone, paired with beautiful fantasy artwork, creates a lovely atmosphere to read in. It echoes elements of Iyashikei manga (slice-of-life series that have a healing effect on the reader), although it may not quite be one itself. It is a meditation on grief and loss, with artwork that values the emotion found in stillness. Tsukasa Abe does a fantastic job of showing how the world ages around Frieren, yet she stays exactly the same in appearance. The linework is detailed and makes scenic panels a wonder to stare at.

Frieren Volume 1 is a stunning debut for a manga series. Sure to be a hit with many, especially fans of RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons. The manga examines grief, loss and time through the lens of a near-immortal elf. This fantasy series is beautiful and a peaceful read to pick up this fall.

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.


5

TL;DR

Frieren Volume 1 is a stunning debut for a manga series. Sure to be a hit with many, especially fans of RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons. The manga examines grief, loss and time through the lens of a near-immortal elf. This fantasy series is beautiful and a peaceful read to pick up this fall.