Stories that get into what happens after “the end” aren’t uncommon. They might look at how society changes. We could see how a group of people adapt. But we don’t often see how specific people are affected. Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe’s manga Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End gets a little more specific by showing how one person is changed by an adventure. It involves quite the opportunity too. As the star, an elven mage named Frieren, is already hundreds of years old as the story “begins,” we’re seeing how someone that old can grow and change after adventuring and experiences. In turn, we see how her new allies develop as a result of being around her.
Frieren kicks off as a grand adventure ended. The hero Himmel and his allies Eisen the warrior, Frieren the mage, and Heiter the priest defeated the Demon King. The quartet journeyed together for 10 years. They aided people around the world and faced the Demon King’s minions. As a way to cap it off, the group watches the Era Meteor Shower. When Frieren notes that she knows a better place to see it happen, they vow to meet again in 50 years.
And they do! But Frieren being an elf means a bit of a shock when it happens. Himmel, formerly handsome, tall, and young, is now a short old man. The corrupt, drunken priest became a bishop. The dwarf… well, is mostly the same since dwarves are like elves. The group has their moment, which is then followed by Himmel’s death. It is then that things hit her. She only knew him ten years. Which, when measured by an elf, is no time at all. She realizes all the time she could have had, but didn’t.
The rest of the first volume of the Frieren manga follows the elven mage as she essentially finds a purpose for herself. She always had a goal of sorts. After the initial adventure, she said she’d explore the Central Lands for 100 years to learn more about magic. But after Himmel’s death, it reads as an opportunity. She has a chance to not make the same mistakes. There’s also the potential to set out on a new quest, perhaps doing things differently and making the connections she missed.
Right away, we start to see a change. It begins when she again meets Heiter. This time, reuniting involves an opportunity to learn from a tome and perhaps take on an apprentice. She’s hesitant about the idea. Especially since the student is only a young girl. But as she sets about deciphering the book Heiter offered, time passes. She ends up connecting with the child. Frieren spends more time with the old friend. Before we—and perhaps she—know it, Frieren is saying both “goodbye” and “hello” again.
It also means it changes her perspective. Given her lifespan, Frieren wouldn’t have a problem solving mysteries and accomplishing missions over the courses of years. She spent four at Heiter’s deciphering the book like it was nothing. Once Fern and her are traveling, the two spend half a year searching for a specific flower. They spend months cleaning up a coast. But for her, it’s no time at all. Not to mention while each chapter’s mission is being accomplished, we see hints of what led to her taking on that task.
Each chapter of the manga is a look at how Frieren’s relationship with Himmel changed her. How it is influencing her future. We see her new purpose guide her in various ways. It also leads her to behave differently with both new and old friends. So then, by the time this volume ends, we see a new reason for her next journey. And it might leave you wondering, will she get that extra time she’s hoping for?
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End manga volume 1 is available from Viz Media. Volume 2 will debut on January 11, 2022.
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