Manga Review: Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Volume One

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End focuses on an elf named Frieren, who was a member of a party that defeated the Demon King.

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Volume One
Written by: Kanehito Yamada
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 9, 2021

The volume opens with Frieren (the mage), along with Himmel (the hero), Eisen (the warrior), and Heiter (the priest) returning after defeating the Demon King. Now that their mission is over and peace has been established in the land, the members of the group need to figure out what they’re going to do now that their ten-year journey has come to an end. Frieren, who is an elf, is going to be living much longer than her companions, so she doesn’t think about this as much as the others. Instead, her focus is on traveling around the central lands for the next hundred years or so and continue gathering magic. At this point, the story shifts its focus onto Frieren, as she becomes the main character of the series.

There’s a timeskip to 50 years in the future, when Frieren reunites with the other members of the party. While she looks the same as she did, all of the others are very much older. Himmel changes the most, though. Not only does he look older, he’s also shrunk considerably over the past 50 years. We get to see from Frieren’s perspective how much the town has changed, as well as the people that she knew.

The next time we see Frieren, she is attending Himmel’s funeral. It’s during this time that Frieren realizes that even though she traveled with Himmel for ten years, she hardly knew anything about him. While his death doesn’t make her cry, it’s the knowledge that she never really got the chance to know her traveling companion that causes her to shed tears. She regrets not trying to get to know him better, especially since she knew that human lives are short. After the funeral, Frieren decides that she wants to learn more about humans during her travels, in addition to gathering magic.

This is followed by a 20-year timeskip, when Frieren is looking for Heiter. The priest is obviously even older than he was the last time Frieren had seen him. Heiter asks Frieren to take on Fern, a young woman he has been caring for, as her apprentice. She refuses at first, so Heiter asks her to decipher a grimoire that supposedly contains long-lost spells of resurrection and immortality. After she agrees to this task, Heiter asks Frieren to teach Fern some magic on the side, and she agrees to at least do that much. During this section, I appreciated getting the backstory for how Heiter came to take in Fern, and how memories of Himmel convinced Heiter that this was something that he needed to do. After Heiter passes away, Fern becomes Frieren’s traveling companion.

Then there’s a six-year timeskip, where we see Frieren and Fern traveling together and doing low-profile jobs to acquire spells. During this story, they go to a village that has erected a statue for Himmel because he risked his life to save it from a monster. Unfortunately, most people in the village are no longer interested in maintaining the statue, and the older woman who is interested isn’t capable of doing it anymore. Frieren uses her magic to clean up the statue, and after the elderly woman says she’ll plant some flowers later, Frieren decides to come up with a way to add flowers from Himmel’s hometown to the location of the statue. This story focuses on Frieren and Fern as they try to find some of those flowers so Frieren can know what they should be like in order to realistically create them. During this section, Frieren has a flashback to traveling with the party on their mission to defeat the Demon King. I thought it was really sweet that Frieren wanted to find a way from flowers from Himmel’s hometown to be near his statue, and it was one of the ways that Frieren is starting to show some emotional growth as a character.

The next chapter in the volume focuses on the relationship between Frieren and Fern. It turns out it’s Fern’s birthday, and Frieren is trying to find a gift to give to her. This is something that the Frieren the reader meets at the beginning of the volume wouldn’t have done. While we see brief hints throughout the volume that Frieren is starting to learn about humans and interacting with them (such as the previous story with the statue of Himmel and the flowers), this chapter really shows the reader just how much her study of humans over nearly 30 years is manifesting itself in the elf’s actions.

After this, Frieren and Fern go to a town where Himmel made an impact on the people. Frieren takes on a job that Himmel knew she would eventually come there to do, and she uses this as an opportunity to train Fern. This is followed by a chapter that has to do with a New Year’s Festival, and Frieren and Fern are hired to clean up the coastline before the festival. Frieren remembers back in the past when Himmel wanted her to see the sunrise during the New Year’s Festival, but she didn’t do it then. So it was sweet to see her going with Fern to see this sight. It really amazes me that even though Himmel is dead for a lot of the volume, he’s still such a presence in the story between flashbacks and connections that Himmel has to people and locations that Frieren travels to.

Another two years pass by, and Frieren and Fern go to visit Eisen. He asks Frieren to find the Great Mage Flamme’s notes, with information that was provided to Eisen by Heiter before he passed away. Apparently, in the notes, there’s information on conversing with the dead. Eisen remembers Frieren’s regrets 30 years earlier about not getting to know Himmel while he was alive, and thought this was a way he could help her. It’s revealed that Frieren was Flamme’s best apprentice, so this would be another incentive for Frieren to find these notes. The volume ends with Frieren deciding to go on a journey to the location where Flamme’s notes say she talked with the dead. I thought this was a perfect spot to end the volume.

I really liked the concept behind this manga, which is seeing what happens to the heroes after their quest and there’s nothing more to do. And I think it was a great idea to make the elf, Frieren, the main character, since she has the ability to live longer than her traveling companions, as well as the ability to travel around the world since she doesn’t have any job or family commitments. And from seeing this story from Frieren’s point of view, the reader gets to see the other characters age and die. We know a lot about what happened to Heiter in the intervening years, we only get brief glimpses of what Himmel accomplished after the party split, but we don’t really know how Eisen spent the intervening years. While there were a lot of timeskips in this volume, I think they were needed in order to establish Frieren, the world this story inhabits, and introducing Fern into the story. To be honest, I would be surprised to see much more in the way of timeskips after this in future volumes.

When it comes to the art, this volume really evokes a sense of medieval times. I also thought that each character has a distinctive look (even the characters who aged over the course of the volume), and the character designs help to draw the reader into the situations that the characters find themselves in.

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End should appeal to readers who enjoy reading fantasy manga or fantasy stories. I hope to have the opportunity to read the second volume, because I want to find out what happens to Frieren, Fern, and the others.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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