Frieren: Beyond Journey's End: A Real Hero
April 2, 2024 9:56 AM - Season 1, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Continuing on to Äußerst, the trio finds themselves in the Village of the Sword just in time to keep a promise made by Frieren, and to learn a truth about Himmel's legend. Then, it's Stark's birthday - but the warrior feels that there's little reason to celebrate it - or him...

We're back to more self-contained episodes until we get to the First Class Mage Examination in Äußerst - a welcome change of pace from the intensity of the Aura the Guillotine arc. And this episode starts off with the trio caught in the mercurial weather of the mountains, with our elf mage being the one who succumbs to the cold. Stark offers to carry Frieren, but we get to see Fern's possessiveness with regards to her master and mother figure, resulting in her giving the elf a piggyback ride. (A fan nickname for Frieren is The Prehistoric Toddler, and this scene demonstrates why.)

Thankfully, the group makes it to the Village of the Sword, the legendary location where Himmel pulled forth the Hero's Sword with which he defeated the Demon King. Upon arriving, they're greeted by the village chief - a young girl even shorter than Frieren, who happily voices her grandmother's (the prior chief) frustration with the elf's tardiness. What follows is monster extermination, due to the local population being drawn to the village, including the "Lord of the Mountain", a giant wolf-like beast. The monsters are no real match for the three, and when the Lord is felled, Stark makes a discovery - what drew the monsters was the Hero's Sword, still stuck in the rock like it was when the Party of Heroes had visited. Frieren, having been there for the incident, explains that Himmel did try to pull the sword free, but failed - and then swore to prove that he was a real hero despite the failure. And when he did, people assumed that he had won the sword. With Fern and Stark having a better understanding of what actually makes a "real hero", they continue on.

Continuing on, the party finds themselves resting in another town when the two women note that it's Stark's birthday, and as such they discuss how to celebrate it. Frieren tells Fern that she plans to give him a "clothes-melting potion", to which the young mage responds by dousing her elven master in the stuff before storming off. Seeking out the warrior, she finds him (after tracing his steps through the town, meeting the people he helped) immaturely looking at cloud shapes, and sits with him, noting that it's his birthday, and she would like to give him a present . To her surprise, Stark responds oddly and with surprise, as this is the first time someone has looked to get him a gift for his birthday. And with that, he recounts the story of his life with his family, before the attack that orphaned him and led him to the care of Eisen - he grew up in a village of warriors, and being relatively weak he was looked down upon by his father, especially in light of his older brother Stoltz - meaning "pride", and thematically aligned with Stark's name - who was the golden child and the pride of the village. But Stark notes that his brother always treated him well, and we see a flashback where Stoltz helps Stark with his training, getting his pristine white garb - proof of his skill - muddy, showing what actually mattered to him. Sadly, Stark then recounts the day his village was destroyed by demons, and how he fled as his brother stood his ground. With that, he points out how much of a coward he is - to which Fern notes that was all in the past, and that the man she someone who has been there for her, and who faces his fear to protect others without running away.

With that, they then go shopping for his gift, settling on a silver bracelet before returning to the inn, where Frieren has a surprise - she's cooked them all hamburger steaks, using Eisen's recipe. Stark notes that growing up, Eisen would make these for his birthday, and Frieren notes he did the same on their journey - it seems to be a dwarven tradition to cook such steaks for warriors who work hard, and so Eisen did so to reward his party members - and his adopted son. And with that, Stark recalls another memory - that of Stoltz making him a hamburger steak for his birthday, as a secret reward - and then another, as he remembered that he stood with the others in his village until Stoltz ordered him to flee. Not because he thought Stark was weak - but because he couldn't stand the thought of his beloved younger brother dying meaninglessly. With that, Stark tucks into his birthday dinner, and notes that it tastes good, with his voice choked with emotion, realizing the truth of his own bravery.
posted by NoxAeternum (3 comments total)
Did it not occur to Stark, since he was there, to just try pulling at the Hero's Sword? Heck, I'm no hero, but I'd give it a try anyway. (Upside: if he carries the Sword away, the village will be safe. Downside: if he carries the Sword away, the monsters will be coming after him now.)
posted by SPrintF at 1:21 PM on April 2

Did it not occur to Stark, since he was there, to just try pulling at the Hero's Sword?

The second half of the episode is literally the answer to your question - no, it didn't occur to Stark, because in his mind he sees himself as the coward who left his big brother to die. In fact, the anime makes this abundantly clear by having Stark have a flashback to the last time he saw Stoltz when he looks at the sword.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:37 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

I was wholly unprepared for how charmed I was by Frieren's gremlin energy when she was digging up and proudly showing Stark's gift to a supremely nonplussed Fern.
posted by valrus at 8:30 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

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