Frieren: Beyond Journey's End: Smells Like Trouble
April 8, 2024 11:02 AM - Season 1, Episode 15 - Subscribe

When the party finds a town afflicted by a curse that puts people to sleep, Sein finds himself put to the test - not just of his skills, but of his belief in his fellow travelers as well. Then, a chance encounter with the ruler of the region has Stark play the role of his son - a false role that nonetheless brings up real emotions for the young warrior...

So this is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, as it contains my favorite scene in the series - and if you've seen this episode, you know exactly what scene it is.

The episode starts of with the four getting another wagon ride (on an uncovered wagon - while Frieren does make mistakes, she also learns from them), and the ride rocks Fern to sleep, having her adorably nod off on top of her adoptive mother, who smiles as she catches the young mage. Noting this show of their closeness, Sein asks how long they've been traveling together - Fern notes that it's been four years for her, though she's known Frieren for longer, and Stark notes he's been with them for a year. With that, Sein notes that the party is missing something - to which Fern notes they could use someone to deal with the mimics that Frieren has a weakness to (and we get the first (well, second if you consider the opening) appearance of Frieren's true nemesis, as she cannot help but wind up stuffed headlong in one.) Of course, Sein's interests are more...prurient, as he says they need a "nice looking older lady" - when Stark points out the obvious (that is, Frieren), he notes that she's more of an "elderly child", which given what we know of her, well...he's not wrong, per se. Stark, reading the room, then tries to distract everyone by noting the village is just ahead.

However, when they arrive, it is abundantly and obviously clear that something is wrong here - the villagers are all passed out, clearly taken as they lived their lives. They're all alive - something the party is glad for - but the reason for why they're all asleep has the four worried, with Frieren suggesting moving on, but Fern points out that would be cold of them. Sein, now serious as he investigates, notes that this appears to be a curse - and a question by Stark has the two explain curses, as well as the difference between divine and arcane magic. Simply put, curses are magical effects innate to monsters that effect humans that the full mechanisms are still unknown, and because of this divine magic empowered by the Goddess can combat curses and the monsters that wield them. Divine magic is also not well understood, and is derived from study of scripture and innate capacity - not something that terribly interests Frieren, hence why her ability to use divine magic is...rather limited, and why the Party of Heroes needed both her and Heiter. Sein, of course, is exceptionally talented as a priest, so his honed innate skills protect him - but they don't protect the party, as Frieren and Fern can feel the curse attacking them. The priest notes that the curse is of such power that the best solution is to deal with the source - which means finding the monster behind it. Unfortunately, it's at that point that the curse starts to take hold of the party, as Stark collapses unconscious, and Sein would only be able to wake him for a few seconds. And it's not long before Fern falls as well - and soon after, even Frieren falls to the curse, telling Sein to wake her when he confronts the monster.

Said monster is revealed to be a large chaos flower, which upon realizing that Sein isn't affected by the curse chooses to take a more...physical approach to dealing with him. Sein's not defenseless, though - but a use of a divine combat spell reveals this flower has the ability to reflect magic. This is bad news, as not only can Sein not use magic for fear of hitting Frieren, there's the worry that if he wakes her and she has her spells reflected, well...that could be catastrophic. And with only a few seconds, there would be little way to warn her. It's at this point, though, that he recalls a story told to him and his friend by Heiter, about how he chose to trust in the words of his party members - and more specifically the words of Frieren. With that, he decides to have faith in his mentor's words, casting the awakening spell on Frieren - and that concludes the battle as she promptly ends the fight with a targeted blast of Zoltraak straight through the flower's core. (As I said, when it's appropriate, they let the elf be the "I WIN" button, because it can be quite awesome.)

With the curse lifted, those affected soon awaken - like Stark, surprised to be bundled up and snuggled safely next to a slumbering Fern. As the party prepares to continue on from the village, the grateful townsfolk thank the party, and Sein in particular - which leaves him humbled and blushing. And as they walk on, Frieren praises Sein for his work in defeating the chaos flower - including a well earned head pat.

Soon, the party finds themselves at the fortress city of Vorig, the halfway point to Äußerst - and while the city would provide the opportunity to replenish supplies, the party's resources won't. The discussion is interrupted, however, with the appearance of Lord Orden, Vorig's ruler, who promptly begins to inspect Stark, as if he was evaluating him. Soon, the party finds themselves the guests of Orden - a situation that has Frieren on edge as she's dealt with the Ordens in the past, finding this one to be as pushy as his grandfather. Orden explains the matter - a recent attack on the realm was repulsed, but at the cost of a number of knights - foremost among them the lord's oldest son and heir Wirt. In order to put up an image of stability, Orden proposes to use Stark - who is the spitting image of said son - as a double, most notably at an upcoming soiree in three months time. This, of course, would be paid - and with the amount on offer, it would replenish their funds for some time based on Fern's calculations. And with that, Stark is sent off to get a crash course in etiquette a whirlwind course that leaves him exhausted. After some time, Fern happens upon the poor warrior staggering down the hall worn out - a sight that has her realizing how much effort Stark's putting in. As they talk, Stark kneels before her, taking her hand as a noble gentleman would, and asks what she thinks - her response is that it doesn't suit him, and her face makes it clear she has regrets about the decision and the toll it's taking on him - and the way she looks at her hand after makes it clear she's not sure how she feels about how he held it.

Soon after, Stark runs into Orden looking at the portrait of Wirt, who admonishes him for using his title instead of calling him father. Start rejoins that he's being rather cold to his son's memory in doing so, and Orden responds that all this is in accordance with his son's wishes, though he notes that it's tearing him up inside as well - a small crack in his stern facade. As they walk around the estate grounds, they come across a young boy practicing with a wooden sword - that being Mut, Orden's second son. Orden's rough demeanor with his younger son unsurprisingly has Stark flashing back to memories of his own father back in his village. With that Orden, trains Stark personally in his family's fighting style, to better improve his charade - but as the memories wash over the young man, Orden warmly reassures him that he's safe here to train. With that, Stark asks Orden of is opinion of Mut - and he notes that while not as talented as his older brother, he is a hard worker who trains diligently, and that work always pays rewards. His only worry is that praise had gotten to the boy, which is why he's been more rough as of late, which Stark notes is a different problem.

Fern is shocked when she's told that she also needs etiquette training to attend as Stark's partner, given the social expectations - and with a "good luck" from Frieren, Fern finds herself falling into the hell that she put Stark into, as karma gets her due - though her training does have a more feminine aspect to it, including her learning how to deal with a corset and working to fix her two left feet on the dance floor. And soon enough, it's the night of the soiree, with the two very exhausted lovebirds watching the goings-on. Fern, now fully cognizant of what she put Stark through, apologizes for doing so to get funds, but soon finds the young man kneeling at her feet, taking her hand to ask her to dance - after all, as he points out, it would be a shame to put all that training to waste. She responds to his offer as last time - that it doesn't suit him, but this time the shy, soft smile on her face tells a very different story as they head out onto the floor...

And this is the point where we get what I consider to be the best scene in the series - The Dance. Yes, we're going to be getting some epic fights in a few episodes, but as awesome as those are (and they're Pretty Damn Awesome, don't get me wrong), they really don't compare to the amazingly well animated scene of Fern and Stark waltzing along the floor - a bit clumsily at first as they move hesitantly, but then more fluidly as they fall into the rhythm - and into each other. They might be playing false roles as they move to the music, but the emotions writ on their faces are quite real (and a few shots show that there's more than one young noble lady who's wishing she was in Fern's place.) It's also amazing to note that the dancing was all hand-animated, which continues to show that Madhouse is one of the best studios in the business.

We get a cutaway to Frieren and Sein sitting at a table - seeing the two enjoying each other, Sein asks if she'd like to dance, to which the ravenous elf responds simply that she would like to eat, devouring a piece of cake. Soon after, Stark confronts Orden at the end of the soiree, and the lord offers to let Stark stay, to which he responds that he's not a repacement for Wirt. Orden agrees, and lets his defenses slip away as the two have a heartfelt conversation - he notes that he and Wirt had a falling out before his death, something he regrets uttterly, and notes that when he saw Stark, he almost thought his son had come back to him. Stark nods understandingly, noting that he had a similar falling out with his adoptive father, and he needs to make it right. With that, Orden smiles, wishing him well, as we transition to a scene of Frieren trying to find the right grimoire as reward. As she does, Stark looks out the window to see Orden and Mut training together, and he smiles, as he's sure that this realm at least has a bright future.
posted by NoxAeternum (4 comments total)
Again, this is one of my favorite episodes, because The Dance is just an amazing scene - and it's worth noting that in the manga, we only get a couple of panels and the two page chapter title spread for it, so this scene is almost completely thanks to the animators at Madhouse. The looks on their faces as they whirl on the dance floor says so much, as does how they embrace in the dance. And then there's that adorable little dip at the end...

Look, in two episodes, Sein's going to have a very vocal outburst, and we're all going to agree with his sentiment.

Beyond The Dance, there's a lot this episode does that's worth noting. The digression on divine magic is an excellent demonstration of how the series makes exposition feel natural - it's worth noting that one of the roles that Fern and Stark play is to allow for exposition, but in an organic manner. It makes sense that Stark asks about curses, and Frieren's digression on the matter also feels natural, as one thing we see her be is a teacher. But the series also shows as well as tells, pitting Sein against the chaos flower to demonstrate divine magic as well. This is the world building that makes the series feel alive - we get a sense of this being a real place built on lore and rules that has real impact.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:09 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]

Um. I talked a lot of shit about the romance in the last thread but the dance was VERY good.
posted by valrus at 9:08 PM on April 8

I'm always surprised looking back at how much stuff happens in each episode, without ever feeling rushed. It's almost the opposite of that usual feeling with a really good anime where the end credits show up and you're shocked that twenty minutes have gone by so quickly, even though this one did run into the credits. Neat twitter thread about the dance animation here.
posted by lucidium at 5:02 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]

A translation note: after Frieren destroys the chaos flower, she says, in Japanese, "Wakatta." (Understood.) But the translation here does double duty: "Got it" for both "understood" and "I caught/killed it."
posted by SPrintF at 8:23 PM on April 9

« Older Ripley: Sommerso...   |  Tracker: Missoula... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments