「北側諸国の冬」 (Kitagawa shokoku no fuyu)
“Winter in Northern Countries”
Sousou no Frieren’s affair with battle shounen appears to be finished, at least for the time being. In some ways, the transition was as jarring as Helck’s this week, but it was also rather seamless in practice. We’ve returned to the show’s first eight episodes, which were contemplative, reflective, and a touch mournful. And, like in the other episodes, Heiter tends to have the most engaging dialogue, which is surprising given how little of it there is.
Graf Granat feels grateful (that’s a lot of Gs) to Frieren and her children for everything they’ve done (saved his village from extinction). Granat’s son is among the slain, and Frieren’s intervention has finally allowed him to rest, which confirms his gratitude. She doesn’t ask for much in terms of recompense – just the phony grimoire that isn’t the cause of the city’s barrier – so he gets off easy. He does provide the group some free advice, namely that they will need a first-class wizard to travel as far north as they wish to go. And, considering that Fern is only third-class and Frieren isn’t the kind to go to the DMV to get these things sorted out, it’s a problem that will have to be addressed at some point.
The oddities of the mage license system promise to provide future entertainment, but for the time being, the focus is on making it through the winter. Frieren is pleased by her bairns’ ignorance of the harsh reality of a true winter. She informs them that it was northern winters, not warfare, that killed the most lives during the conflict with the demon lord. Soon after, the trio is stranded in a blizzard, with Stark falling out from cold. Given that he’s a hardened warrior, it appears to be a comic device rather than anything based on realism, but I won’t nitpick (much).
Fortunately, the emergency shelter Frieren recalls from only 80 years ago at the foot of the Alps still exists. It’s occupied by a shirtless man doing squats (Koyasu Takehito), but this is a literal any port in a storm situation, regardless of Fern’s sensitivities. And this is a crucial encounter since Kraft is an elf – the first living one we’ve encountered save the heroine. And he claims he hasn’t seen another of his kind in 300 years, indicating that the race of elves is, at the very least, severely decreased in numbers.
Kraft is unmistakably distinct from Frieren. In comparison to the quiet Frieren, he is plainly physically powerful, pious, and downright extroverted. He has supplies, Frieren and Fern have the means to use them, thus this is a win-win situation. Kraft and Fern don’t quite become soulmates, but they do communicate in a way she clearly can’t with others, and he even makes a comment about how young she is in relation to her lack of believe in the Goddess. Kraft is therefore 2,000 years old. 10,000? As I mentioned last week, elves may hypothetically be immortal.
Sousou no Frieren appears to be primarily interested in investigating the fundamental subject of religious belief, particularly in the hereafter. Kraft’s argument is just a rehash of Heiter’s – he’s come to believe because the alternative is so terrible. However, as Frieren points out, this isn’t a true basis for belief; it’s simply satisfying a desire. Intelligent study of this issue is rare in anime, and Frieren excels in this regard. I still believe that if “Heaven” is as stated, it undermines the entire premise – but it’s a problem that neither the manga nor the anime have addressed yet, so it’s far too early to be concerned…