「入念な計画」 ( Nyuunen na Keikaku)
“Nyūnen na Keikaku”
The Hunter Exam arc of Frieren kicks into high gear. That’s certainly better than a Hogwarts arc Mahoutsukai no Yome style, which is what I was worried about. And this ep was certainly better than last week’s, if for no other reason than that the insufferable bickering between the two hug pillows paired off with Frieren was largely absent. I’m still not feeling this turn of events to be honest, but that’s not to say it’s totally without potential.
I love the hunter exam, don’t get me wrong. But it takes something really special for a writer to pull that off and make it really compelling. This isn’t that, but Yamada Kanehito is clearly a writer with some wit and intelligence, and there are possibilities inherent in this sort of scenario which can be mined for narrative interest. I don’t think it’s the best way for Sousou no Frieren to be spending its time, but what I think isn’t really relevant so the course of least resistance (and aggravation) for me is to just roll with it and hope my expectations are surpassed.
We get to the meat of things pretty quickly, at least. This first test isn’t really about catching a stille, though of course one does have to do that. It’s about keeping what you catch from being stolen from the other three-mage parties. That’s why catching one (which Fern’s pod does rather quickly, through means which aren’t shared with us, interestingly) doesn’t pop you out of the bubble and into the departure lounge for the next phase with coffee and croissants. And immediately another party shows up to try and steal (that pun may be intended) the stille – much to the delight of the already tiresome Übel, who wants nothing more than an excuse to kill her some mages.
One of the members of the party attacking is Wirbel, a second-class mage who was a big deal in the military it seems. But before this skirmish can really hot up there’s a ruckus from the lake in the middle of the test bubble, an explosion of mana immediately recognized by Wirbel as coming from Lawine. Frieren has a plan, unsurprisingly – that, and a spell (which she used to save Kanne’s bacon) to capture a bird from 50 centimeters or less. The idea: freeze the lake, forcing the stille to go elsewhere for water, then have Kanne infuse as many watering holes as she can find with just enough mana to scare the sensitive birds off. And Frieren stakes out a “clean” pond and waits motionless (ageless people are good at that), mana suppressed, waiting for a stille to steal in for some refreshment.
Another party we get to know is headed by Denken, another second-class mage and clearly a man (possibly a dwarf) of considerable experience. I suspect he plays up the self-deprecation about his own magical ability, but Denken clearly trades mostly on his calmness and cleverness to triumph in life. He susses out Frieren’s plan before anyone else – maybe it’s the hunter exam vibe, but I’m reminded of the Netero “mind like a plant” comment from Zeno Zoldyck when thinking about those two. While the two zygotes with him impatiently urge action, Denken is happy to rest up and bide his time, knowing Frieren will have no choice but to show herself when the moment comes.
Obviously, we know who’s going to win a battle between Frieren and Denken. But while it’s clear the association is fine with candidates dying in the name of filtering out the weak, are they also trying to filter out the non-sociopathic? Frieren is a pretty amoral being if we’re honest, but would she kill Denken – who seems not to be abjectly evil in any obvious way – in the name of moving on in the mage exam? This scenario recalls its obvious manga inspiration in its insidiousness, and it may provide us a chance to learn more about the inscrutable old bishoujo at the heart of this series.