Up Off The Ground
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, volume 3
By Kanehito Yamada & Tsukasa Abe (Translated by Misa)
2020’s Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Vol. 3 is the third volume of Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe’s secondary-universe fantasy manga. Frierenhas been serialized in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday since April 2020. The 2022 English translation is by Misa “Japanese Ammo.”
Demons have managed to gain the upper hand over Graf Granat and his town. Elf mage Frieren, her human student Fern, and unconfident human warrior Stark are the only defenses left between the Graf’s subjects and zombification by Aura the Guillotine, a demon.
Two of Aura’s agents are still alive: Linie and Lügner. While Frieren confronts the demon queen alone, her two allies each take on a thematically appropriate foe: Stark tackles martial combat expert Linie, while Fern faces off with mage Lügner.
In addition to the innate demon knack of being able to assess mana levels at a glance, Linie has the ability to emulate any combat technique she has seen. Stark for his part has a baffling ability to stand back up no matter how badly injured he is, a talent Linie cannot duplicate.
Fern may be powerful but she’s only human. Lügner sets out to overwhelm the young woman with a series of powerful attacks. To his immense surprise, he discovers that Fern is more capable than she appeared; the master liar has been fooled into underestimating Fern.
Meanwhile, Aura the demon finds her path blocked by a small elf woman (Frieren). Aura is supremely confident: not only do her senses assure her that she is vastly more powerful than Frieren, Aura has an army of headless zombies at her command. Like Lügner, Aura will discover that Frieren wields a literally unthinkable technique. (Guess who could have taught Fern …)
Following the decisive battle, the party continues its path north. There they will discover Frieren’s talent for underestimating winter storms, finally acquire a party healer, and discover the truth about a certain sword of destiny.
I have no idea if the creators of this manga are role-players or if they’ve just picked up certain ideas by osmosis. That said, I suspect that if this were a roleplaying game, Stark, whose secret combat technique is “the last warrior standing wins,” would finally bother to invest points in armour. I am not entirely certain what keeps him vertical. He may be unsure as well1.
There’s a surprise revelation about the magic sword that can only be drawn by a sufficiently pure hero. This is the sword with which Frieren’s late friend Himmel is said to have killed the Demon King before the series began. Well .. the party finds the sword still in its stone, undrawn. Himmel faked being the great hero of destiny. Points to him for winning with a phony sword.
This manga reveals just how Frieren and company keep winning. Frieren has spent centuries learning how to conceal her true mana levels, something she has taught Fern. Why is this such an unthinkable ploy? Demon society ties status to visible mana. The idea that someone might tamper with their visible status is … weird. Even obscene. Having learned this, readers may be less worried about fights to come (in the many succeeding volumes of this series). Well, I’ll trade that for understanding what’s going on.
There are some very funny bits: an unfortunate misunderstanding involving a semi-nude monk, Stark managing to get bit immediately after being warned to avoid being bitten, and the fact that Frieren (who is a thousand years old) keeps showing up late for appointments (who cares about time?). The manga is amusing enough to keep me reading.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Vol. 3 is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository) and here (Chapters-Indigo) [ordinarily; now down due to ransomware attack].
1: Later in the volume, we discover Stark’s ability to ignore damage does not extend to brain-melting poison, so it’s pretty lucky the group runs into a healer almost immediately after Stark is bitten by a deadly snake.