Beyond Journey’s End Are Changing The Way Anime Depicts Women

Summary

  • The anime medium may feature a growing amount of well-written female characters, but there is still a dearth of quality female relationships.
  • Both Spy x Family and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End break the mold of typical female mentorships in anime, offering well-developed characters who drive the plot and exhibit legitimate agency.
  • Despite their obvious differences, the relationship between both series’ female characters create a natural parallel between Spy x Family and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End.


Across the anime medium, it is hard to find many well-developed female partnerships, which is part of the reason why Spy x Family has received so much praise for its portrayal of the relationship between Yor and Anya Forger. Their wholesome bond and the way that they learn from each other is so uplifting that it often steals the show. However, as popular as Yor and Anya have become, they have a bit of competition from the recent main duo from Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End.

Frieren and Fern, the main characters of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, have also made strides in regard to female representation. Much like Anya and Yor, Frieren and Fern are also incredibly engaging to watch as they grow as individuals and as a duo. Outside of representation, both duos offer something different for viewers because they are so different in their personalities and their stories. Yor and Anya might have come first, but Frieren and Fern definitely give the Spy x Family ladies a run for their money.

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Yor And Anya Forger Are Both Entertaining And Powerful

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When Spy x Family first started airing, there was no question that Anya was in the spotlight. From the series’ first episode, she is not only entertaining but also incredibly pure and well-written. This perfectly meshes with the main focus of the story, which is uncovering the truth behind the secret lives of each main character. Her charming innocence and ability to read minds are a major part of what makes Anya stand out as an unforgettable and irreplaceable character, and personality-wise, she’s selfless to a fault. The young girl is always putting herself in precarious situations despite knowing the risks; while this certainly qualifies her as reckless, she generally has clever ways of resolving problems. Even when she doesn’t, having one of the best spies in the country as a father certainly helps her out.

As Anya grows, one of the biggest and most direct influences on her comes from her mother, Yor. Of course, she is also influenced by her talented father, Loid; however, Loid himself doesn’t do anything directly to make Anya grow. While Loid takes on the role of the protective father, Yor acts as a mentor to Anya in multiple ways, spending significant amounts of time with the young girl. Like the rest of her family, Yor lives a double life, working as a hard-working government office worker during the day and a legendary assassin at night.

As someone who regularly balances compassion with violence, Yor unknowingly sets an example for Anya to do the same. Loid does a solid job of discouraging Anya away from unnecessary violence, but there’s no doubt that it’s helpful for Anya to know how to defend herself — especially given the unique circumstances of her family. In fact, Yor’s willingness to teach Anya is a big reason why their relationship is so special.

Together, Anya and Yor generate comedy and meaningful character development. Though she has experience as an older sister, Yor is completely new to motherhood, which prompts her to grow as a person for the sake of Anya and Loid. This mother-daughter, mentor-student type of relationship is wholesome, well-developed, and massively entertaining, but thankfully, they aren’t the only female duo in anime that deserves praise.

Frieren And Fern Found The Support They Need In Each Other

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As the titlular main character of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Frieren is at the center of her series’ narrative. As an elf, she has a different perspective on the limited lifespan of human life and is rather apathetic to most sentimental things. Episode 1 of the series focuses on Frieren as she comes to terms with how out of touch she is, eventually causing a huge shift after she parts ways with her adventuring comrades. This begins a new chapter in her long life, prompting Frieren to take on a disciple named Fern after much convincing from a close friend.

Similar to Frieren, Fern has a rather stoic personality and is incredibly mature for her age. Sadly, this is because of the loss of her family due to the ongoing war in her childhood hometown. Seeing a great deal of herself in Fern (especially given their shared affinity for magic), Frieren eventually agrees to take Fern in as a disciple as she travels across the world. The story focuses a lot on slice-of-life moments between these two women that expand the lore and open world of the anime’s fantasy setting. What’s so engaging about this duo is not only how massively powerful the two are as mages, but also their gradual growth as they find the very thing they’ve been looking for in life through each other.

Despite her initial hesitations, Freieren slowly becomes something of an older sister to Fern, and over time, she even appreciates the chance to grow close to a human being and learn about the world through the lens of their limited life span. Their bond gives Frieren the chance to work through many past regrets that she has been dealing with, allowing her to once again appreciate living in the present.

For Fern, having an older sister and mentor means the world to her. The loss of her family had caused her to become withdrawn, but as she spends more and more time with Frieren, more and more of her personality comes out. The pair fill a void in each other’s lives, and watching them fight with their incredible magic is a feast for the eyes of any fan of fantasy.

The Need For More Well-Written Female Mentorships In Anime

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To give credit where credit is due, there are a number of iconic female mentors and proteges scattered throughout the anime medium. However, that number is still fairly low, and few female relationships older series are as well-developed as those seen in the modern generation. Older series like Bleach, Soul Eater, and Sailor Moon, along with some lesser-known titles like Yona of the Dawn, have paved the way for better-written and thought-out female characters. Still, few are as impactful as those seen in Spy x Family and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End.

What separates Spy x Family and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End from these other series is their ability to place more than one well-developed female character in the spotlight of the entire series. Yor, Anya, Frieren, and Fern all have realistic, meaningful motivations and unique, believable personalities that are designed for more than just entertainment. These women shape their stories and the characters they encounter, demonstrating the type of agency that is sorely lacking from other series.

The Bonds In Spy X Family And Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Are Different Than Those In Other Series

Frieren lies in a creek surrounded by nature from Frieren: Beyond Journeys End

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As key duos in their respective series, Yor, Anya, Frieren, and Fern are rare examples of female characters who share a mentor-protege relationship and are more like family because of it. Although iconic anime mentors like Naruto‘s Tsunade and Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Izumi Curtis stand out from the pack, they’re two of the only well-written, well-remembered female characters of their respective eras. Credit also goes to recent mentors such as My Hero Academia‘s Midnight or Jujutsu Kaisen‘s Utahime, but unfortunately, their lack of screentime prevents them from having much depth. When it comes to proteges, there are certainly iconic names like Sakura Haruno from Naruto and Power from Chainsaw Man, but only a handful of them are truly well-developed with few to no problematic tropes.

There’s also the issue with a vast majority of these female proteges who don’t have quality relationships with other female characters. Granted, gender is not the marker for a great mentor or protege, but it is incredibly rare to have both a great female mentor and a great female protege together, while the opposite is extremely common. The focus of this type of bonding between female characters has been ultimately lost within the anime genre, so it’s truly a relief to see it gradually becoming more of a common occurrence in anime series.

In addition to how fun, engaging, and meaningful they are, the duos of Yor and Anya and Frieren and Fern are truly milestones for female representation in anime. There are no typical tropes seen in any of these characters, and together, their partnerships legitimately drive the plots of their respective series.

While many anime fans already knew about Spy x Family and Yor and Anya’s wonderful relationship as mother and child, they can also look forward to the adventure of Frieren and Fern. Either mentor-protege duo is sure to entertain in different ways and will be remembered as anime icons for various reasons, but especially for their impact on feminine representation.

Loid, Anya and Yor Bridger in Spy x Family

Spy x Family

A spy on an undercover mission gets married and adopts a child as part of his cover. His wife and daughter have secrets of their own, and all three must strive to keep together.

Release Date
April 9, 2022

Genres
Comedy, Action

Studio
Wit Studios / Clover Works

Creator
Tatsuya Endo

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