Why is “Funeral for a Free-Lance” Airing on Friday Road Show? Interpreting the Intent from the Original Work


The TV anime adaptation of “Funeral for a Free-Lance” based on the manga by Yamada Kozue, which won the Manga Grand Prix 2021, is about to air. The fact that the first episode is being treated as a 2-hour special on Japan TV’s “Friday Road Show” on September 29 and will continue to be broadcast on the new anime slot, “FRIDAY ANIME NIGHT” at 11 PM, is indeed special. It indicates the value they see in the work “Funeral for a Free-Lance.” Especially, the fact that the first episode is a 2-hour special has the potential to strongly convey the charm and uniqueness of the original. What does this mean?

As if proclaiming, “You’ve defeated the Demon Lord,” the manga “Funeral for a Free-Lance” begins with the scene of the adventurer comrades Himmel, Eisen, Heiter, and the mage Freelan defeating the wicked Demon Lord.

In a typical fantasy novel or game, the scene that would correspond to the ending suddenly appears and takes readers by surprise, but “Funeral for a Free-Lance” takes a different approach. Freelan suggests that they watch a meteor shower that occurs once every 50 years from a more beautiful location next time. This scene leaves readers with a slightly strange feeling.

After all, in 50 years, everyone should be elderly or even dead. Despite that, Freelan casually mentions a reunion 50 years later. Who is Freelan? The answer to this question is revealed shortly after. Freelan is an immortal elf, and her sense of time is significantly different from that of humans like Himmel and Heiter. What’s more, she wasn’t even aware of this fact herself. Freelan’s character becomes even more intriguing because of this revelation.

Then, 50 years later, when Freelan reunites with Himmel, everyone is surprised. They come to understand that “Funeral for a Free-Lance” is a story about the sadness of parting. Reading the next episode, this understanding deepens further. “Funeral for a Free-Lance” is also a story about the joy of new encounters.

By reading the first and second episodes in succession, interest in the manga “Funeral for a Free-Lance” grows significantly. For those who start with the TV anime, I won’t go into details, but the first episode alone ends with a reflection on the odd setting of an immortal elf versus aging humans.

Even that alone, as a “story that begins with the end,” is already quite unique. However, in the second episode, while depicting the relationship between Freelan and Heiter, a sense of significance emerges as Freelan inherits the feelings of others. This development, sparked by the second episode, likely expanded the horizons of those who were reading “Funeral for a Free-Lance” in the “Weekly Shonen Sunday” serialization.

Those who read the manga online quickly learned about it. When the serialization of “Funeral for a Free-Lance” began, there was an attempt to deliver the first and second episodes together. Among readers, there was a growing awareness that this work was not just about satirizing the “aftermath” of an adventure fantasy, but that it was trying to do something new.

As a result, people wanted to read more and were overwhelmed by the developments, becoming fans and eventually leading to it winning the “Manga Grand Prix 2021.”

Broadcasting the beginning of the TV anime as a 2-hour special on “Friday Road Show” might be an attempt to capitalize on this response. By watching the combined story of the first and second episodes, viewers can understand the peculiar setting of “Funeral for a Free-Lance” and the uniqueness of the character Freelan, just like those who read online.

Continuing from there, the audience can come to trust and love Freelan, as well as appreciate the camaraderie of her companions Himmel, Eisen, Heiter, and the joy they find in new encounters. It instills a sense of accomplishment in saying farewell while believing in the future. This program seems to be aiming for that.

From here on, “Funeral for a Free-Lance” offers the opportunity to enjoy the character of Freelan, an incredibly knowledgeable being who has lived for a thousand years yet has some lazy tendencies, and her adventures with Fern, a diligent girl who travels with her despite being human and limited by lifespan, and Stark, a boy aiming to become a warrior but is somewhat timid. Thrilling battles against the remnants of the Demon Lord that appear along the way add to the excitement typical of an adventure fantasy.

The manga’s story, filled with ups and downs, will be depicted one by one as an anime. It leaves viewers with a feeling that they must watch it.

The choice of Madhouse as the production studio for “Funeral for a Free-Lance” carries significant meaning.

The voice actress Atsumi Tanezaki, who voices Freelan, is known for her role as Anya Forger in “SPY×FAMILY,” an energetic girl, but she has also displayed her talent in portraying the silent and expressionless Mizore Kasegiri in “Liz and the Blue Bird.” This casting is fitting for Freelan, a character who often conceals her emotions.

Nobuhiko Okamoto, who voices Himmel, is known for voicing passionate male characters like Katsuki Bakugo in “My Hero Academia.” It will be intriguing to see how he portrays Himmel, a character with a somewhat enlightened perspective, especially in his final moments.

As for Fern, voiced by Kana Ichinose, she brilliantly conveyed the emotional depth of Sretta Mercury in “Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch of Mercury.” Fern, who occasionally sulks and pouts due to Freelan’s laziness, seems like a perfect match for Ichinose.

The decision to bring in Keiichiro Saito, the director of “Bocchi the Rock,” and the deliberate casting choices, along with the strategic broadcast time, all suggest that “Funeral for a Free-Lance” aims for success. However, there’s another crucial factor at play here—the involvement of Madhouse.

When Studio Ghibli announced its affiliation with Nippon TV on September 21, it became a topic of discussion that Nippon TV already had two animation studios, Tatsunoko Production and Madhouse, as its subsidiaries. During the announcement, Nippon TV was questioned about why they were making Studio Ghibli a subsidiary when they already had Tatsunoko Production and Madhouse. Nippon TV cited the underperformance of both Tatsunoko Production and Madhouse.

Perhaps this decision to broadcast “Funeral for a Free-Lance,” produced by Madhouse, on “Friday Road Show” and expand it to the new broadcasting slot serves not only to make the anime a hit but also to ensure revenue for Madhouse itself.

“Funeral for a Free-Lance,” with its multi-faceted approach and all-around appeal, has the potential to bring something new to the world of TV anime. On the other hand, the original manga, which had experienced a hiatus, now seems to be on the path to a new direction. Amidst these never-ending discussions, “Funeral for a Free-Lance” is poised to continue generating excitement and interest.

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