On bittersweetness

What is it about bittersweetness that has such a profound and lingering effect?

Nancy and I are deep into the anime series Frieren: Beyond Journey’s end. It’s a story (from the manga of the same name) of an elfen mage and her life after she completes a world-changing quest with a party of adventurers who, she realizes, became her friends.

Since Frieren has lived so long compared to humans or other people, she has a different and somewhat detached perspective on the world around her. The show is gorgeously animated, but what makes it so impactful is that within its stories, characters gain deeper understanding of their situations and relationships.

And in those quiet moments of realization, we get fantastic hits of the good stuff — profound bittersweetness.

It has humour and danger and fun moments of power fantasy, but Frieren’s most powerful minutes are when we see a character smile or look wistful, the music swells, and the plot that has been weaving comes together, and they finally understand some heartfelt lesson or a connection they mistook as something else.

It’s an emotion I’ve chased throughout my career with varying degrees of success, and I love it.