Free! – 06

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Makoto swims out to save Rei, but his thalassophobia freezes him, and he must himself be saved by Haru, while Nagisa saves Rei. Makoto comes to just as Haru is about to give him the kiss of life. The four find themselves on Sukishima island, find shelter in the rest house, and find some food. Nagisa comes up with a game for them to play, which leads to Makoto telling everyone the story of how he came to fear of the sea, which only Haru knew about. Makoto, buoyed by his friends, leads the way on the swim back to shore the next morning.

Free! returns from a weeklong break with, among other things, the rather obvious fact that Rei was not going to end up drowning. His three swimmates went out for him – not necessarily a smart move either, considering once Haru gets Makoto out of the sea, he seems initially clueless about how to revive him (though he eventually almost gives Makoto mouth-to-mouth). The episode briefly transitions into a haunted house scenario and then the equivalent of truth-or-dare by the campfire, in which Makoto admits his secret to all (except Haru, who already knew and tries to protect him by telling Rei to drop it).

Set off in any direction in Japan and it won’t take long until you hit ocean, making it significant that Makoto fears the ocean. He was traumatized by the deaths at sea of a fisherman friend of his and the crew of a boat that sank in a storm, the same distance away from land the swim team has been swimming in their regimen. The thought of Rei meeting the same fate momentarily suspends Makoto’s phobia, but not long enough to save Rei. Had Haru and Nagisa not woken up, Rei and Makoto could well have drowned, but it wasn’t their time to go. They’ve got a tournament to win!

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

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Summer 2013 OPs and EDs

It occurs to us we haven’t done one of these posts in a while, but there are a couple pieces we look forward to almost as much as the episodes they’re attached to. So here’s what we consider to be the best opening and ending sequences this Summer. (Apologizes if the YouTube videos won’t play; that means someone had them taken down.)

Best OP: Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman’s colorful, kinetic, awesome opening is our unquestioned favorite. The first frames give you a quick glimpse of just about every member of the cast, then comes back to them all standing/sitting around the city, looking cool, all to the zig-zagging “Crowds” by J-rock group White Ash, blending English and Japanese lyrics fluidly around the music. It’s also dotted with gorgeous CGI of the Gatchamen in their suits kicking ass or flying through the sky.

OP Runner-up: The World God Only Knows – Goddesses Arc

First, we like how the OP is bookended by trippy abstract patterns, and starts off with a very melodramatic ballad-like sound that segues into the original TWGOK leitmotif, before going back to doing its own thing with a happy, optimistic tune as Keima and his conquests are presented. The whole thing is suffused with a divine and angelic tone very appropriate for a show full of goddesses. The theme is by Oratorio The World God Only Knows, with very upbeat English lyrics.

Best ED: Free!

For us, this was as much of a no-brainer as Gatchaman for the OP category. The thumping club-like theme “SPLASH FREE” by STYLE FIVE (composed of the five male leads’ voice seiyus, which is welcome news to us as of this writing) is perfectly complements the little tale of water-loving Nagisa traversing the barren desert in search of water, finding none in town, being mocked by Rei, who has plenty of it, and finally coming across an oasis where he jumps right in with the others.

ED Runner-up: Blood Lad

Both the OP and ED of Blood Lad are highly conventional, and don’t blaze any trails, including the tendency for the ED to be a slower, more morose counterpoint to the fast, upbeat, rocky OP (or vice versa). Still, we think the ED is very well executed, focusing on Fuyumi and Bell and their struggle for Staz’s attention. We particularly like the final sequence of Fuyumi inexplicably beaming very widely; she and Staz set back in the wildly-colored graveyard as Bell peeks her head out of a portal in the foreground, looking displeased.