Free! – 11

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Rei confronts Rin, asking why he’s swimming in the prefectural relay, what happened in Australia that led to him abandoning the others, and what he wants from Haru. Rin turns it around and asks Rei what he wants, and Rei says he wants to swim as a member of the best team in the tournament, and warns Rin not to interfere. Believing him ill, Nagisa, Makoto and Haru stop by Rei’s house, surprising him with how much they care.

The next day the team heads up to the city hosting the regional tournament, check in to their hotel, have a meal, and go to bed, but Haru can’t sleep and goes for a run. He runs into Nagisa on the street, who’s looking for Rei. Rei meets up with Rin, who tells him about his woes in Australia, and how Haru didn’t cause him to quit, but rather inspired him to keep swimming when he returned to Japan. Later, Rin’s captain informs him he won’t be in the relay.

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As evidenced by his bookshelf full of books on swimming, Ryuugazaki Rei is someone who doesn’t enter into any activity lightly, preferring to thoroughly study the theory before putting it into practice. As Nagisa warns, that can get him into trouble where swimming is concerned, but it’s how he operates, and it obviously served him well at track. Last week, Rei had gathered enough theory on the perplexing dynamic between Rin and Haru and Rin and the team he used to be a member of. Armed with his theories, he’s approaches Rin and doesn’t mince words. It’s the most fired-up we’ve ever seen him.

Like us, he wanted answers, and while he doesn’t get them immediately, Rin is moved by his passion and forthrightness, and decides that it’s alright after all to confide in Rei, and by extension us. He confesses that, far from killing it in Australia, going abroad made him feel inferior and hopelessly outmatched. He comes to blame his past relay swimming for his troubles in individual swimming, though he doesn’t blame his old teammates. Now that we know his side of things, Rin’s become someone we can empathize with. When he learns he won’t get to swim in the relay with Iwatobi, it’s as much a blow to us as him.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Now that they’ve won something, the club’s fanbase is gradually growing.
  • We loved the two birds eye views of the hotel rooms as the four swimmers couldn’t sleep. Tellingly, Nagisa’s side was a mess while Rei’s was immaculate, with everything at right angles.
  • Haru really warms up in this episode, assuring Rei that he’s a crucial member of the team, then later thanking Makoto for being there for him, and thanking Nagisa for making him join the team.
  • The pool where the regionals take place looks awesome, especially at night with its tranquil blue glow.
  • If Nagisa and Rei are 15 (10th grade) and Haru, Makoto and Rin are 16 (11th), they’ll all be 22 or 23 in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo – the same age as Michael Phelps when he won eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008.