Free! – 10

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In a flashback, Rin transfers to the same school as Haru, Makoto and Nagisa, and convinces them to swim with him. Back in the present Sasabe Goro starts coaching the team, and whenever they reminice about the past with Rin, Rei gets more upset. He confronts the others about what caused them to drift apart from him. Haru tells him about how he raced and beat Rin. Afterwards Rin said he’d quit swimming, which led to Haru quitting out of guilt. Rei confronts Rin outside the practice facility.

This week we see some sustained flashbacks in which the guys with the girly names have girly voices as well, but they’re very much the same people, just younger, smaller, and higher-pitched. The series finally dives in the past that formed the lads we’ve followed thus far, but also presents the perspective of someone who had nothing to do with that past, namely Rei. He’s not delighted to be constantly reminded that he hasn’t always been around, nor does he like what the past is doing to Haru.

Once Rei learns what actually happened between Haru and Rin, he’s even more upset with the one he essentially replaced on the Iwatobi Swim Club. Returning from Australia, a cocky Rin challenged Haru and lost, but then made such a meal of his loss that he manipulated Haru into quitting altogether. What’s worse, Rin was lying – he returned to swimming, gaining a head-start on Haru. Sure, no one told Haru to nail himself to the cross by quitting, but the fact Rin has such a strong power over him irks Rei to no end, and he can’t abide standing by and letting him get away with it again.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The multi-angle film sequence was pretty cool, though we kinda wonder how Sasabe has the time to coach these guys gratis. Who delivers the pizza…ITSELF?
  • Hot pot on a hot summer day with no A/C…kinda sweat-lodgy. Sounds healthy, in any case.
  • We finally learn about Amakata Miho’s past too: she was a swimsuit model, not merely and Coach Sasabe recognizes her because he has a stash of her mags lying around his flat. Sweet, gross, or both?
  • Rin is strangely absent from all the flashback scenes.
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Free! – 09

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Haru swims the final leg of the relay and seals a victory for Iwatobi. Rei watches as they celebrate and is reminded of the past. After the school acknowledges their win, Gou gets them back to training for regionals immediately. Haru seems down, so Nagisa, Makoto and Rei take him to the Hachiman-sama summer festival. When Rei and Nagisa discover Rin is there too, Rei follows Rin to keep Haru away. Later that night, Haru decides he’ll swim in the relay, and the next day Gou informs them her brother will be swimming in it too.

The cold open wastes no time showing the result of the relay, as Haru overtakes everyone and ekes out a win, complete with plenty of warm camaraderie and jubilation, all witnessed by a gobsmacked Rin. In that moment, Rin is starting to realize that merely beating Haru and winning isn’t enough, just as Haru is realizing that simply feeling the water isn’t enough either. And so by episode’s end, Rin goes back on his impulsive promise never to swim with Haru again. And let’s not forget who to thank for their future rematch: Gou, who only wanted her brother and Haru to get along and enjoy swimming together like they used to.

The theme of both characters going with their guts and finding the results lacking, Rin also learns that Haru wasn’t just a hurdle to clear on his path to Olympic glory. Haru is and will ever be his rival, and as much as he may think he’s surpassed him, he can’t help but compare his progress and achievements with Haru. On the other side, Haru thought he didn’t know he had to have a reason to swim, and didn’t think he needed to win. Losing to Rin taught him otherwise. And now that Rin realizes Haru is actually competing for a reason (to help his friends), he wants a piece of the action.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Rin and Nagisa don yukata for the festival, while Haru and Mako wear street clothes. It’s almost like a double date…
  • This episode was a most effective commercial for numerous preparations of squid. We must pay a visit to the H-Mart soon.
  • Rei does his best to get detected following RIn, but somehow Rin never notices him, or possibly just doesn’t care.

 

Free! – 03

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In order to secure membership to a gym in the colder months, the new Swim Club needs a budget that the school will only provide if they deliver accomplishments. That means placing in a tournament, which requires a fourth member. Nagisa takes pains to recruit Ryuugazaki Rei, but he’s on the track team. When Gou arranges a joint practice with Samezuka, Rei agrees to accompany them as a trial member, but only if he doesn’t have to swim. He ends up having to anyway, and everyone learns he can’t swim when he nearly drowns. But after watching Haruka, he decides to formally join.

Ryuugazaki’s multiple and concerted rejections of Nagisa aside, the promotional art, OP and ED all heavily featured Rei as a main member of the cast, so his joining the club was never really in doubt; this episode was more about what swayed him after he was so insistent on not joining. He’s a bit of a nerd, you see, with a strict “sense of beauty”, and believes splashing around in the water to be beneath a species that had already crawled out of the ocean eons ago. He dedicates himself to track, particularly the high jump, but while he has perfect technical form, he lacks anything else, which will hamper his growth no matter the sport.

What sways him is Haruka, and the promise, through watching him and swimming with him, of finding the “freedom” he sees in Haruka’s form. That is to say, freedom from theory and calculation. Haruka possesses something that cannot necessarily be taught, but it can be emulated through observation. Rei is mindful that Haruka’s isn’t just a step-by-step method of swimming; it’s a totally different way of thinking and looking at the world. Yet despite their many differences, in a way Haruka and Rei are alike in that they both lack the drive to improve without support and inspiration from others.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 Stray Observations:

  • Gou and Nagisa’s “Call me Kou” routine calls to mind a similar situation with Norie and Kaoru in Tamayura. In both cases, it’s not that funny, and we wish they’d stop it already.
  • That  said, we like Kou’s role as the club’s manager, getting them a practice with Samezuka quickly thanks to her charms.
  • We like how Nagisa shuts down Rei’s nerdy ranting, though the ranting itself is pretty damn funny. Rei’s one weird kid!
  • Whatever female-centric fanservice the likes of Monogatari can dish out this season will be evened out by the male-centric fanservice in this. Look at those deltoids!
  • Rin proves he’s not a total detached jerk when we see him sneaking a peek at his old friends as they swim practice laps.
  • Not only did this episode make us want to swim, but the ED had us wanting to go clubbing as well. And traveling to some Arabian trading post.

Free! – 01

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Nanase Haruka is a boy who has always loved water and swimming. Back in elementary school his swim club, consisting of Tachibana Makoto, Hazuki Nagisa, and Matsuoka Rin, won a swimming tournament, but went their separate ways afterwards. Now 17 and in high school. Haruka no longer competes, but is reunited with Makoto and Nagisa. Rin returns to Japan from Australia with a bad attitude and enrolls at Samezuka Academy a swimming powerhouse, with plans to become an Olympic swimmer.

What do we have here? A series that focuses on four/five guys, with no major female characters? That’s as refreshing as a crisp dive into the pool. We’re not usually viewers of sports series (except for Chihayafuru, which taught us that yet, karuta is a sport!), but when a highly anticipated new KyoAni series comes along, one is obliged to take a look. It’s an amiable, straightforward story: a group of friends (with girly names) bound by their love of swimming drift apart, but then come back together.

Nanase Haruka is your typical KyoAni male lead; talented but of dubious motivation. He loves swimming, but snickers at his past idealism, remembering instead the words of his grandmother: once you turn twenty, you become ordinary. In the beginning, he seems to be looking forward to crossing the threshold into adult mediocrity, but when Rin, formerly chipper and friendly, now a bit of a dick – returns to his life and challenges him at that which he does best, he’s shaken out of complacency. We’ll see how things shake out.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode was replete with shots of shirtless (and sometimes pantsless), muscular guys. That being said, we can’t really call it fansevice, since that imagery is kind of a given where swimming is concerned.
  • Rin’s estranged sister Gou (who wants to be called Kou because Gou is manly) wants to find out more about her bro through Haruka…or maybe her interest is in Haruka alone.
  • Why “Free!”? ‘Cause Haruka only does FREEstyle.