Summer First Impressions: Free, Can You Feel The Splash?

[HorribleSubs] Free! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.00_[2013.07.13_13.33.20]

Someone might come up to you and say that Free! is important because _________. They’re probably right. Maybe this anime about highschool boys forming a swimming club is in fact, a game changer. But when it comes down to just enjoying it as an anime, does all of that really matter?

I’m just here to tell you that Free! is a fun watch, a series that bears all the makings of an inspirational 80s movie, next thing you know someone’s going to come in and build a parking lot over the school swimming pool. Yes, just the swimming pool. You even get montages of pool cleaning! When is the geeky/tomboyish girl getting a makeover for the prom?! When is the big game?

[HorribleSubs] Free! - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.26_[2013.07.13_13.26.14]

The Rocky of Swimming Anime

In all seriousness, Free! has the charm and the wit to keep itself afloat. Its comedic timing is topnotch and the characters are entertaining enough to carry the show. Free! also features a lot of dudes stripping down to their swimming trunks, which really shouldn’t even be a problem because this is a swimming anime. It’s about a bunch of childhood friends who were once together in the swimming club until one of them goes abroad. We get a timeskip and things have changed, all three friends who were left in Japan are no longer in a swimming club. Their most talented club member, Haruka Nanase is not into competitive swimming and indulges in long dips in the bath instead. It’s Rin Matsuoka’s return that triggers a wave of change here, igniting an old rivalry and a passion for swimming that Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa once had.

It may not have nuance, depth or layers to its narrative but that’s not what a story like this needs. It simply needs the audience to resonate with its emotional core and so far I think it’s working. I’m more than willing to take the ride. There’s an honesty in Free!’s writing despite its squeaky clean boys and pleasantness. Whenever Rin enters the scenario the underlying aggressiveness of the sport reaches the calm surface and it provides the much needed weight to counterbalance the saccharine everyday life segments. If Free! can speed up the momentum and deliver a convincing character drama, then maybe it just won’t be remembered for its gratuitous shots of male abs.

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  1. It also has that ending.

  2. Episode 2 certainly showed there will be more plot to this than is generally included in a basic slice-of-life story. And really, I wouldn’t say the pandering or fanservice is nearly as prevalent as was originally expected. This could change of course, but for now at least it generally makes sense in the context of a story about a group of swimmers with a bit of a camp atmosphere to it.
    Not entirely silly, but not dead serious either. I’ll be curious to see how well the balance holds in future episodes.

    • I honestly expected it to be a sports anime. I kept thinking it would be like Kuroko’s Basketball. But second episode makes it seem like we’ll have less training and tournament hijinks and more personal drama, with sport as the venue.

    • I’ll be curious to see how well the balance holds in future episodes. I’d like to see the series thread on more serious themes, I’m enjoying it so far but it lacks the punch to make it memorable…just yet.

  3. “. . .Free! has the charm and the wit to keep itself afloat. . .”

    You just couldn’t resist, Mira, could you.

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