Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club
- by Hiroko Utsumi
- 1st season, 12 episodes (+“FrFr!“ bonus shorts)
Haruka Nanase, the main protagonist, loves the water and swimming. Back in elementary school, he won a relay race with his three friends: Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki and Makoto Tachibana. Afterwards, they all went separate ways for example Rin went to Australia. In fact, as high school students they reunite except for Rin who goes to a different high school. He does not care at all to return to the way things used to be. The only thing Rin wants to do is to prove that he is a better swimmer than Haruka. Haruka, Nagisa and Makoto decide to form the Iwatobi High School Swim Club, however they need a fourth member for the tournament. So Rei Ryūgazaki (who is actually a member of the track team) joins them and they develop a close bond during training. Indeed, the question is if Haru and Rin will ever make it up and get along?
The anime series is a sports anime which highlights swimming. Nonetheless, it mainly focuses on the story of a long forgotten friendship between Rin and his old school friends (Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa). Therefore, it can also be classified as drama with the inclusion of many thrilling moments. Many suspenses are included such as: Will Rin ever go back and befriend with his old friends again? Even the races are very interesting and thrilling. Who is going to win? Other questions also come up such as: What happened to Rin as he was in Australia, what is the cause of his drastic change? Will he and Haru (Haruka: prefers being called Haru) ever be friends again?
(Gou, Nagisa, Makoto and Rei)
The most dominant and important aspect is friendship, which includes new and old friendships. This can especially be seen in the team spirit of the Iwatobi swim club. They show much solidarity and work hard as a team. The anime also shows that friendship is more important than winning a competition. A strong bond can be seen between Haru and Makoto who are best friends since their childhood: they really need each other. SPOILER ALERT: A further aspect where friendship can be seen is that the team helps and trains their newest member Rei how to swim (he could not swim at the beginning). However, the anime also shows the other side meaning that a broken friendship (especially the one between Rin and Haru) can have a negative impact on your feelings and life.
‘Free’ has many emotional scenes, especially the background stories of Makoto and Rin are very sad and heart trending. Indeed, one can see that both are still suffering from their past and Makoto never really had the chance to deal with it. Moreover, the fight between Rin and Haru is also very moving. During their childhood, both parted their ways in an awful manner. Other touching scenes are Haru’s reason to have stopped swimming for a while and Rin’s rash attitude towards Haru. Over time, one can see that both somehow cares for each other even though they avoid any contact. Indeed, they are rivals.
Besides emotional scenes, the series is also filled with many comedy aspect. The conversations and interactions between the characters are very amusing. One of our favorite scene is as Rei jumps into the water and literally sinks. Another funny scene is that some characters especially Makoto is scared of not very spooky things and the darkness. The combination of him being very muscular and screaming in the dark brings many laugher. The anime series contains special episodes called „FrFr!“ bonus shorts: they are very amusing and funny and guarantee laugher.
The anime series contains many characters who differ a lot in their personalities. We like the fact that background stories are revealed too. Some of the characters have a warm and good personality such as Rei who is not jealous but rather helps to fix the relation between the Iwatobi swimmers (Haru, Nagisa and Makoto) and Rin. We like all the characters in the anime series even though some might dislike Rin at the beginning because of his awful attitude. Not only the main characters are important but also secondary characters play major roles.
(Makoto, Haru, Rin and Nagisa won relay race in elementary school)
SPOILER ALERT: Additionally, character developments are quite obvious and explicitly depicted here: For example, Rin used to have a very harsh and mean attitude towards his former friends (Haru, Makoto and Nagisa). He also used to be very self-contained but in the end he opens up and starts to care for others. A further character who makes a development is Haru. He has a very reserved and depressed attitude. He does not show any emotions especially no happy ones. However, during the series, he starts to smile and seems to have much fun with the team. Rei is a further character who was reserved as being the newest member in the Iwatobi swim club. Nonetheless, he starts to open up and to feel as a part of the team.
Haru is the main protagonist of the anime series. His speciality is freestyle also called crawl. He is the vice-captain on the Iwatobi High School swim club. Haru has a very reserved personality and he does not speak very much. He is very fond of water which gives a comic relief in the anime. He wants to swim in every place which contains water. He values his friends a lot especially his rival Rin. Haru even gave up on swimming as a kid because he felt guilty that Rin wanted to abandon swimming.
Rin is one of the main protagonists and is specialized in the freestyle and butterfly strokes. Being at the Samezuka High School, he is also part of their swim club. He is cranky when he sees Haru having fun with his new swimming team while he is alone and feels to be left out. In fact, as a kid Rin used to be very happy and passionate however after returning from Australia he turned into a harsh and unfriendly teenager who is determinant to beat Haru and to follow his dad’s dream as an Olympic swimmer.
Next, the art of animation is very beautiful and we like the usage of the bright colors. The different kinds of swim strokes such as Breast, Back, Butterfly and Crawl also called Freestyle are good and very detailed depicted. Besides the environment scenes, the characters are also quite astounding. Most of them have a lovely and handsome design, especially the realistic and typical body structure of a swimmer is amazing: the wide shoulders and thin waist. Moreover, the female characters in ‘Free’ are not too sexist drawn. In addition, we also like the variety of settings which are very creative and interesting.
The songs chosen for the opening and ending are fascinating and very amusing. It is impossible to skip them. They perfectly fit to the anime series and do not contain much spoilers. The opening song is called ‘Rage on’ sung by Oldcodex whereas the ending is sung by Style Five (band formed by the five main characters) and is called ‘Splash Free’. The ending credits are amusing and it is a creative idea showing the main characters in a desert.
All in all, we are very fascinating by the anime series and the choice of the songs. The ending is very emotional and we were very satisfied by it. Nonetheless, the anime series attracts rather female audience: mainly good looking and handsome young men with muscular bodies. The fact, that the anime focuses on swimming, these men are mostly depicted shirtless. However, we definitely recommend this anime series, because it is thrilling and amusing. The anime also has a second season called ‘Free! Eternal Summer’, 4 movies and this summer season 3 will be released.