The anime that’s had fangirls excited for months is finally here.
I’ve been really looking forward to Free! ever since I saw the first preview of it. Several members of my immediate and extended family have been involved in competitive swimming over the years, and I was (and still am) really excited for an anime about it. And, to be honest, the fangirl in me was excited to see pretty boys in swimsuits.
After watching the first episode, I’m completely amazed by the detail put into the animation. The opening credits show all of the competitive strokes (freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke, and butterfly) in such incredible, realistic detail that I’m just stunned. Even the starts from the blocks and the flip turns are accurate. I admit I wasn’t really expecting that, so the realism is a huge plus in my book.
I’ve never watched a sports anime before, so I can’t speak as to how this one stacks up so far compared to others. I can say that it looks like it will be a mix of slice of life and sports (at least so far; I’m sure there’s a good chance it’ll just focus on the sports later). There’s also a bit of mystery involved: why does Haruka (or Haru to his friends) only swim the freestyle? And why is Rin such a jerk after returning from Australia? (Yeah, yeah, people change, I get that. But he’s just a jerk at this point, and he used to be such good friends with the main characters.)
The plot isn’t nearly as dry as I would have thought that of a sports anime to be. There are questions that I, at least, am sincerely interested in knowing the answers to. Why does Haru only swim the freestyle? What’s with his obsession with water? What happened to make Rin such a jerk? How does Rin’s sister Gou fit into all this? And I’m certain that most people can relate to some of the situations involved in this anime: losing a childhood friend because he/she moved (and possibly having that friend come back with a completely different personality), losing a childhood hangout to dilapidation and later construction, and feeling like you’re not quite ordinary. Even if you can’t relate to the swimming aspect like I can, I think a lot of these situations are relatable for a lot of people.
Finally, I’d like to touch briefly on the opening. The opening song sets a tone for Free! that’s much more different than I expected. I knew there would be a competitive aspect to the show, but the opening song suggests a confrontational kind of competition. It is at times jarring and harsh (a quality I personally don’t mind). It’ll be interesting to see how that tone plays into the anime as it progresses.