Free! proves that it’s more than just a sports anime by bringing childhood fears and other non-sports-related drama into the story.
So we all knew that no one would die in this episode (or at least it should have been obvious that none of the boys could get too badly injured; all four of them are needed for a relay!), but it’s somewhat of a miracle that no one did. I mean, all four of the boys ended up in the ocean during a pretty bad storm! The fact that they survived without any injuries is pretty remarkable. (I know all you fangirls were just waiting for Haruka to give Makoto mouth-to-mouth. Sorry, no dice.)
I’d like to briefly point out the reactions of all the boys once they are all safe. It definitely shows some cultural differences between Japan and the West. I feel like, if this was an American show, for example, the aftermath of the near-drownings of Rei and Makoto would lead to finger-pointing and blaming. Everyone would blame Rei for trying to swim on his own at night which, given Rei’s perfectionist personality, would be likely to deter him from continuing to swim.
The fact that the Iwatobi boys get stranded on one of the other islands during the storm, though, offers a chance to give a little more backstory to some of them. (Nagisa never seems to get any backstory, which will hopefully change in the future.) We get to find out an embarrassing moment from Rei’s past, a love affair Haruka had with a waterfall (big surprise there), and, perhaps most importantly, we get to find out why Makoto is afraid of the ocean.
It looks like the next episode is going to (finally) have an actual swimming competition. We can only hope that all the training the Iwatobi Swim Club has been doing will allow Rei to keep up with his teammates. And we’ll (presumably) finally get to see Haruka and Rin faceoff again. The next episode promises to be exciting!