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The Iwatobi Swim Club is finalized in this episode of Free! with the introduction of the fourth swimmer, Rei Ryuugazaki.

Rei is incredibly interesting.  I’m sure there are probably athletes like him in reality, who focus on calculations in order to do well at a sport, but I’ve personally never met one.  Given his focus on calculations and theory, though, it seems contradictory that the way he chooses a sport to be involved in is based on a completely subjective measure.  He’s only interested in sports that are beautiful, so he won’t join the swim club.  (Clearly he knows little about competitive swimming and how beautiful it can be!)  Aside from that, though, he can’t swim!  I wasn’t expecting that until he said he would go to the joint practice but not swim.

It’s an interesting twist to have one of the members of the main swim club in this anime be unable to swim.  What is even more interesting is that, based on the opening credits, Rei will swim the butterfly for their team.  The butterfly is one of the harder strokes to swim well; it requires a lot of upper-body strength.  Granted, so does pole-vaulting, so Rei is probably in good shape for that already.

As always, the animation is exceptional in Free!  The visual accuracy of the pole-vaulting is just as good as that of the swimming.  This is definitely one aspect of the anime that gives it a leg up on other shows.

Free! is also very multifaceted.  Obviously, one doesn’t need the background in competitive swimming that I have to find this anime fascinating.  The slice-of-life aspect is very compelling, even more so than many other slice-of-life anime.  It’s easy to feel the friendship between Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa, and to see how hard it is for the three of them to not be friends with Rin anymore.  The personalities of the main three characters complement each other really well.  And the little jokes that keep popping up—Gou wanting to be called Kou because of gender associations, Nagisa’s obsession with boys with girly names, the insistence that Amakata must eventually get into a swimsuit—don’t feel forced, but seem like something a group of friends in real life might actually joke about occasionally.

Overall, this episode was great in its ability to allow us to see the characters’ personalities and backgrounds a bit more, even with some of the side characters like Nitori and Mikoshiba from the Sametsuka Academy swim team.  I’m looking forward to the next episode in which, presumably, Rei will learn to swim.

Free! Episode 4 Preview

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