Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club - 12 (END) + Final Thoughts
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In what is potentially one of the best finales of the summer season, Free! gives us heart-wrenching emotion and a look at what comprises real friendship.
This episode really focuses a lot on Rin and what he’s truly feeling. Throughout the majority of this anime, what we’ve seen from Rin has been a mask, a smokescreen for what his real feelings. He’s acted confident and arrogant in order to cover up the fact that he’s actually the opposite: insecure and inferior. This episode, however, shows that warring emotion inside of him through his loss in the 100m freestyle, his inability to get out of the pool afterward, and his unwillingness to face anyone afterward.
On top of that, this episode also highlights the importance of real friendship. When the Iwatobi Swim Club notices that something’s wrong with Rin, they completely drop everything and go looking for him to see what’s wrong. Despite the fact that Rin has basically treated everyone on their team badly, they all care about helping their friend. They risk completely missing their relay in order to find him.
Once they do find him, they take that friendship a step further by having him swim in their relay. (Which, obviously, gets them disqualified since they have someone from another team in their relay.) The very fact that they clearly know this will disqualify them shows that what they care about isn’t winning, but swimming with their friends. This is evidenced in the fact that, during the relay, they all have the same sort of out-of-body experience that Haruka had in the first episode and later when he raced Rin.
This message of friendship doesn’t just apply to the Iwatobi Swim Club, though. Even when Rin is swimming in another team’s relay, Nitori cheers on his senpai. Nitori is perhaps one of the most patient and (emotionally) hardy characters in any anime, dealing this entire season with Rin’s anger and frustration, taking the full brunt of his raw emotion, while still supporting him like a kouhai should. On top of that, we have Captain Mikoshiba completely understanding that Rin needed to get this out of his system, needed to swim with his former teammates on the Iwatobi Swim Club in order to move on. Hence his decision not to cut Rin from the Samezuka Academy swim team, but instead urge him to become closer with his new/current teammates to swim like he did with Iwatobi.
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As much as I’ve loved Free! and as top-notch as this season has been, this is the only anime I’ve reviewed this season that ends with enough closure that I don’t think it needs a second season. Don’t get me wrong, I would personally love another season, although I can’t really think of what another season would focus on. Every last bit of tension in the series was alleviated in this last episode.
While the end card implies that there may be another season next summer, I can say with confidence that Free! is easily complete without one. The story is over. The tension is gone. There are literally no loose ends that need tying up. This finale dealt with everything, to my great surprise. Haruka has come out of his shell and realizes what he swims for—teamwork, not simply the feel of the water. Rei has truly become part of the team, due to the other boys’ closure when it comes to Rin. And Rin is focused less on himself, now focused more on his team and his friends. The tension between Rin and Nitori is gone now that Rin acknowledges his junior and treats him fairly. And while the Iwatobi Swim Club may not have made it to nationals, that was never really the point. All they wanted was to swim together.
I’d like to briefly touch on the soundtrack for Free! Throughout this anime, the soundtrack has been phenomenal. And I don’t just mean the opening and ending songs, either. The background music always fits the mood and helps build tension. It helps create emotional attachments to the characters and the events going on in the show. The soundtrack adds so much to this anime.
I would recommend Free!, first of all, to people interested in competitive swimming, as this anime does an excellent job of highlighting the sport and accurately depicting the strokes. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to see awesome displays of friendship, because that’s what this anime is ultimately about: friendship.
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