Free! Episode 1 Anime Review

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Yes, I sense your disappointment, Makoto.

The hyped about anime is here! What started as a short commercial by KyoAni, evolved into an internet sensation and was then transformed into this- Free! The anime mainly focuses on five guys (though one has yet to be revealed in the first episode) and their love of swimming.

The anime really surprised me in their handling. Rin, the redhead, gave me the impression of a frivolous, flirty guy who wouldn’t be too serious about the sport. Instead, they turned him into the antagonist of Haruka Nanase, the main character and boy on the left in the above picture. This catapults the anime from the slow slice-of-life I was expecting into one with conflict and a potential plot. It becomes a shounen-ish anime.

Spoiler. The conflict so far centers on the falling out between the two boys. Rin went to a school in Australia that specialises in swimming and has now returned to a swimming powerhouse high school. He meets up with the group at their old middle school where he tosses the  trophy they won in the group event when they were younger. Something must have happened after the group event. I’m guessing that Rin probably thought the other two weren’t good enough and wanted Haruka to compete more, maybe even following him overseas. But Haruka doesn’t want to compete. He just loves swimming.

In terms of animation, it was top notch. The strokes and way the body moves while in water, and the timing is spot-on for the freestyle movements shown. The writers have also captured the feeling of being in the water. I’ve enjoyed swimming since I was young, so I was really looking forward to this anime. I was scared that it might not live up to the hype, but it was with relief that I watched the opening. It was well done and really sets the tone. The ending of the four boys in the water-barren desert was pretty funny as well with Rin hoarding all the water and adds a nice contrast to the water-filled episode. It really helps us to see how much we need and love water in our lives.

Sure, the four boys might fall into the stereotypical characters of any Shonen or reverse harem anime, but I’m willing to let that all pass with the awesome animation and fanservice. It’s like popping candy into your mouth after not having one for a long time. A familiar sweet taste that’s a great treat after wandering in the desert for so long. So many “female-targeted” anime have low quality animation and art, because of their low budget. While it’s understandable, and I really do appreciate the animators’ efforts, it just makes me sad to watch what-could-have-beens. Free! is a what-they-should-have-been.

Besides the conflict between Rin and Haruka, I’ve also enjoyed the humour Makoto and Nagisa bring to the show, and the inclusion of Gou who has a boyish name.  I can’t wait for the drama to rev up more in the next episode!

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