The Iwatobi Swim Club is back and better than ever. As their third year begins, Haruka, Makoto and Rin are still focused on their swimming training, but are finding that they must start considering what they want to do as a future career. Joined by friends old and new, rivalries once again heat up the swimming pool. With the pressure of the ever-nearing nationals looming, will the Iwatobi Swim Club find themselves sinking… or swimming?
Based on the light novel High Speed!, Free! won its large audience very quickly for a variety of reasons: the impressive production, wonderful animation and a cast of incredibly good-looking young men.
I have to be honest, I ab-stained from writing this blog for such a long time (sorry, couldn’t help the pun). I think if I had done a review of the first season before this one, we would have had two very different pieces of writing. It took me a very long time to get into this, but I wanted to persevere because it wasn’t that I disliked it – I just didn’t understand it. I almost felt like it was a lot of fuss over nothing: five guys swimming and not doing much else with a backburner bromance slowly simmering its way to the forefront. Was I missing something important here?
Rin has had his title of ‘de facto antagonist’ removed and the plot has switched to something more forward thinking: the Swim Club are going to do their best to try and make it through to nationals, paying particular attention to fine-tuning their synchronisation in the relay. Even further beyond this is the hard fact that the older members have to start thinking about what they might like to pursue as a career. Instead of just swimming for the pure enjoyment, Haruka has to decide soon whether he wants to swim professionally, as scouts have begun to notice his natural talent. It’s a bit of harsh reality that noticeably jolts the fun-filled, friendly atmosphere of the ‘eternal summer’. There is a new facet to the main characters here – an adorable awkwardness that continues to endear them all to the viewer.
As mentioned before, the animation is top-notch. This is particularly noticeable in the water scenes where everything is tense and fast, but still manages to look beautiful. As you can imagine, given the very nature of this anime, there is plenty of opportunities for fan-service where viewers can stop and ogle with Iwatobi coach Gou.
The music has definitely gone up in my estimations, with Oldcodex’s ‘Dried Up Youthful Flame’ being a great charged-up opening theme and ‘Future Fish’ by Style Five serving as the ending sequence. They are both fantastically catchy musical numbers that compliment the story lines.
I feel that Free! Eternal Summer has come on leaps and bounds since the first series, with definite progression in all major areas. The characters have developed so that there is an incredible dynamic between them, especially when we see them all coming together as a team to do some amazing things. Not only that, but you get to see more of the characters and their lives away from swimming and how they are conducting themselves with regards to their future outside of the swim club.
It’s not often that I am tempted into the realm of the sports anime genre, but Free is certainly the way to go for anyone who wants to dip their toe in and test the waters (sorry, I did it again).