There are times when I get so bored that I will, every once in a while, start a series I don’t usually watch, and that happened with the anime series I never would thought of viewing in a million years: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. Now, I did start the series last summer after trying to find some anime to watch, but the first episodes I saw were from the second season instead of the first! Oh, silly me…and I got up to the fourth episode of that season, too! When I went to find the first season, I viewed the first episode and then stopped after scavenging for weeks trying to find the rest of it on any free website (Ha, get it?). Just last Friday while I was on YouTube, I found the full second episode of Free listed on my recommended videos, in HD, full-screen, and just the right English Dubbed audio! Gosh, you do not know how excited I was to finally find this series after months of trying to look for it! I basically binged the whole twelve episode season in just two days and actually ended up enjoying it, even though I am not into sports anime.
In the synopsis of Free!, the viewers follow a group of athletic high school teens named Haruka Nanase, Makoto Tachibani (my favorite character), and Nagisa Hazuki, who reunite at Iwatobi High School after parting ways in elementary school, where they became friends and joined a competitive swimming team together. Not long after, an old friend named Rin Matsuoka turns up after living in Australia for many years and challenges Haru to a swimming competition, which results with Rin winning the match. Afterward, Nagisa suggests him and his friends create a swimming club to get the chance to swim together again after being apart for so long. Later on, Haru, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei Ryugazaki, a former track and field member, form the Iwatobi Swim Club and train to compete in swimming competitions.
When first learning about Free!, I was worried about the show focusing heavily on the main characters and fan service, but I was able to get past that after a few episodes because of the storytelling and character developments that are mixed into the anime. A lot of this anime has to do with the fan service for the audience (including the main characters having their shirts off a lot of the time), but mainly with the growth of the lovely characters shown in the series. At the beginning of the show, a teen named Rei decides to join the swim club after seeing how well the other team members are in the water, but the problem is…he does not know how to swim! Despite his inability to swim compared to the other boys, Rei continues to push himself to become one with the team and ends up learning to swim in a matter of a few days. Throughout his training, the viewers get to know a lot about him and why he wants to push himself to become a great swimmer. That, my readers, is some really good character development for a sports anime—probably better than Yuri Katsuki’s in Yuri!!! On Ice, and he is the main character in that anime!
In addition to Rei’s development, most of the characters get their chance to be in the spotlight, with scenes revealing the fears and insecurities throughout the series. An example of this element is found in episodes seven and eight when the club stays at a deserted island for a training camp. Makoto, the team captain for the club, has a fear of the ocean because of a certain event that happened in his childhood, yet he has the courage to swim in the ocean for his training! These episodes that focused on Makoto convinced me to name him my favorite character out of the entire series so far.
One problem I have with the story and character development is the way Haru’s, Nagisa’s, and the female characters are played out. So far, the audience only see the one-dimensional female cast that just adore the guys for their great abs and muscles, and Nagisa’s and Haru’s lack of development. Oh, well, hopefully I will get to see more growth from them in the second season.
For an anime in the slice of life genre, the animation is smooth, on point, and crystal clear with the character designs. Each and every one of the characters have the stereotypical anime look—various, bright, colorful hair and eye colors—but they are all unique in their own ways. For example, the designs for all of the men are unique when it comes to the hair style and eye shape. Here is a picture to show as proof for the unique designs for the main protagonists:
Also, the abs of the main male characters are drawn in a way to reveal fan service for the ladies (and sometimes the men watching the series). Ugh, this bothered me when I first got into the anime because I really, really dislike fan service in any TV shows I watch, but I got used to it after the fifth episode because it did not seem pointless for the series anymore. The directors find a way to add in more humorous scenes with the fan service to make the audience laugh at these particular scenes (mainly the whole first half of the series).
When first seeing comments about this anime, all I saw were posts about how the main protagonists are “gay for each other” and how the ships are amazing, etc. To be honest with you guys—I don’t mean to offend anyone here and I am not against homosexual relationships by any means—I just did not see any romance or even hints of romantic interactions at all with the male characters. (Probably because I watched Yuri!!! On Ice before viewing this anime, and there are way more romantic moments with the two main characters.) All I saw was tons of bromance between the characters. Well, now that I think about it, maybe I saw one weird and awkward moment in episodes seven or eight with Nagisa and Rei where it looked like they were flirting, but that was it—nothing more than that. If season two has any romantic scenes between characters, I’ll be fine as long as there isn’t too much of it in the anime because it would not really fit into the series.
The OST, composed by Tatsuya Kato, has a lot to offer for this sports anime. With an upbeat and catchy opening song, Rage On by OLDCODEX, it will be sure to get newcomers’ attention to the series and stay to watch the twelve episode season. In addition to this track, the ending Splash Free sung by the Japanese voice acting cast of the anime grabs the attention of the viewers watching the series. This song is so catchy and peppy that it will make the audience dance along to the beat of the music. I even danced to this after finishing each episode!
Speaking of the voice acting, I watched Free! in English Dub, and I have to say, it is probably one of the best dubs I have heard in an anime so far! All of the voice actors and actresses play their characters so well and act out the right emotions at the right time, which is what I look for in a great dubbed anime. In the cast for the Free! dub, the viewers will get to hear great voice talents from Todd Haberkorn (Haru), Johnny Young Bosh (Makoto), Greg Ayres (Nagisa), J. Michael Tatum (Rei), and Vic Mignogna (Rin). My dream has finally came true: I got to hear all of my favorite English voice actors in one anime together!
Makoto Tachibani (my favorite character :D)
Overall, I was entertained by this sports anime and I loved most of the characters in this series—especially Makoto—which is why is I am giving this series a four and a half out of five stars! (Wow, I am actually give this anime a higher rating than some of the action series I have reviewed! That’s so shocking!) Although this series does have a ton of fan service, I got past it and just focused on the compelling story and amazing characters. If you love watching sports and/or want to view something hilarious and different, then I definitely recommend this anime to you. Trust me, taking a dive into this unique sports series is totally worth it!
Air date for season 1: July 4, 2013 – September 26, 2013
Warnings: Fan Service (shirtless men shown a lot throughout the series), Some Profanity, Tons of Fangirling/Fanboying
Hey, readers, I hoped you enjoyed this wonderful review! If you have seen Free! already, comment down below to say your thoughts about the anime.
Unfortunately, I have some bad news regarding to posting on my blog: I won’t be able to post much for the next month because I have to study for three school exams coming up (one of them being an AP exam)! I will definitely be on to read other blog posts, though.
Well, I’ll let you know when I will be posting more again — probably returning with a long awaited review of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, since I am almost finish with the series.
From your’s truly,
GeekyGirl 🙂 ❤