This is my first ever anime review, so please bear with me~ >.>
I first saw a 30 second promotion of Free! on my tumblr dashboard. I clicked on it and sensed right away of how much it reeked of fujoshi bait with just 30 seconds. As I then predicted, that 30 second preview created a fandom (Which I guess are mainly female) based on the fictional series (People didn’t know whether or not it was a legit anime show at the time).
In the end, Kyoto Animation and Animation Do announced this swimming anime series’ release which caused heightened anticipation (And the accumulation of exploding ovaries) within it’s fandom.
So, gird your loins and hold onto your ovaries, we’re going to see a lot of wet pretty boys.
We first start the episode with a flashback from their childhood, where they are all swimming and hanging out at their local swimming pool. While Haruka Nanase swims, another boy called Matsuoka Rin, joins him and asks if he would like to compete in the next swimming tournament. Haruka denies his invitation saying that he doesn’t care much about time or speed. He also mentions that he favors freestyle (That’s where the anime’s title comes from) and admires the connection he has with water.
As we fast forward to the present, Haruka is now a second-year boy in high school where he and his best friend, Tachibana Makoto become reunited with Hazuki Nagisa.
We also come across Rin, who comes back to Japan after he has spent time away in Australia to attend a swimming school to achieve his goal. We come across a flashback of their younger years where Rin promised Haruka that he will show him something very special.
When visiting Samezuka academy (Rin’s current school), Haruka and his two other friends are caught swimming in the school’s pool by Rin. Haruka then dares Rin to show him what he promised long ago during the times of their childhood.The episode then concludes with Rin accepting Haruka’s challenge.
In terms of animation, I believe everything looks absolutely gorgeous. The way the water drips on the characters’ bodies as they step out of the water, the detail within every splash of water, Haruka’s eye catching hair flips, and the shine that exists in the characters’ eyes. And of course, their bodies! Kyoto Animation really delivered when it came to detail in anatomy. In my opinion, the animation showcased how much research they did when it came to the distinguishable characteristics of a swimmer’s body (Probably used Michael Phelps as a reference). Especially when it came to their backs and shoulders. For example, you can really tell how much Haruka loves swimming due to how built his back is and how square his shoulders are even when he wears clothes (Or just an apron and his swimming trunks).
When it comes to character design, each of the four boys are very distinct from one another in both external aesthetic characteristics and personality.
We have the quiet Nanase Haruka who loves the water so much, that his eyes shine whenever a pool is mentioned. For his age, he seems to possess a realistic yet pessimistic mindset. He will also begin undressing to his swimming trunks regardless of where he is. I guess he does this to prepare himself even if a body of water isn’t physically in front of him yet.
We also have Haruka’s best friend, Tachibana Makoto who is more outgoing, nice, and considerate. As we can see in episode 1, he has a weak heart and possesses a tendency to get scared quite easily. Since Makoto and Haruka are best friends, of course they will be really close to the point where we have Makoto walk into Haruka’s house to pick him up for school without knocking.
The younger boy, Hazuki Nagisa is a first year who enjoys speaking his mind and dragging the other two along with his plans. To me, he gives the atmosphere a little life with his clueless innocence (Shota alert? Ha.) I can also tell that he admires Haruka’s swimming greatly.
Matsuoka Rin is the boy who moved away to Australia during their younger years in order to follow his dreams. He now seems to have a change in character from being the motivational, inspirational team leader to a egotistical narcissist who thinks he is better than his old childhood friends. But, that’s just my opinion anyway.
I really enjoyed both the opening and ending. The opening theme song is “Rage On” by OLDCODEX and the ending theme is called “Splash Free” which is performed by the voice actors of the five characters showcased in the anime. The animation of the opening showed a lot of water splashes and bubbles, water in general, and naked wet swimmers. The ending on the other hand, shows the characters having fun in the club dancing, a cosplaying Haruka in the desert looking for a body of water to jump into, and of course naked wet bodies.
All in all, I think this anime is perfect for any girl (Or guy) who are into half-naked guys jumping into a pool for a swim (Reminds me of my encounters with the water polo team in my high school days). For me, there isn’t much I can say with a first impression because it is just the first episode of the series. I’m just foreshadowing, but I think this anime will just have a typical story that delivers with plenty of fanservice and bubbly aquatic animation. I also don’t think anyone would really care about the story much (I’m just speculating) because they will be too pre-occupied with their ovaries exploding, their panties dropping, and maybe their loins sweating.