My friends, here we are at Day 7 of Anniversary Review Week!! I cannot believe that we have really come this far already. I’m so surprised that we got this far without any problems. (I probably jinxed something now). The show that I am reviewing today is one of my favorite anime….EVER. It is the show that I fangirl the most over and also started my love of sports anime.
So here is my 17th Anime Review and Day 7 of Anniversary Review Week!! A show that has some of my favorite shirtless boys: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club.
Fun Fact! Do you know how Free! started? I DO! It actually started when Animation DO released an image and 30-second commercial showing off a new project that they were working on. It was the studio showing off all the amazing things they could do with water and animation, and the people went crazy. They were calling for the “swimming anime” to be turned into a real show. They had petitions and everything. Thankfully, Kyoto Animation and Animation DO listened and Free! Iwatobi Swim Club was made.
The first season premiered in July of 2013 as a part of the Summer 2013 Anime Season. The show was 12 episodes long and was VERY popular among the anime community. Especially me. I loved this show from episode one! It was so popular that a year later in July of 2014 a second season, Free! – Eternal Summer, was released. It was 13 episodes long and also has an OVA to go along with.
On to the plot: shirtless boys!! Haha. I’m kidding. The story of Free! begins with four young boys, Haru, Rin, Makoto, and Nagisa, who compete on a relay team in a swim tournament. They eventually win the relay but afterwords Rin moves to Australia to improve his swimming skills. We are then flashed forward to Makoto and Haru’s second year of high school at Iwatobi High School where they reunite with Nagisa who is starting his second year. The three find out that their childhood swim club is being torn down so they sneak into it in search of something they had buried there. Unexpectedly, they run into Rin who has returned from Australia and is now attending nearby Samezuka Academy, a school that is known for their swim team. Eventually, Nagisa convinces Makoto and Haru to help him create a swim team at Iwatobi. Our story follows the boys as they train for tournaments and work together to create the Iwatobi Swim Club.
Our main character is Haruka Nanase. He is called “Haru” by everyone around him. He is a very quite character who only swims free-style. Swimming is what his life revolves around, but he only does it for the joy of swimming. He does it because it is fun, not to have the best time. Haru’s love for swimming is often used for comedy because he will strip down to his swimsuit when around even a little tiny pool. I honestly love Haru because of his quiet character. He has a deep love for swimming that really attracted me as a fan. I know some people who have watched the show who did not like Haru’s quiet character but that is what made me like him. Sure at times he can be kind of bland but:
Look at him. He’s beautiful. That is not the only reason that I love Haru though. He is deeply devoted to his friends and cares for each of them a lot. He has even given a few of them advice even when he does not know he has done it. He is still my anime crush (You can read about that at Anime Challenge Day 7.) and I just love him. As the show goes on, he really does develop more as a character and becomes a little more talkative to those around him.
Makoto Tachibana is Haru’s best friend and has been for most of their lives. He serves as the Captain of the Iwatobi Swim Team and specializes in the backstroke. The English dub had a little joke about Makoto having “backstroke for days” and I got a little bit of a laugh out of it. He is different from Haru because he is much more outgoing and friendly towards other people. He is also easily scared which can also be funny at some times. Makoto is also a character that I really liked and was fun to watch on-screen. I really liked him a lot and thought he did a very good job of leading the team, and keeping Haru in check.
Nagisa Hazuki is a very free-spirited character who is very energetic. He is a huge ball of energy. The stroke that he swims is the breaststroke. He chose to go to Iwatobi because that is where Haru and Makoto were so that he could swim with them again. When he found out that Iwatobi did not have a swim team, he encourage the other two boys to create a swim team. He is really what helped to form the team and make it what it was. He’s a cute character who you cannot help but like. Sometimes he serves as the main comic relief but he is funny. Nagisa definitely help the show to make it what it is.
Rin Matsuoka serves as the main driving force for the plot of Free! his return motivates the boys to create the swim team in the first place. Even when he is not on-screen (which is actually not that often) he is either being discussed or thought about. It is shown that he changed a lot after he came back from Australia and it is nice to see how big of a role that he plays in the show. He chooses to swim free-style even though he is much better at the butterfly stroke because he wants to compete against Haru. Rin definitely helps to drive the plot and is an essential character to the show. He can be moody at time but is still fun to watch. Since he attends a different high school, Samezuka Academy, he also allows us to see him interact with more characters from Samezuka. I did like Rin but sometimes he could be a little frustrating.
Rei Ryugazaki is the fourth member of the Iwatobi Swim Team. The funny thing about Rei is that Nagisa works really hard to convince him to quit the track team and to join the swim team, but after all of that we find out that he cannot swim. While it is funny, it allows us to see him grow as a swimmer as the show goes on. After a while Rei learns to swim the butterfly which is the only stroke that he could swim at first. Rei is also one of those characters who tries to be serious but is actually very funny at the same time. Rei had to grow on me a little bit as a charater, but by the end of Eternal Summer I was very fond of him.
The other characters include Kou (or Gou) the swim club manager, Miss Amakata their advisor, some of the characters siblings, members of the Samezuka Swim Team, and various other characters. I really loved each and every one of these characters because they all brought something special to the show. I cannot help but love each and every one of them.
The soundtrack of Free! was absolutely….beautiful. The openings of both seasons were very well done and I could listen to each of them over and over again. I also find it neat because both openings were sung by the band Oldcodex and Makoto’s voice actor, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, is a member. There were a total of four endings used for the show and each of them were sung by the Style Five. Style Five is the five leads voice actors Nobunaga Shimazaki, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Tsubasa Yonaga, Daisuke Hirakawa, and Mamoru Miyano. I always find I neat when a show has the voice actors sing either the openings or ending of the show that they star in. All of these songs made their way onto my iPod. Even some of the background music made its way onto my iPod because of how pretty it was. The animation….well it is the show that I believe has the best animation. (You can also read that as a part of the 30 Day Anime Challenge). When a show is done by a studio like Kyoto Animation you know that it is going to be beautiful. It really was beautiful to watch. When a show focuses a lot on water you have to work hard to make the water look pretty and Free! succeeded in doing that. It truly was a masterpiece in the animation department.
Overall, Free! is one of my favorite anime ever. There were time when I was watching it that I was feeling so many different emotions that I almost cried. Some topics that were brought up really hit me on an emotional level. Eternal Summer talked a lot about life after high school and I was watching it as a college freshman. It really related to me and I loved that. I know some people who did not like it because there was a lot of “fan service” but there are a lot of shows out there who were worse than Free!. It is a swimming anime so of course they are going to have their shirts off a lot. I enjoyed it. When you really think about it the show focuses a lot on friendships and not making things only about yourself. I think that these are very important themes for a show to have and really made me love it even more.
So in the end I award Free! Iwatobi Swim Club with an A. There was nothing about this show that I did not like. I loved the characters, the plot kept me watching, the animation was beautiful, and the soundtrack was amazing. Free! can be hilariously funny one second and then super serious a minute later. It is one of my favorite anime to have come out in the last few years. I could watch it over and over again and love every second of it. I do highly recommend it to anyone looking for something to watch because it is one of my favorites.
That is all that I have for this review and Day 7 of Anniversary Review Week!! We are nearing the end guys. I cannot believe it. Thank you to everyone who has gone through this with me. So what do you guys think? What is your opinion on the show? Do you like it when voice actors participate in openings or endings? Let me know down in the comments below!! And as always, if there is a show you would like me to watch you can leave that down in the comments as well!!
See you next time!!