Free! (Yes THAT Swimming anime!)

So Free! Eternal Summer has started this week and I thought I’d share my opinion on the first season first before starting my review on the second over here.

I was going to post my final review from my personal blog but then realised that there was one thing in the finale that wound me up, therefore it is unfair to post just that.

The Series itself is a swimming anime based on a group of characters who are reforming their old swimming team, personally I felt every character was a main character but I guess the focus revolved around Haru, a boy who just loved water. He didn’t seem very keen on being competitive any more but the enthusiasm of his friends and having to help teach a newbie how to swim, also a face from the past re-emerging, helped breath new life into him.

I didn’t have the best start with the series, it felt boring to me and I didn’t like the main, main character. In the end for me the series became about the whole group but it really was centred around two characters who to begin with didn’t make the best impression.

I was weary of it and was only giving it a episode or two more when it slowly kicked into gear.

Slowly I started to love all the characters until by episode 5 I didn’t have any problems with any of them. OK Rin started to get too moany and annoying and Haru had his moments but the others took over. In episode 4 with the addition of Rei (joining Mako as my favourite) I was hooked and wasn’t going anywhere.

The series was more about the friendship then it was about the swimming, the swimming told an important story in the boys lives but it wasn’t the centre of everything. When they did compete you started to feel like it was a real thing, you knew that there was going to be good results and they were going to be fine in the end but the tension of a real event was there because you knew that the emotional tension between the characters no matter what was still there and strong.

Now I will post what I wrote last and explain why, even though reading it you might think I hated the series or something, but really it was the words of passion speaking louder then I could physically scream myself!

Final Episode Summary (written 27th September 2013)

And the photo at the end says it all really doesn’t it? Rei is just there because he has to be.

I can’t help it, it disappointed me.

The episode didn’t work to begin with, the whole “doing it for the team” message and Haru’s belief that he wants to swim with his friends came across as fake and shallow when we realized that the “team” wasn’t actually the TEAM that we’ve seen for 11 episodes, the friends don’t include the one guy who actually helped change Haru and make him happier.

The end message felt more like “roll over and do what Rin wants because Haru will cry if he can’t swim against Rin anymore. Sod what Rei feels, though for some reason Rei feels this is right.”

It might have been nice of Rei to fall on his sword and let Rin join the team, though they got disqualified for their efforts, but when Haru and the rest kept going on about team work and friendship and then allowed Rei to step out just to make Rin who was a total dick happy it doesn’t work. It would work if Rin wasn’t such a dick but he is, he’s childish, he’s horrible and why am I meant to be happy that he got what he wanted but Rei didn’t?

Lets remember it was Rei that had to be FORCED to join the team. Rei is a lovely character who has never been a dick to anyone! And what was the point of the home visit and the gift? Rei is disposable! They don’t even allow him in the photo at the end to be in the middle of the team to signify the sacrifice he made for someone whose only quality in the whole series was to be a moaning prima dona! No he gets tacked onto the end, possibly with Nagai holding onto him but it looked more like he was jumping for joy with a clenched fist.

I just don’t like it!

Up until the second I foresaw this happening the episode was great but now it has left me with a bitter taste.

Rei as a character was worth more than that.

No amount of it being his idea, him being happy with it, him being happy that Haru and Rin are together again or him going on about “next year I’ll show you my wonderful Butterfly technique” can take away the horrid feeling that one of the most sincere characters in the show just got shat on.

Looks like it’ll be back next summer. Yeah…..

Strong words hey?

The thing is as much as this series centred on Haru, Rin and their competitive friendship and their longing looks and the fact they only want to race against each other the real core of the show came from Rei becoming one of the team. He joined it after being forced by Nagisa to join, he didn’t know how to swim and because of Haru’s past he wasn’t always made to feel welcome by the team leader.

The story burrowed its way into my heart because slowly it felt like, with the help of Rei, the boys had taken Haru away from needing Rin and learning that he just loved swimming. It was sweet because you genuinely felt the love between the team.

Of course in a way you felt sorry for Rin, he had had a hard life himself in a different way, but the way they ended the series just didn’t fit for me.

I was in a minority and I knew it but there you go.

Basically in the last episode after threatening never to race again and throwing his toys out of the pram left, right and centre Rei makes the ultimate sacrifice and drops out of the team in their last big race so that Rin can race with his friends.

So after a series of making Rei part of the team, for me it felt like none of that really mattered.

Rin was HORRIBLE to Rei and it never at any point felt like Rin had accepted Rei, it felt like he hated the fact that they’d replaced him even though he wanted nothing to do with them.

I got the message of their friendship and the swimming being important to them but it felt they built Rei up so much just to make him fall on his sword and be happy for it.

I never once felt like he really did feel happy about it and I hated the fact that there was never anything forcing Rin to do anything to be accepted. He was the most horrible, annoying and mean character in the series, all the sweet character moments came from Rei with the team, all the moments that made me want to punch the wall came from Rin and then suddenly it was all about Rin.

I didn’t write that to make people think that the series was awful I wrote that because from the humble beginning of “I don’t know, it isn’t really for me, I might have to watch one more episode then give up” it had turned into full on rage about characters I loved, a story I was emotionally attached to and a tournament I felt involved in.

And THAT is the biggest compliment I think I can give the series.

In 12 episodes I fell in love with the anime.

I’m not a sports anime fan, never really watched any other one either. But Free! Is one of my favourite animes of all time, so good in fact that I’ll be reviewing Free! Eternal Summer on here because I couldn’t go a week without reviewing it!

I love this series, and I really hope that you lot love it too!

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