Recently, there is a surge of anime which has plenty of bishounens to target the girls population. After Kuroko no Basuke, Free! became the latest hot stuff during summer. I guess shirtless bishounens in swimming pool definitely beat bishounens on the basketball court. Lol.. Anyway, I always have a soft spot for school-sport theme so naturally, I don't mind giving Free! a try. On top of that, it is quite unique as I have not watched or read any anime or manga related to swimming. Yes for diving and yes for synchronised swimming but not competitive swimming. With only 12 episodes, it should be quite easy to follow also. So yeah, I just finished watching yesterday.
Free! is based on a light novel titled High Speed written by Koji Oji. It tells a story of 4 boys -Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin- who won a competition as a relay team before they left elementary school. Rin is moving to Australia to embark on his journey to be an Olympic swimmer. Fast forward a few years, Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa are in the same high school (Iwatobi). By the way, Nagisa is 1 year younger than the rest. So when he sees his childhood swim team mates, he gets the brilliant idea to start a swim club at his school. As typical Japanese-school setting, you need a certain number of people to officially open a club. So here comes the fifth person, Rei.
Rin apparently returns to Japan and is in a different school. There seems to be a rivalry between Rin and Haruka and bla bla bla. Ultimately both are competing in the tournament and Rin beats Haruka. Despite all 4 failure's in their individual events, Iwatobi swim club's relay team won. Watching the relay race, Rin ultimately realises that what he desires is not beating Haruka but rather he wants to swim together with his childhood friends again.
Story-wise, I think Free! is more suited for school-life rather than sports genre. There is much more emphasis on the friendship rather than the competitive swimming part and hence I conclude that it is a shoujo genre. Haha.. Many things do not make sense from male perspective. Lol.. Where got guys are so open and honest in sharing their secrets and feelings sia? Rin and Rei who don't even know each other would actually meet before the regional competition for some heart-to-heart talk? Rei, who is a newbie in swimming, ultimately becomes a butterfly swimmer. According to wikipedia, butterfly is the most difficult style leh! Lol.. The ending is also rather crazy. During the regional tournament, Rei forfeits his place and let Rin swim on his behalf. Ultimately, the message is for them to re-live their childhood relay memories and friendship rather than winning the competition. Anyway it made me shed tears so that wins some brownie points from me. Haha..
Character-wise, I find Haruka to be boring. He is a typical "act cool" main character but I am glad that he opens up and becomes more like-able towards the end. Makoto is a big brother type who I find rather boring and flat as character. Nagisa is the typical genki type in the gang. Naturally, he is my favorite as he reminds me of Kikumaru Eiji from Prince of Tennis. I am quite surprised that Rei and Rin are the ones having more interesting personality. On the surface, Rei is the bookworm type but he is actually the butt of the jokes many times. And he shows some angst with the others keep talking about Rin as he has no idea who this Rin person is. Rin seems to be the typical arch-rival type which usually I hate. Unexpectedly, near the end, when all "secrets" are revealed, his characterisation becomes more believable: what he ultimately wants is to swim with his childhood friends rather than competing with them. Not your typical "used to be a cheerful kid but an emo teen now". Hmm.. being a shoujo genre does not necessarily mean a bad thing eh? I don't think this kind of thing will happen in shounen manga. Haha.. Basically Rei and Rin seem to be more interesting and believable with their display of emotions from happy, sad, anger, etc.
|From left to right: Makoto, Haruka, Rin, Nagisa, Rei|
Apparently the anime will have a sequel in summer 2014. I wonder how they will continue with the story as I thought the current ending is already just nice and happy. And in case you are wondering why the anime is called Free!, it is actually referring to freestyle. Our main character only swims free(style) as what he always mentions throughout the show.
With all the fangirls are crazy about the bishounens, it is almost impossible to find the pictures with all the supporting characters. Hmm.. I can only find this one.