At long last, the first episode of Tumblr’s beloved swimming anime is upon us. Does it live up to the hype? It’s too soon to tell. But if you were expecting a show chalk full of fanservice and ~*manly feelings*~ concerning swimming, you were right on the money.
The first episode established a basic plot and introduced four of the five key characters. You’ve got Nanase Haruka (Shimazaki Nobunaga), a stoic high school kid with a single minded passion for swimming. And when I say single minded, I’m not kidding around. Haruka spends nearly the entire episode either in a body of water, preparing to enter a body of water, or wishing he were in a body of water. He constantly wears his swim trunks under his clothing. He evidently spends all of his free time sitting in his bath tub. He instantly becomes more compliant when someone mentions anything about going to a pool. He’s essentially a merman.
Haruka’s childhood friends are Tachibana Makoto (Suzuki Tatsuhisa), an all-around nice guy who stops to pet kitties and gets scared at the idea of ghosts and Nagisa Hazuki (Yonaga Tsubasa), a hyperactive underclassman with a baby face and a taste for adventure. Both are also swimmers, but their obsession with water doesn’t go nearly as far as Haruka’s does. In fact, they seem to be there to keep Haruka functioning out of water. With their cheery dispositions, they try to convince the dour Haruka to start a high school swim team, to seemingly no avail.
All three friends used to swim with another boy, Matsuoka Rin (Miyano Mamoru), in their elementary days. When Rin unexpectedly returns from his fancy Australian swimming school, his former friends find that he’s become haughty and competitive. With his arrogance and his mouth full of shark teeth, he’s immediately established as Haruka’s rival.
Other character include Matsuoka Gou (Watanabe Akeno), Rin’s sensible younger sister, Amakata Miho (Yukino Satsuki), the boys’ enabling homeroom teacher, and Ryuugazaki Rei (Hirakawa Daisuke), the eventual fifth member of the swim team who has yet to make an appearance.
The first episode of Free! did not skimp on the fanservice. There were no less than four or five separate strip scenes between the four main characters and plenty of shots to attract the female gaze. Hazuki even decides to skinny dip at one point. Most of this fanservice is in relation to swimming, and the boy’s dedication to the sport is intense. When Rin challenges Haruka to a race, they rip their shirts off as if they’re drawing swords and nearly dive into an empty pool. It’s apparent that Free! wants us to consider swimming to be serious business.
Only time will tell whether or not this show is going to be more than just a light, beefecake-filled anime, but I don’t think I’d really mind it if that’s all it was. It’s nice to see a high-quality studio like Kyoto Animation doing something for the ladies. There are too many male-oriented shows out there and not enough female-oriented shows.
Anyway, I’m pretty much on board with this, so I’ll try and keep up with episode reviews.
All photos and properties copyright Kyoto Animation
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