We at The Geekiary would like to apologize for the incredible delay in Free! reviews. Unfortunately, that pesky thing called real life has gotten in the way. Hopefully we can catch up before the finale!
These past two episodes of Free! have really felt like a milestone arc within the overall series. Much like the previous two episodes, which saw the four Iwatobi swim club members reach a new level of understanding between each other, this arc really defined the relationship between Haru and Rin. What appeared to be an intense rivalry at the beginning has turned into an emotionally complex relationship between two people who really don’t know what they want from themselves or each other.
Episode 7 documented the Iwatobi swim club’s first tournament. Naturally, the guys all chose events in which they specialized, with Makoto choosing backstroke, Nagisa and Rei choosing the butterfly stroke, and Haru choosing – what else – freestyle. Meanwhile, Rin is having some trippy dreams about Haru, swimming and his tragically dead father, who apparently died in the same typhoon that Makoto’s old man friend died in. We learn that Rin’s dad is a direct motivation for his drive to win, as his dad had always wanted to be an Olympian.
The team shows up for the tournament and starts to prepare for their respective races. First up is Haru’s race, and it’s against Rin (and a bunch of faceless other swimmers who were doomed by obscurity to lose). The race is mad intense and Haru gives it a surprising effort, but in a shocking turn of events Rin ultimately comes out on top. He immediately declares himself over Haru and vows never to swim with him again.
Of course, that vicious attitude of Rin’s is more or less reversed in episode 8. Haru is confused and hurt over Rin’s words. He stands numbly in the shower until Nagisa comes and drags him back to the rest of the team’s races. Later, Mako, Nagisa and Rei encounter Rin, where they essentially tell him that they think he’d be good for Haru is only he weren’t such a dick. This leaves Rin visibly shaken.
Each of the guys give it their all in their races, but they all end up short. Still, it was fantastic to see Mako, Nagisa and Rei actually swim for themselves. One of the things that I’ve felt have been lacking are individual motivations for Makoto and Nagisa, who always seem to be narratively tied to Haru and Rei respectively. Seeing their incredibly impressive swimming skills was a great reminder that any one of these guys has what it takes to be a champion on his own.
Though Miss Amakata, Coach Sasabe and Gou perform their best cheers for the guys, the entire Iwatobi team loses. They get ready to leave, dejected, until Gou sheepishly announces that she’s signed them up for the relay the next day. The guys set out to convince Haru, who had left prior, to compete, with Makoto even waiting for him at his house all night. After an adorable voice message from Nagisa, Haru agrees to race, and the gang shows up to the tournament on day 2, revitalized. The episode ends out with the Iwatobi swim club pulling off an outstanding relay. Rin watches in amazement, as he remembers the strengths of each member of the team. When it’s Rei’s turn, he becomes visibly jealous. As Haru waits his turn, he catches Rin’s eye and a moment passes between them, before Haru jumps in, leaving the outcome of the race ambiguous.
These two episodes were essential in developing the two main characters. While Rin’s words to Haru were arrogant and uncalled for, he did deliver the kick in the pants that snapped Haru out of his apathy. As he watched his friends give it their all in their races and then later during the relay, Haru realized that he gathers strength and happiness from the people around him. Rin, on the other hand, seems to have finally started to really give his jerk attitude a second thought. Hopefully in the next couple episodes, he’ll realize that achieving a dream is impossible with the support of friends. I think Haru and Rin are due for a heartfelt emotional reunion, and with only four episodes left, I hope the emotional payoff will be one to remember.
All photos and properties copyright Kyoto Animation.
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