So, this is usually the time when I start to record solo podcasts about the anime I’ve started watching for the new season. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that those recordings are not really as great as I want them to be and I feel I can cover more ground with a quick paragraph or to about each show as opposed to doing a bunch of 45+ minute podcasts on my own. So, I’ve decided to do my season reviews like this from now on. First up this summer season is Free!, Kyoto Animation’s attempt at “branching out” from their comfort zone.
Here is a show that has an interesting origin! Back in early 2013, ol’ KyoAni decided to run a promo to promote their spin-off studio, Animation DO. The promo featured a group of attractive, athletic young men in form-fitting swimwear getting ready for some kinda swimming competition. The anime blogosphere, both in Japan and abroad, went insane over it and the folks at KyoAni decided to run with it, hoping to tap a market that they had since left untouched; Fujoshi. Now, if you are unaware of what a fujoshi is allow me to explain. Basically, it’s the slang term often used to describe the female answer to the male anime otaku who, more often than not, LOVE yaoi and BL. Now, if you are unaware of what BL and yaoi are, google it, because we need to get back on track. So, the show is basically set up with this game plan in mind…
“Make show with attractive young men” > “Fujoshi watch it for reference to make their Yaoi doujinshi” > “Other Fujoshi read said doujinshi and become interested in the show” > $$$$$$$$
It’s a similar concept that has worked for them in the past with K-On! so, they decided to take a cue from rapper and Vitamin Water peddler 50 Cent and “switch the style up and if they hate then let ’em hate and watch the money pile up.” With all this back story, you’re probably wondering how I actually feel about the show.
Analysis: If I hadn’t already seen a bunch of promotional stuff for this show already, I would assume it was based on a sports manga that ran in Shonen Jump just because of the Prince of Tennis, Kuroko no Basket vibes that it gives off. The opening sequence certainly feels like the kind you would see from a shonen sports manga.
The show even opens the way a shonen sports show would, with our main character, Haru who is so into his sport of choice, in this case being swimming, that he performs eerily comical things to satisfy his swimming urge such as, wearing his swimsuit in the bath, while he’s frying fish and, just under his clothes in general. Haru and his childhood friend Makoto learn that Nagisa, another boy from their early childhood days of swimming at the local pool, is now attending their high school. It’s after a trip down memory lane that they decide to sneak into the now closed down public pool to dig up a time capsule they had buried there with their fourth friend, Rin, who is now living in Australia, or so they think! As they explore the condemned building they find out that Rin has come back to Japan, enrolled in a super elite swimming school and also plans to rekindle his old
romance rivalry with Haru. After a late night rendezvous where the two decide to have a race, Nagisa, Haru and, Makoto decide to form a swim team at their school with hopes of meeting Rin at tournaments.
When this show was first announced, it seems like everyone knew it was just going to be some kind of gratuitous fujoshi bait with almost no time dedicated to the subject of competitive swimming, much like how K-On! devoted almost no time to the subject of music or learning to play the guitar or writing song lyrics because hey, if they did that, we wouldn’t have five minutes of Mio being scared of barnacles! However, Free! does manage to surprise. swimming is a major part of the show and is represented as such throughout. Swimming sequences are animated excellently, as you would expect from KyoAni, and really make you feel like this is just another shonen sports show. It also delivers a decent bit of comedy such as a running joke that the female teacher who become their club adviser may have had a not so wholesome career that involved swimsuits before she became a teacher.
Verdict: I will most likely continue watching for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, it’ll keep with the shonen sports theme to the point where we have Eyeshield 21-esque personifications of each character as they’re swimming.