Haruka Nanase has a love for water and a passion for swimming. In elementary school, he competed in and won a relay race with his three friends Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki, and Makoto Tachibana. After claiming victory at the tournament, the four friends went their separate ways. Years later, they reunite as high school students; however, Rin couldn’t care less about returning to the way things used to be. Not only does he attend a different school, but the sole thing important to him is proving that he is a better swimmer than Haruka.
After the bitter reunion, Haruka, Nagisa, and Makoto decide to form the Iwatobi High School Swim Club, but they will need a fourth member if they hope to take part in the upcoming tournament. Enter Rei Ryuugazaki, a former member of the track team whom Nagisa recruits. As the time to compete draws near, the four develop a close bond while training intensely to come out on top and settle things between Haruka and Rin once and for all. – MyAnimeList.com
What I Liked About It
I loved all of the characters. The were all well written in a super cute kind of way. The story is centered around friendship and a love of swimming. Yes, Haru is a bit over the top when it comes to his love for swimming, but I have met people who center their lives around one a particular subject they love.
Each of the 5 man characters are represented by a marine animal. They don’t outright say it, but you’ll see random animals around the characters sometimes (for example, Haru has random dolphin toys, Rei is shown wearing a speedo with a penguin on it etc).
The art is very well drawn. It fits the light hearted nature of the story, and everyone’s character designs fits their personalities. There are times when the camera is zoomed out and the art looks kind of wonky, but it still fits and adds to the humor of the show.
Free! does a great job of balancing humor with drama. Drama may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about swimming, but it’s important to remember that the show is centered around high school kids. Drama is usually expected at that point.
I’ve been watching a lot of subbed anime recently, so I was surprised that Free! was dubbed on Crunchyroll. I actually really enjoyed the voice overs since they were all done by VA’s that I’m really familiar with. I think they all did a pretty good job at projecting the emotion the boys were all feeling throughout the show.
What I Disliked
Sports anime are always back and forth with me. I enjoyed Free! because of the humor, but there wasn’t really much else going for it story wise. They tried really hard to make you care about the friendship between Rin and Haru, but it ended up just making me dislike Rin as a character in general. He complained a lot and was a total jerk for really no reason.
This isn’t an issue with the show itself, but I made the mistake of watching Octopimp’s 50% off series, which is a parody of Free!, before watching the actual anime. All of Octo’s characterizations and voice overs were stuck in my head, so hearing the actual voices threw me off. (The parody is great, you should go watch it on YouTube. Be warned that it is for more mature audiences though).
If you enjoy sports anime, and you like a drama filled story surrounding a group of teenage boys, then you’d love Free!. Even if you aren’t a fan of the typical sports anime genre, I think you still might like Free!. It doesn’t rely too much on the swimming aspect to move the story along. It is a very character driven narrative and the characters are super likable.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have something you’d like to add to the discussion, please feel free to leave a comment.
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