「遙かなるフリー!」 (Haruka Naru Purii!)
After weeks and weeks of buildup, I think it’s safe to say that Kyoani did a great job at wrapping up everything. And sure, while I would have loved for our beloved Iwatobi swim team to make it to nationals I think that things ended in a really good spot.
But seeing how this final episode was basically a culmination of all the problems that were laid out through the season, I’m going to attack this post as a gigantic final impressions. And starting with the characters, I’ve been consistently blown away with how deep some of the characters became. Starting with Haru who some might consider the “main” protagonist, I still can’t get over how Kyoani managed to introduce a stiff and boring character and skillfully grow him into someone who actually deserves the title. Because not only did it really sell the whole recurring theme of self-growth but it just made him so much more likable! And while Haru may have gotten a lot of time to himself, there’s was someone else who also got a lot of time to really show us what he’s made out of. And that would be my favorite character of the series (after Gou) Rei! The awkward fifth man out who is sometimes a bit too book smart for his own good, he was another reason why I think Free! ended up being so successful. Between providing a lot of comedic relief by being the team’s rhetorical punching bag, I can’t praise him enough for the sacrifice he made during the finale. Because after seeing how many medals and awards Rei’s been awarded in a competitive setting, you would think he values the intrinsic value such things provide. Sure he may have said they were memories from the past, but I believe habits like those are hard to break. Which is why I would have never pictured him sacrificing everything he’s worked for just for the sake of repairing a broken friendship that didn’t necessarily involve him! And while I’m at it, even though those two took most of the spotlight it was nice that Mako and Nagisa still managed to make an impact. While they were mostly holding up everyone else, I thought it was thoughtful for Kyoani to provide us something to balance out all the seriousness.
In terms of the story though, I wish I could be as positive as I was for the characters. With an overarching theme of self-discovery and growth, I think that everything related to the main storyline was done quite well. From Rin trying to figure out just what he wanted to Haru and Rei confronting the elephant in the room — there wasn’t much more you could ask for. But whenever the story decided to stray from beaten path it always felt like something was missing. Be it the emotional impact or trying to figure out why something was important, you have to wonder if the person behind the Endless Eight fiasco was pulling the strings!
Before gathering my thoughts to conclude everything however, there’s something that I have to talk about before I end this point. And that my fellow viewers would be taking the time to talk about the amazing Gou and Ama-sensei — side characters who probably were the largest reasons why I kept watching. Between Gou losing it every time she got too close to too much muscles and Ama-sensei’s hidden yandere personality, I would have loved for them to get more screen time. Too bad this show isn’t in that genre…
All that said, I have to say the Free! did a great job living up to its hype. Because after being introduced to the world as “The Swimming Anime”, I never would have thought this show would have been as engaging as it was. With its crafty characters trying to navigate through a fairly complicated story, you sometimes forget that this show is supposed to be focused on swimming! But add in some amazingly beautiful scenes and some really heartfelt moments and you really have an engaging show. Sure the PVs may scare away some viewers but I think for anyone who’ll give this show a few episodes, they’ll be happily surprised with that they get!