Tears, tanturms, a whirlwind trip to Australia, and here we are!

When that fated Swimming Anime trailer was born on a pleasant Spring day, not much longer than a year ago, it shook tidal waves through the internet for everything it represented so unabashedly, and how it dared to be from the hands of Kyoto Animation. It was a matter of grandiose proportions that caused upheaval to the point where proclamations of ‘Anime is dead!’ stung the ears of us all. And so Free! was born, and for a while it was a massive deal. And then the people who were complaining stopped watching. And the fans kept on watching.

Free! -Eternal Summer- was made for it’s audience. It was altogether a fun adventure, diving right back into what had been embraced in the first season. If you hated it before, you’d probably still hate it now. But if you enjoyed it – like I, and many others, did – then you probably enjoyed it much the same as before. Maybe less, maybe more. It’s a hard choice, because I do honestly feel that KyoAni went a different route with Eternal Summer than they could have – they could have done like they did with Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren, for example, and ended up being incredibly unadventurous in their approach. Thankfully though, they didn’t. They knew what they wanted, they nailed down a series of character-driven plotlines, and tied it all together in a way that allows for a breathe of relief.

If there was one major theme in Eternal Summer, it would be the future; more specifically, career choices. I honestly didn’t expect it to be so prevalent. From the opening episode where it was initially brought up, and from then on touched upon, nudged upon, and eventually tackled head on, with Haruka at the centre of it. His struggle to find fun in completive swimming, or swimming to win, or to get a certain time, was the resounding tune of his character this time around, instead of him being this stoic (though he was still stoic for the most part) water-enthusiast who would strip of at the sight of a fish tank or babbling brook. I’ve seen both positive and negative reactions to Haruka simply not knowing what he wanted to do, because thruthfully the answer was so obvious all along. But I think it ended up forcing his character to go on a journey (literally, to Australia!) to find what he wants to do with his life. And that was something I didn’t quite expect when I initially went into this. I really thought we were going to get a season of sparkling manservice, episodic misadventures of Iwatobi, and a slight focus on completive tournaments. Either way would have been perfectly fine for me, but I’m glad I was surprised with Haruka and all the other 3rd years as they went on their own personal journeys of discovery to find out who and what they wanted to be.

Another unexpected focal point was Samezuka. They really became a team – rivals on equal level and interest that balanced well with that of Iwatobi, even if it meant spending nearly entire episodes dedicated to the opposing school. That would probably be my own personal complaint, which comes down to the simple fact that I didn’t enjoy Rin, Sousuke, Aiichirou, and Momotarou as much as I did with our already established main cast of Iwatobi. But, then again, KyoAni were smart in this, giving us more characters to potentially adore and root for, which I think worked for them in the end.

Funnily enough, even though I talk about surprises in plot-direction this season, overall, so much of it was what I expected and hoped for. At the end of it all it was the same fun series that occasionally took itself to seriously; each of our main cast had at least one episode dedicated to them for their fans to enjoy, and there were plenty of laughs throughout. But also tears. And drama. From Sousuke’s injury and the acceptance of his situation, to Makoto not telling Haruka his university plans, to Nagisa and his past studies, as well as the inevitable reality that half the Iwatobi Swim Club had to leave and find their own path in life, leaving their underclassmen behind. Some parts were dealt with better than others, but overall I really do feel KyoAni knew what they were doing and they delivered on that.

Lastly, I’d like to point out how the final scene we are left with is the exact same scene that ends the first trailed released by KyoAni that started it all. Pretty smart if you’d ask me. I recognised it right away, and it certainly gave me flashbacks to the very start of this journey. I can still remember the debates and absolute refusal to believe KyoAni could ever turn that Swimming Anime PV into a TV series. And I can still remember laughing and applauding when it actually happened. If anything, whether people loved or hated it, I think Free! will be noted in anime history for that – for the fact that it came from a studio that people thought would never dare stray from its demographic, and how in doing so it become the dramatic, flamboyant, and utterly infectious anime that it shall be remembered for.

Also, Makoto best boy.


  1. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a male teen that watched the First Season and genuinely enjoyed it for its plot but didn’t watch the Second Season after seeing how people bashed it during the timespan between the 2 seasons and how it was overwhelming is the ratio of the males and females watching it. And yes, I’m straight. I just didn’t feel like it needed a Season 2 after finishing the 1st series, but now I see that the bigger reason the S2 exists is for the colossal (female) fanbase.

    Red HeartGold ZX
    1. I’m glad that you were able to enjoy the first season, even as a male. I really don’t understand why a lot of guys feel like they have to defend themselves for watching Free! If you liked it, you liked it, gender shouldn’t matter. 🙂 Glad to see you standing up for your interest in the first season!

      I know you said that you felt a second season wasn’t necessary, but there was a lot of character development in the 2nd season. If you ever decide to give it a go, just ignore the female:male viewership ratio and all the hate–those are irrelevant. Just enjoy the anime! 😀

      1. Hear hear! I really don’t understand the insecurity suffered by the straight, male fans who admit to Free! being a guilty pleasure. I mean, the vast majority of anime includes at least one random fanservice scene for straight men (see: Aldnoah Zero shower scene), and as a straight woman, I’ve never felt terribly uncomfortable about their inclusion.

      2. Show Spoiler ▼

    2. Second half of second series was actually much, much better. And very appropriate for those going to college in the fall or those applying for one and finding the direction they should take.

      One should also watch for the actual swimming competition scenes. The accuracy of the muscle movements during each stroke and the individual water splashes were all delightfully animated.

      Petit Orenji
  2. That was a brilliant final episode with all questions answered and all loose ends tied up in terms of plot. It was so well executed in terms of the visual impact and the emotions. I am glad I have on this ride. So glad to see Haru found his dream and went to college in Tokyo with Makoto. It was perfect closure for this much loved series and I wish there is a season 3!

  3. The faces of Free! Eternal Summer:

    Haruka: (-_-) but 〈(゜。゜)?? about future

    Makoto, Nagisa and Rei: (^_^), (^ω^), -o-o-

    Rin: ( ^皿^ ), happier shark

    Sousuke: (・`ヘ´・)

    Momo: (`0´)ノ 江~さん!!when Gou is around

    Seiijurou: \(`0´)ノ江~さああああん!!!!!!! when Gou is around

    Nitori: Less ┌(┌ ^o^)┐ 先輩!!(senpai!!)for Rin than last year

    Gou:キタ━━\(゜∀゜)/━!!!!! around muscles, muscle-viewing abstinence failed

    Kisumi: *:・゚✧(´ヮ´)*:・゚✧, bishounen level over 9000

  4. The English in the Sydney episode was done by the US branch of a Japanese voice acting company. So we may be listening to US people putting on Australian accents.

    That said, Rin’s VA did a good job with the English, fitting the character’s fluency level given his background. Much better than some of the other ‘English-fluent’ anime characters out there.(stares at Terror in Resonance’s direction).

    1. The aussie accents weren’t that bad although the mother of the house that Rin stayed at sounded more English than Australian. I thought the father was spot on and I enjoyed the chick who gave them a double instead of a twin room!

      Oddly enough the exact same thing happened to my brother when him and a mate booked a room in Auckland. Being boys from the bush they didn’t know the difference between twin and double beds!!!!

  5. This season was more dramatic and somber than Season 1. Basically any of the character quirks we know were all presented in the first ep of this season and then gotten over. It is strictly slice-of-life with the only trace of anything epic being Haru’s trip to Australia in Episode 12, but it was well worth sticking through it! Haru was being very petty and melodramatic with his problem though.

  6. <– A Male in his early 30s who thoroughly enjoyed both seasons. So im clearly not of the demographic group KyoAni was aiming for but the story and characters caught me in their viewing trap during s01. The balance of heavy slice of life with some swimming competition is always a great change when it comes to sports anime (though I truly enjoy competative swimming).

    Really enjoyed s02. Tied up some loose ends, gave us all a feeling that the future was bright for our Iwatobi and Samezuka friends. You really know that the characters matter when they only show their placing in the national championship at the very end. At first I wondered what position they ranked…but a few seconds after the race completed it completely slipped my mind

    So many feels in the final sequences too. That last scene with Haru and Rin in a full stadium really put a smile on my face. Glad those two got to meet at such a competative level!

  7. Thanks for making a Final Impressions post, Samu!

    Free! was certainly a fun anime to watch, and it actually made me want to swim due to it’s beautiful animation! Sadly, I would drown like Rei did when he first joined the swimming club haha.

    Really liked the ending. Makoto is best guy <3 😛

  8. I was so hoping someone at RC would do a final impressions post for Free! (2) since I enjoyed it so much more than I had expected to, going from the bottom of my watch list to #4 overall. So thank you, Samu!! I appreciated the focus on both the characters and their understandable stress about the future (it does seem like the pre-college year in any country with higher education is filled with people who are always asking about your plans). I’m ten years out from college and this topic still sucked me in with the way they presented it.

    I had a few roll-your-eyes moments at the sheer amount of moe at times, but the underlying story kept me keyed in and watching. A friend who is completely new to anime watched episode 9 with me when it came out, and was then interested in watching all the other episodes, which made me realize that the over-the-top emotions that sometimes annoy me, actually give new viewers (or foreign viewers) an easy key to understanding what is going on with the characters. Free! – apparently pulling in all kinds of new demographics!

    Even if the Australian episode was done by American speakers, I think it was done SO well. I appreciated the actual acting that was happening (a noticeable difference from Zankyou no Terror’s English moments) and the fact that they went to that much trouble when it was only one episode truly impressed me. I don’t know what that meant for their budget, but I’d love to see this turn into a pattern for other shows. Also, major kudos to Miyano Mamoru who I’ve always liked, but who blew me away with his English. He sounded very similar to my Australian-as-a-second-language friends with the accents that did come up in his speech.

    Finally, while I always enjoy KyoAni’s scenery, their level of detail in the Australian episode was amazing. It reminded me of K-on’s scenery details when they were in London – clearly a lot of research and effort was put in for accuracy which they could have slacked on, but didn’t. So many of those little things have forced me to rate Free! Eternal Summer higher than it’s “more original” competition.

    All in all, I’m so glad that this got a second season, so that KyoAni could surprise us again! I’ll be recommending it to friends who aren’t yet anime fans.

    1. You’re welcome! And I agree with you on the quality of the Australia episode. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, but boy… KyoAni really put heaps of effort into that episode.

  9. I had low expectations watching season 2 and honestly only tuned in for Makoto’s back muscles. :3 However, after watching I actually thought the plot was less contrived in this season, esp. with Makoto’s journey in deciding what he wants to do in the future. I also liked that there was actually more competitive swimming in this season. There were still many things I didn’t like about this series, but I’d say this second season was a step up from season 1.

  10. I wasn’t really excited for the second season because I didn’t think that they could continue after the 1st season’s story concluded.
    I cried (not just the normal cry but the UGLY NO SHAME CRY), in not one but two episodes. I don’t usually cry in animes but this one was an exception. I kind of wish I watched this 3 years ago (before I entered college) because during that time, my last year of high school, I was like Rin. I love drawing and painting but I didn’t want to take it up in college because I thought that it wasn’t the same…kay I don’t know how to explain it well but yeah. I thought that I would hate it if I pursued as a job. I thought I would be pressured at something I loved…I just know I felt like how Rin did. Now, I’m in Business school. I’m doing okay but every now and then I think, what if I took that path? WHAT IF I WATCHED THESE DAMN GOOD EPISODES BEFORE I CHOSE MY COLLEGE. Would I have had the guts to follow my dream?
    I’m going to start doing what I love again. I’m going to take it seriously. Thanks Free.

  11. Free!is definitely one of my favorite animes <3 Thank you Kyoto animation!!!I enjoyed every single episode XD
    It was well-paced, not just muscles but meaningful story and everyone had unique characters; love Rei's laughter, Rin's shark teeth, Momo was annoying yet cute, Makoto's cute siblings, Nagisa's bubbly cuteness, etc.
    Yes, Samezuka has really become a team and Rin really nailed being the captain.

    Every episode, I was full of reactions and I'm sure there were ALOT of fangirls squealing out there~its kinda funny to see reaction videos on youtube cause u feel the same way.haha especially season 1 where fans posted the final episode reaction O__O Kyaaa <3

    I completely agree Samu, Makoto is the ideal guy <3 <3 <3

  12. I think Free! Eternal Summer is an anime recommendable for any person who wants to have fun and think about a positive message. It was a joyful story of friendship and making career choices. I had a smile in my face during the last episode. I really like the soundtrack, right now I´m learning how to play “FUTURE FISH” in my guitar. I won´t forget Haru, Makoto, Rin, Nagisa, Rei, Sousuke and Momo.

  13. As a guy I loved the show, but I wished the second season had both teams interacting a bit more. I also wasn’t satisfied with how Haru just embraced professional swimming just like that, but it was okay.

  14. I was happy how they ended 😀 I had a (tad) feeling that they were going to use the trailer ending for the the last episode, because I thought about ‘how are they going to end it?’ and thought about the trailer that first started the series. it was pretty nice feeling after recognizing that scene.

  15. I admit that I walked into this season really excited for this show, and it ended up being more up-and-down then I thought. The themes they tackled this season were pretty ambitious—the future! a sports/slice-of-life hybrid from the perspective of the third years!—and I wonder if maybe if they’d been given more episodes they could’ve handled them more, hmm. What’s the better word? Neatly? Smoothly? (And Sousuke! What about Sousuke, KyoAni?!)

    But, well, in the end, I did end up satisfied with the show, and found myself very sad that it’s come to an end. I teared up with that last shot!

    Makoto for best boy! And Rin for best girl!

    Thanks for the post, TsukkiSamu!

  16. I’m so glad that the Iwatobi Swim Club got more members and will continue on in the future. Also, everyone’s future is looking very bright for the perfect happy ending. That group hug was just the best from the ultimate team. I’m sure with their bonds of friendship and taking that connection with them on their different paths they will find happiness in fulfilling their dreams. And they never gave up to succeed. On a side note, I think Haru wrote down on the soil “For the Future” this season whereas he wrote “For the Team” last season. It’s a nice message to give out to encourage people to keep looking onwards. This anime was great from the beginning til the end. On another note, I want to say STYLE FIVE is so wonderful together, their songs are really catchy.
    Show Spoiler ▼

    random viewer
  17. KyoAni developed Free! series before PV. There was a preview picture a year before that PV but nobody noticed. Or people seriously think you can develop a story, characters and animation in a period of 2 months?

  18. It was such a sad feeling to let it go for some reason xD I thoroughly enjoyed the simple story and loved all its charecters T__T’! I have this feeling like my kids just graduated from school and I should proudly just clap my hands xD I don’t really have kids, but I think this is the kind of feeling it is xD I loved Free, it was a very enjoyable ride!

  19. Samu, I wholeheartedly love your review and can say I agree with you on all the major themes. If all I disagree with boils down to personal enjoyment of the season’s finer points, I’d say that’s a pretty damn fine thing indeed.

    Whether or not we come back for a season 3 of Free! doesn’t change the fact that I came for a silly, fanservice-y series about cute boys doing cute things, from a studio best known for cute girls doing cute things… and I was time and time again surprised by the depth of character, the pleasant extra care, and the surefooted direction I found. Season 2 reinforced what I loved and delved even deeper; creating a sillier, sexier, more heartfelt emotional thrill-ride than I could’ve ever imagined from its outrageous and controversial beginnings.

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