OP: 「Heading to Over」by OLDCODEX
“Sprouting Dive Start!”
So I learned the hard way that High Speed and Take Your Marks were compulsory watches to understand and fully enjoy S3. If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, don’t even bother diving in at this point. This end is far too deep for beginners, meaning you need to go back to the start and marathon your way to present times, without skipping the movies. That said, I still took great delight from the triumphant return of our boys in speedos, especially considering the heightened focus on competitive swimming.
The Next Step:
Nagisa, Rei and Gou move on to their final year of high school, becoming sempais of the Iwatobi Swimming Club, and welcoming some newcomers. Meanwhile, Haruka, Makoto and Rin have already taken the next step in their lives – moving up to university. Having contended at a national level during high school, our university-bound characters are ready to make the next step – contending at intercollegiate swimming events. Most of the events seem to be taking place in Tokyo, with familiar characters attending prestigious universities on what I’d assume to be athletic scholarships, though Rin is currently in Australia. If my hunches are spot on, I’d expect Rin to reunite with everyone when he comes down to Tokyo for an international swimming competition. Additionally, coach Mikhail probably has some connection with the mysterious man who took an interest in Haruka, and the two will probably have proxy confrontations through their students. Despite being a predictable plot point, it would make for an entertaining watch! That’s probably some way away into the future, and I’d really like to see it happen at some point, because Haruka and Rin are fated in a way.
A pleasant touch was the synchronised freestyle display by Haruka and Rin. Despite being in different countries, their strokes and motions matched in terms of energy and grace, reminding us that their rivalry truly transcends the space/time continuum. Their relatively equal skills are contrasted by the way Haru easily shrugs off Asahi’s challenge, further affirming the intensity of their rivalry, and how they’re clearly meant for each other. I have no qualms conceding that Rin is the superior all-round swimmer, because he’s can swim all the styles to a high standard. However, I’d like to see the new answer as to who can swim the better freestyle at the end of S3. End of fangirling.
High Speed Throwbacks:
From what I’ve read on online forums, in addition to characters from the previous seasons, characters from both High Speed and Take Your Marks featured prominently in this episode. Both Asahi Shiina (Toyonaga Toshiyuki) and Ikuya Kirishima (Uchiyama Kouki) are from the days of High Speed, and though I can get a feel for their personalities, they’d be more fleshed out from my perspective if I had watched the prequel. Nevertheless, I really enjoy the differences they bring to the table, because they totally shake up social dynamics in a positive way. We got a pretty good feel for Asahi, who featured prominently this episode. However, we see very little of Ikuya, who’s been shrouded in mystery ever since he left for America at a young age.
Cue some flashbacks, and I get the impression that Ikuya is a troubled figure who shares a past with Haruka, Makoto and Asahi. Judging by his participation in individual categories, he’s gone from this nice kid who clearly cares for his friends, to this edge-lord who works alone. If I had to guess, he took Asahi’s elementary school departure as a terrible betrayal of their dreams to win something together. Ikuya clearly has impressive skills, given how someone described Haru’s exquisite style as a cheap imitation, which makes me really excited to see what Ikuya can do out in the pool. I reckon his past wounds will be healed through properly finishing business with Haruka/Makoto/Asahi, by winning a relay together with them, just like how Rin healed his past wounds by swimming a relay with the Iwatobi Swim Club. So I look forwards to seeing tensions build up between these individuals, before culminating into significant development that caps off the season in a triumphant manner.
So far, I feel like Dive! To the Future has a much more clinical focus on important matters, improvements on constructing tiny details that truly flesh things out, and perfected pacing where not a moment is wasted. It managed to achieve this, without seeing any drop in the visual standards, which were spectacular as always from KyoAni. In short, S3 feels incredibly polished and refined in comparison to the previous two seasons. I feel inclined to put this down to a change in directors, because truth be told, the new director probably had a lot to do with the improvements across the board. Kawana Eisaku has really outdone himself here, and if he continues with this positive trajectory, I’d happily rate him over Utusumi Hiroko, even if she’s been the stalwart behind Free for two seasons.
I know competitive swimming isn’t a direction that everyone is going to like, since some people are going to invariably prefer slice of life. But personally, I’m really loving where S3 is currently headed and feel truly optimistic that this is looking to be the best season yet. The potential for excellent character development across the board is amazing and it isn’t some superficial fluff either. KyoAni are really looking to get to the root of human nature, namely our desire to prevail and stand above others, while showing that you can still be good friends even while fiercely going at it. Hopefully, things won’t get overly melodramatic and a nice balance will be struck, when dealing with the heavier interactions between Ikuya and his past friends. I’m suspecting a big bad from America somewhere down the line, that our characters will have to unite against in order to overcome.
To conclude, this has been my favourite premiere so far, granted that I’ve only been seeing the shows I needed to write introductions for. That’s about all my thoughts expressed and I’m curious to know what other people think, so feel free to comment down below. Let me know whether you’d like to see Dive to the Future as a pickup for regular coverage and to wrap things off, thanks for reading my post!
ED: 「Gold Evolution」by STYLE FIVE