“A Promise on a Shooting Star!”

「流星のプロミス!」 (Ryuusei no puromisu!)

I have a hard time explaining to my friends that Free! is not simply a fujoshi twist on the CGDCT concept (Cute Guys Do Cute Things). Admittedly, KyoAni are masters of baiting their primary demographic which can come across as pushing a homoerotic sub-context. Yet at essence, you’ll find that Free! is a sports drama about friendships, rivalries, competitions and most importantly, a journey of self-discovery. But since Free! revolves around swimming, it just so happens to feature many scenes where the dudes have their shirts off. Incidentally, another strapping lad joins the fold. That would be Ikuya, a mysterious figure from the past who has a score to settle with Haruka.

Ikuya’s Backstory

As for my descriptions of what Free! really is, the introduction of Ikuya proved to be no exception, seeing how it laid down substantial depth regarding his background – namely his shared history with Haruka/Makoto/Asahi. While some people might find Ikuya’s backstory to be edgy, going from this team oriented guy to a person who only competes in individual medleys, such circumstances are symptomatic of a deep, emotional scar from his High Speed days. Usually, I have issues with the implementation of flashbacks, specifically where they are used to conveniently lump in required information. However, this particular implementation from Free! was nothing short of sublime. We got a glimpse of those youthful days and exactly why everyone holds them with such fondness and high esteem, to the point where Kisumi stated ‘We’ll never make friends like that again’. Simply put, those were the times of their lives.

You could tell that Ikuya deeply cared for his friendships with Haruka/Makoto/Asahi. So far, those are the only times where we’ve ever seen him smile. You can tell how much it mattered to him, that these same boys would strive to work hard and win the following year’s middle school relay race. It’s pretty obvious that winning together was the wish he made upon the shooting star. But that is the double-edged blade, which encapsulates both his success yet also his sufferings – he has this competitive drive to win that far outstrips most people, including his friends. He firmly believed they shared this dream for the future of eventually winning that relay together, only to end up totally disappointed and scarred when it turned out they didn’t.

To me, his exclusive participation in individual medleys comes across like a coping mechanism to deal with the loss of such a dream. A strong statement if you’d like of how he only works alone. But can he truly be satisfied with a relay win becoming unfinished business, even if he comes to dominate the individual medley? Like we saw in this episode, he’ll be chasing it in his mind and left to dissatisfaction for a long time to come.

Concluding Thoughts:

So far, Dive to the Future has been a blast and it feels like Free! took a dynamic step and reached another evolutionary stage. I would have expected a younger Haruka to care for very little beyond the pool. But having progressed as a character over the past two seasons, he’s developed a degree of empathy that has helped him realise how terribly he wounded Ikuya’s feelings. Having acknowledged Ikuya’s extraordinary evolution as a swimmer, as well as the emotional scars they unintentionally caused from long ago, Haruka/Makoto/Asahi look set to try and make amends. Perhaps they can do so by making Ikuya’s unrealised dream come true by swimming a relay together, and winning at an intercollegiate level. Also, we shouldn’t forget about that pinky promise between Haruka and Ikuya, where they promised to face off in freestyle someday. Maybe these things will come true by the end of this season. But whether they can do it remains to be seen seeing how a considerable roadblock lies in their path. Hiyori might have the best of intentions for Ikuya by not wanting Ikuya to be hurt. After all, who wouldn’t be protective of their true friends? However, he comes across as this over-obsessive creep who will only inhibit Ikuya’s road to emotional recovery, given how he seems to relish Ikuya’s emotional dependence upon him. Hopefully we’ll get some valid reasons or explanations behind this weird behaviour. Without the background details, Hiyori is easily dislikable at the moment.

Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to say. Thanks for reading my post and see you next week, as Rin and Natsuya look to cross paths!



    1. KyoAni didn’t really intend for Free! to be a full on TV series at the start. They showcased a 30 second animation segment made by their rookie animators, that aired during an break within an episode of Tamako Market, featuring the designs for Haruka/Makoto/Rin/Rei/Nagisa. This segment was wildly popular and caught on and through popular demand, KyoAni ended up making the series.

      So why does Rin have shark teeth? Considering everything I’ve just said, I’d say it’s because that’s how they randomly designed him back then and they stuck to it.

  1. I like that series like this exist simply because a lot of people still in this day and age seem to think that anime is a boys club. And really, how could anyone blame them with every other show that comes out seems to insert some sort of boob grab or lusty little sister. The more of these sorts of shows we get (especially quality ones) the more it can be normalized in modern media which I think is always a good thing. Kyoto Animation knows exactly what game it’s playing, and honestly, the amount of queer baiting is super frustrating, but at this point I’d rather have it than not, if that makes any sense. Also hell yeah, shirtless guys.

    1. Before today I genuinely hadn’t seen or met anyone who considered anime to be a “guys only” hobby. I think it’s also important to understand about target demographics and who the target audience is for some of these shows. Much like how studios can make the mindless adult shows aimed at guys, they can also make shows targeted at the female demographic. That doesn’t mean people of either gender can’t enjoy either types of shows, it just means it’s pretty stupid to complain about something intended for a certain group of people.

      There’s a reason why Free! is the second most popular franchise Kyoto Animation has ever produced and that’s because they’ve made something that has tapped into the demographics they’re aiming at and they’ve responded well to it.

      1. It’s fine if you have never come across it but just because you haven’t doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And to act like most male targeted shows aren’t the majority when it comes to anime is, quite frankly ignorant. Sure, as of the last ten years we have seen a slight influx in more gender neutral shows and shows aimed at exclusively women (fujoshi or otherwise), but the fact of the matter is that a lot of anime is still really only targeted towards men, which means we get a lot of underdeveloped women or women who are sexually objectified in some way. And hey, if that is your cup of tea then by all means. All I’m saying is that I’m glad more “cute guys doing cute things” shows are coming out.

      2. Whether or not your opinion about people thinking anime is “guys only” is held by people outside of your social circle is irrelevant. I haven’t seen what you’re talking about, and I doubt I ever will. I’ll phrase this as nice as possible when I say this but your reading comprehension is dreadful, you’re jumping to conclusions and rambling about nothing, missing my point entirely.

        I could break down your comment and dissect each point but it wouldn’t achieve anything. Let me just bring up these.

        >the amount of queer baiting is super frustrating

        Suggests you understand little about who this show is being made for. It won’t be frustrating for the target audience for this show.

      3. Hey now, let’s not be so condescending towards each other.

        There is no denying that anime is typically inclined towards males, and that there a lot of folks out there who enjoy gatekeeping out females. Perhaps it’s subconscious, I dunno. But I’ve known quite a few girls, my younger sister included, who have been subjected to this kind of treatment, something I’ve witnessed with my own two eyes. Sexism is pretty rampant in within the demographic of folks who like watching anime, so I wouldn’t blame any hard feelings coming out from those who’ve experienced this type of treatment, because there’s a lot of room to improve in that respect.

        I find it fruitless to realistically complain about how much I dislike every single otome show I’ve seen – because it’s targeted at a demographic which I’m not a part of. Conversely, that could also mean that high quality shows for females are much rarer to come by, hence the runaway popularity of Free!. I certainly feel like that’s a big part of it too. There is also no denying that KyoAni have done a fantastic job of tapping into the female demographic. It is simply fact and not plain ignorance.

        In short, neither of you are necessarily wrong. Anime can be mostly aimed at guys and have something of a laddish culture (not with every fan though) that can end up feeling like a boy’s club. The industry does have some unsavoury quirks, but they have become a mainstay because fans want these kind of shows and answer with their wallets. There are also shows out there targeted at a specific demographic that can be enjoyed by either gender. But it definitely feels like there are less high quality shows to be mainly enjoyed by a female demographic. I mean, let ’em have their shirtless dudes for all I care about.

      4. I don’t think anyone is buying this narrative that anime fans secretly hate women. This is a ridiculous GamerGate-like smear against an entire fandom that has little basis in reality. I cannot even think of one popular franchise aimed at the male demographic which doesn’t have an increasingly larger female following as the days go by. Things like Gundam or Kaiji, and I have yet to see anyone try to gatekeep women out of it. Conversely, I would argue there are few female-oriented anime which have a visible male audience. I’m sure things like Free or Yuri on Ice have their male fans, but they’re really not as visible as the female fans. Yet take any famous shounen and you will immediately come into contact with the blatantly visible female audience. In other words, anime as it stands offers more for women than it does for men so this outlandish claim that anime has a sexist male audience is both offensive and untrue.

        Calixtus Morne
    1. @starss The brown haired guy is Natsuya, Ikuya’s older brother. The silver haired guy is Serizawa Nao, the middle-school coach for Haru and co. Nao used to be a promising swimmer, until a detached retina kicked in.
      Both were first introduced in the High Speed prequel movie, and made guest appearances in Take Ypur Marks.


Leave a Reply to Zaiden Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *