“A Solitary Medley!”
While Haru and Asahi still have at least one more event to contend in, it seems that their training has certainly paid off. Together with Rin, they qualify for the main event in Tokyo. Meanwhile, there’s still a big question mark left.
The Meaning of Friendship
Ikuya is in the midst of a heavy slump, and is in danger of missing out on qualifying for the individual medley. His fracas with Hiyori certainly hasn’t helped, and the tension between the two is palpable to the point where even fellow club members are picking up on it. Naturally, Hiyori means well, something that Ikuya acknowledges in his conversation with Asahi. However, Hiyori allows emotions to get the better of him, namely his feelings towards Ikuya combined with jealous towards Haruka. Yet intentions and consequences are two different things. Hiyori yearns for acknowledgement from his one true friend, but he needs to step back and take a proper look at what he’s doing. Maybe question if this kind of behaviour is normal if say someone else were to do it. It’s okay to care about your friend, but Hiyori is proactively limiting freedom in a way that stifles Ikuya, and arguably contributes towards his slump.
What Ikuya needs is a true friend who can act as an emotional support, something he cannot attain with Hiyori at present because their relationship is fundamentally imbalanced. Their interactions are a far cry from the High Speed days where he was having the time of his life with Asahi, Makoto and Haru. Instead, Hiyori treats Ikuya like a caged bird. I get that he’s trying to fix the problem by himself. But just as Ikuya never asked him for help, he never asked Ikuya if this was the way he wanted to go about it and could easily be causing more harm than good. Nevertheless, Hiyori clearly isn’t a bad person, so hopefully he can come to realise this and change his ways for the better.
Another interesting contrast can be made between the older brothers of Ikuya and Sousuke. Natsuya is a wayward and free spirit, who has undoubtedly captured the hearts of many fangirls. Unfortunately, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He has pretty much abandoned his responsibilities towards Ikuya, using the guise of ‘trust’ and ‘he doesn’t want me around’ to shirk around his brotherly duties. Nao rightfully calls him out for it too. On the other hand, Sousuke’s older brother periodically swings by his room to banter him off. But at heart, it’s clear that he’s just making sure that Sousuke is okay, as well as providing support and encouragement for the precarious path ahead. Sousuke has been presented with two difficult options, and sooner or later, he will have to choose between them. However, I seriously doubt that Free! would make him a cripple, so I’d expect to see Sousuke returning to the pool before S3 ends!
Still, can you believe it? After a lifetime of monogamy with freestyle, Haru decides to mix it up and use others styles too. Turns out we just needed a little kid to pipe up and say ‘You never know if you don’t try’. Obviously, there’s much more back context as to why Haru decided to take up the Individual Medley, namely getting through to Ikuya’s closed-off heart. And the culmination of his efforts allows him to swim right next to Ikuya. I’m pumped for this! That said, Ikuya cannot afford to slump any further, provided that he wants to step up onto the international stage. This individual medley is quite literally sink or swim for him, and I wonder how Haru’s surprise will play into the mix. What kind of effect will it have upon Ikuya? Hopefully a positive one, that lets Ikuya embark upon his road to emotional recovery. With Free! leaving us on a cliffhanger like this one, I’m truly excited to see the outcome! As always, thanks for reading my post and see you next week!