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Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club Episode #01 Anime Review

4 min read

Free Episode 1
Free Episode 1
When you find what drives you, it can be hard to think of anything else but that as it dominates everything about you.

What They Say:
Nanase Haruka loved to be in the water – loved swimming. In elementary school, Nanase Haruka, Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin, and Hazuki Nagisa attended the same swimming class together. Time passed, and as Haruka was living an uneventful high school life, he suddenly encountered Rin again. Rin challenged Haruka to a race and showed him how much stronger he had become. Soon enough, Makoto and Nagisa also rejoined the group, and along with a new classmate, Ryugazaki Rei, they established the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a short that caught a lot of people’s attention surfaced, Free got itself the green light to go for a full series from Kyoto Animation, which has been mostly focused on shows with many girls as the main characters and a few boys along they way. They’ve produced some very engaging shows over the years, but when I saw the previes here with its focus on the swimming side of it, the beauty of the animation and the fluidity of it all, it’s a show I couldn’t wait to see since it’ll delve into the bonds of men in a different way than a lot of the shows we often do get that cover it. Working with seventeen year old young men, after giving us a taste of them as ten year olds where their swimming skills are certainly impressive, we see in the present that their bonds have certainly lasted over the years as well as some of their personality quirks.

We’re introduced well to the core group, with Haru as the lead as a young man who is definitely strong in the water and can’t live without it, so much so that he spends a lot of time in the baths in the off season. His longing to be in the water, be it the ocean or pool, is made pretty clear. His longtime childhood friend, Mako, tries to keep him a bit on the straight and narrow but gives in to his friend easily. What changes a bit is the arrival of Nagisa, a friend of sorts of theirs from elementary school that transferred away but is now back and is just treating it all like old times. Through their first blush time together, we get a good idea of how the high school works with the fact that the pool isn’t used and there’s no swim club and we get some decent time to the past seeing what the boys were like as they started to go their separate ways before middle school.

When the trio head to their old elementary school to check out the no longer in use pool building, it’s a good little bit of fake haunted fun in a way, and we definitely get to see some cute bits about all of them, but what it also reveals is that their other friend has returned to the area. Rin, who had gone off to Australia, now has a very laid back and cool feeling to him but also a real competitive edge as well as he challenges Haru from the get go, which definitely goes back to their old days in a lot of ways. Of course, there are problems with such a challenge, but it’s the kind of thing that brings them all back together in some form and makes it clear that Rin is not the bright, outgoing engaging person he once was.

In Summary:
The seeds of a fun series are placed here in this opening episode as we see four friends that knew each other in elementary school come back together in high school. While shows involving young men in high school are common, they tend to be like a lot of the girls shows in that there’s little really going on and just floating through life. Here, these characters have some passions in their lives and actively do things beyond just having personality quirks. And it also looks like a few girls are going to come into play as well to help flesh it out and keep it a bit more realistic. The characters from the get go are all pretty likable and left me wanting to spend more time with them. It also just looks fantastic, which I expected, but am glad to see is done in full here. There’s a good sense of fun and friendship here but also some passions that burn deep yet also calm quite a bit. There’s a lot to like here and the opening episode has definitely left an impression in a lot of ways. It’s the first show of the season that really left me wanting more.

Grade: B+

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Apple TV via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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