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High Speed! Free! Starting Days The Movie Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

A look at the swimming boys when they were definitely more boys than young men.

What They Say:
Before they were making waves in high school, Haru and Makoto took their marks in junior high! Take a dive into the past with your favorite swimming boys and new faces as they learn what it means to work together and make new friends.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and English language dub in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The film is one that uses the sound design well when it can, which is mostly with the swimming sequences themselves. These have a good design about them as there’s a fuller feeling where needed and the impact of the water feels like it’s stronger and more engaging. The flow of it is solid and makes for something that definitely enhances the show. The bulk of the show is still mostly dialogue and that means fairly standard scenes there. That’s not a bad thing as it handles it well and competently with a clean sense of placement and depth where needed while generally working an engaging forward soundstage. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally in theaters back in 2015, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Clocking in at two hours there’s plenty of space to work with here and the film makes out very well for it. Animated by Kyoto Animation, the series is one that’s simply beautiful to watch play out with its colors, vibrancy, and the general pop of everything that it wants to do. Taken to the theatrical side, it’s almost basically the same because of how good the series looked but it’s able to spread out things a bit more which gives it a greater fluidity throughout. The end result is a fantastic looking show that this transfer captures beautifully. There’s a lot of detail to be had throughout both in character and backgrounds and all of it comes across wonderfully clean and problem free. Having enjoyed the look of this show in the simulcast, this just takes it to another level.

The packaging for this release is pretty solid as we get a standard-sized Blu-ray case with an o-card around it. The two work with different pieces of key artwork used for posters during its release where the o-card has the full slate of characters across the top and the pool view below. The case artwork is more of an illustration style with the core four together set against a really rich blue sky background. The back cover for both of them are the same with some nice swimming elements with the dolphins here as we get a good summary of the premise as well as some slightly larger images from the film itself. The technical grid covers all the details along the bottom and there’s a few mentions around the set regarding it being a prequel film. There’s a nice two-panel spread on the reverse side with the cast in full there and we also get a really appealing twenty-page booklet. This shows off a lot of beautiful artwork from the film throughout it and then a couple of pages of character artwork.

The menu design for this release goes with a static menu design that reworks the visual from the case artwork with the core four along the left while some of the supporting characters are along the right, all tied together into one cohesive piece. The various shades of blue really look great here with how it comes across and the logo working that with some white edging definitely connects it all. The navigation strip along the bottom is cute as we get it done in a wave fashion that lets us see some of the artwork behind it. The selections are in white and easy to navigate as there’s little here beyond the film and some trailers for other projects..


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With some successful TV series material behind it with the Free! projects, Kyoto Animation came back at the end of 2015 with the High Speed film that is loosely based on the novel series, which was the inspiration for the TV series. Since there’s a bit of a interpretative relationship between the two it can’t be a completely faithful adaptation from what it seems but it works everything in a way that, in the end, enhances the TV series that came out and sets a more cohesive feeling going forward. Admittedly, I’m a bit wary of getting into a film that takes our high school swimming boys and going back into their middle school days but we had enough nods toward it and the results of it within the main series that it felt like there could be enough to explore here.

The premise for this is admittedly fairly simple as we go back to the start of middle school with Haruka getting ready for it all. With Makoto always by his side and encouraging him along the way, there’s a lot of the familiar when it comes to the start of middle school. Finding out which classes you have and that your friend isn’t in most of them, the pressure of being told you must join a club and figuring that out, and just the longing to be in the water that is a simple part of who Haruka is. Makoto is doing his best to encourage him toward swimming because he really enjoys doing that with him but he’s trying to balance it so that he’s not pushy about it. Which is problematic since at time both of them are being approached about basketball and that would have given us a very different series.

The two end up forming a slow and not altogether easy friendship with Ikuya and Asahi and that provides a bit more life in the mix since Asahi is so outgoing while Ikuya is a lot like Haruka in his reserved nature but with a kind of bubbling under the surface anger that’s written plainly on his face. For Haruka, who just wants to go through his days quietly, having these two in his life and inserting themselves into it such as during lunch and so forth just makes it all the harder to exist. But it’s one of those important moments that along with Makoto helps to ease Haruka out of his shell to some degree and actually be friends with the rest. Especially as it all comes to the swimming club and they get involved there in learning how it’s run and some of the pressures that come from it even as newbies.

A lot of the struggle that complements this is the boys figuring out their swimming style, struggling with swimming competitively in general for Asahi, and then some of what comes when they get paired up against some more experienced competitors when Sano middle school gets involved. There’s a lot to like with all of this just in seeing the dynamic and how they help each other out and in following up some of this with the Take Your Mark film ends up giving it a lot more cohesion than I expected. I also liked the little subplot involved Haruka’s father along the way as there’s very little going on here in relation to adults but it’s an important piece for Haruka. And the way that some realize that Makoto needs to really decide why he’s doing all of this as well since he really does seem like he’s doing all of this just because he wants to be near Haruka. While that’s fine on some level it can be problematic in others and that has Makoto going through a questioning/distancing period that lets him really figure things out.

In Summary:
While we know how much of this plays out in the long run there’s still plenty to like here with the High Speed film. It gives us a look at the middle school days and a kind of cementing of interests over time as well as the establishing of connections and friendships that have a lot of movement over the next couple of years. It’s not exactly critical material in a way for those looking for something that might be a game changer but it’s some welcome additional foundation to be able to enjoy the TV material and the other film projects. It’s beautifully animated and it has a solid dub with it that will delight fans in getting more of their favorite swimming boys.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player 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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