Free! – Episode 1

Alright! Back from work, food recklessly consumed, beer at the ready, gin waiting in the wings. LET’S GO SWIMMING.

…is all I want to say, but I should probably note at least a tiny bit of my perspective here.

I don’t really care about the manservice thing. I find the insecure and embarrassing complaints hilarious, and I’m all for equality in show demographics.

That said, the advertisements for this show have pretty obviously focused on showing a lot of half-naked men, and fanservice doesn’t really do anything for me regardless of what gender it’s aimed at. In my mind, it basically just objectifies characters and makes it harder to take them seriously – but it seems like this show is gonna have some fun with that, so we’ll see how it goes.

As far as KyoAni in general is concerned? Hyouka, Chuunibyou, and Disappearance are three of my all-time favorite anime. But… well…

I dropped K-On. I dropped Lucky Star. I dropped Tamako Market. I need my shows to do something, to saysomething, to mean something – and while I think that isn’t incompatible with the Slice of Life genre (Yotsuba and Genshiken are two of my favorite manga, after all), I do think KyoAni’s interpretation of slice of life generally equates to “utter escapism, no reflection on our world, no sharp edges or truths.”

So there are plenty of landmines lining the distance between current me and a me who actually cares about this show. And I honestly hope that our sculpted, majestic heroes glide effortlessly between them. And I’m just warning everyone right now that if things turn K-On-ish, the only way I’ll be getting through this is with a heaping plate of mocking derision.

But either way, it should be a ridiculous ride. And hey, I’ve got a beer!


Episode 1

0:00 – Seriously, even if this sucks, I have had a huge smile on my face all day just because it exists and /a/ has to deal with it. You go KyoAni

0:03 – Ah, the single water droplet on the still pool. A deft choice; taking an iconic image indicative of classic psychological dramas, and subversively applying it to our story of brotherhood and chiseled abs.

Full disclosure: I have already switched to gin.

0:27 – Goddamn are KyoAni shows beautiful

0:49 – Omigod as soon as that synthy music jumped in. I can’t help it. Jesus christ KyoAni you give so few fucks

1:22 – “Stop calling me Haru-chan already.” So he’s gonna be the Mio, huh?

1:54 – “I only do freestyle.” That’s right, mysterious stranger. Haru-chan rides alone

Is it sexist of me to find these classic, rote genre tricks so amusing when applied to men whose physicality is being so emphasized? Is this what this entire genre is like? Maybe it’s actually sexist in the other direction, since I just find it tasteless and offensive when a genre shell exists to sell female bodies, but here I just find it… oh shit, that’s stepping into MRA territory ABORT ABORT. Uuugh, now I gotta go wash that sickly fedora taste out of my mouth

2:18 – “I JUST WANT TO FEEL THE WATER.” “Yeah, there was some funky stuff going through my head back then.” Dear lord, is this show going to be intentionally funny, too? I might actually love this

2:34 – “When you’re ten, you’re a prodigy. At fifteen, a genius. At twenty, just an ordinary person.” That’s both a great line and probably a better summation of the false prophet of talent than… ohoho, you almost got me, Sakurasou! Making me repeat my material, you cheeky bastard! Alright, let’s instead say that’s a nice, sharply felt counterpoint to OreGairu’s “People who don’t try have no right to complain about those with talent”

Also, this guy’s first actual line reminds me of all the KyoAni protagonists I actually like (Oreki, Kyon, Yuuta – yeah, they’ve kinda got a type, don’t they?), so that’s a good thing

4:22 – You know, the difference between male and female fanservice might really be enough. When a show like K-On has its characters act inhumanly clumsy and incompetent, I actively disengage and think “man, it is a truly, deeply problematic thing to find that helplessness attractive,” but here I just see the bare chests and laugh and laugh

4:34 – His hand is three times the size of that cat . Can someone explain Yaoi Hands to me?

5:07 – Hair sweep with cascading water  count: 2

On another note, I feel like one of the indications of how male-centric most anime are is that I immediately notice the presence of multiple equally confident and prominent male characters – normally there’s just the one central dude and a bunch of less-present side dudes or unthreatening comic relief characters (even KyoAni does this), the better to self-insert into the relationship drama with. Unless we’re talking action shows or whatever, which can often be homoerotic in their own way

5:20 – That’s right, let’s just leave the camera right… there .

5:37 – Who knew getting AotY was this easy? 

6:16 – “I hope it gets better soon so you can swim.” “HMM…” I guess that makes bighands Ritsu, then?

7:05 – “Want to eat on the roof?” “He needs to get a clue.” I love how in a normal show the tone would side with Haru-chan, but here there’s that upbeat synthy music playing and the show’s all YES. ROOF LUNCH FOR TWO DO IT

7:47 – “I don’t think I saw you after the club shut down.” “Yes, because I went to a different school.” Normally I’d complain about the hackneyed exposition, but… okay, yeah, sorry, that’s pretty damn hackneyed exposition

8:18 – “We’re not little kids anymore. Things aren’t the same.” Do all sports anime have literally the same plot? I mean, I understand that most artistry (lol) is in execution, and I actually like some sports stuff because of that (Cross Game, Girls und Panzer), but…

8:40 – “How about a hot springs club?” That’s nice. I like that genki just wants to be friends again, and isn’t immediately pulling the “but swimming WAS YOUR LIFE!” card

9:38 – “You live by yourself, Haru-chan?” Welp, that fills out MY anime cliché bingo card

10:53 – Years ago, on that day… they made a pledge beneath the sakura tree.  THE TREE REPRESENTS CHANGE

11:09 – “If you swim with me… I’ll show you a sight you’ve never seen before!” Not rising to that bait. I’ve made it this far, I can weather this storm

12:08 – Holy shit, we’re getting a haunted house in the first episode? How many bingo sheets am I gonna fill out?!?

13:10 – “Romantic, right?” Yeah man, romantic as fuck. This episode’s structure is honestly pretty solid, though – it’s a classic skeleton (reconnecting with an element of the past through combining reminiscence on a younger narrative with a series of current touchstones… there’s more to it than that, but you know exactly the kind of episode I’m talking about), but they’re executing it professionally enough. Community‘s a big fan of it

14:30 – This show is a gem.  I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything as difficult and stressful as a comedy-style writeup again after the exhaustion of Crime Edge, but this show’s raising a compelling counterargument

15:19 – I was about to make the “Jeez, Rin-chan sure has changed!” cliché joke, but then genki just straight-up says Rin-chan has kinda changed

15:24 – Precious detail: a scene transition that makes the screen wobble like water

17:21 – Oh, she’s dark and stormy’s sister? Right, the hair. That’ll be cute

18:48 – Goddamnit is Mio dere about swimming. Also, I really like this song

19:30 – “Can’t you wait?!” Swimming might come later, but that’s no excuse for Mio not to take his clothes off

21:20 – #3, and it’s a beauty 

Also, skinnydipping. Why not? That scene actually worked for me, so fuck the haters

21:50 – WHAT is this ED

22:08 – What

22:13 – I don’t even

23:01 – Yeah okay 

Seriously, this episode has had me laughing more than anything I’ve seen in the last few seasons. Goddamnit KyoAni

And Done

Goddamnit KyoAni. You assholes. This could not be more ridiculous. I can’t even… what… WHAT…

Agh, fuck it. See you next week.

4 thoughts on “Free! – Episode 1

  1. Loved this first episode – the lolz alone make it more than worth it. It’s visually a stunning series too though, and as a competitive swimmer myself, I really appreciate that characters are swimming and actually looking realistic. I’m not sure male swimmers are generally quite as ripped as all that (or at least, not that I recall), but I’m not gonna split hairs over that one. Personally, I just know I’m going to ride this show all the way – if it’s an anime that’s continously as ridiculous as this, while knowing full well that it’s ridiculous, then I’m sold. The manservice is just a perk.

    • Yeah, it was kind of an unexpected joy to watch. I hope I enjoy it as much next week without the elements of surprise and liquor.

  2. Pingback: Feminism and Free! | Wrong Every Time

  3. No sharp edges is exactly right, about KyoAni shows. They’re there to comfort you, and not by giving you comforting messages, but by just being there. Glad to see I’m not the only one who had the exact same analysis.

    I’m not a huge fan of club shows/ridiculous shows, so I’ll let this pass for now.

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