Free! – Episode 2

God damn. Last season was rough on me, guys. I started out covering six shows and ultimately dropped to four, but even that was an insane project. So I set some ground rules this season: no covering comedies, no covering any shows that don’t provide their own material, and NO FUCKING CRIME EDGE. And by Crime Edge, I mean any show where the material itself is basically non-existent, and I’m instead doing my own comedy routine.

But here I am. Covering Free! A show that has displayed essentially zero intellectual merit whatsoever, and seems designed to be as semi-intentionally funny of a rote genre exercise as possible. A show whose biggest claim to fame is fetishizing the gender KyoAni isn’t traditionally known for fetishizing.

And to make things even worse, this shit plays on Wednesday night. Last week was a holiday, so I was perfectly within my rights, or possibly even obligated, to get considerably drunk. I can’t do that every week. I have work tomorrow you fuckers.

But, I mean, KyoAni are super talented. Their animation is always top-notch, obviously, but even their storytelling is good when they feel like having good storytelling. And Chuunibyou proved they can even be intentionally funny (again, if they feel like it). So let’s do this.

Episode 2

0:00 – Okay. This is good. I got this. Sure, following Crime Edge Wednesdays up with Free Wednesdays might be more or less turning me into an alcoholic, but sometimes you just gotta take one for the team and sabotage your mental and physical health to entertain a few anonymous strangers on the internet. Roll with the punches.

0:12 – Dat dubstep. Dose mucles. Why was I worried?

0:21 – “And you’re as cold as ever. You really piss me off.” If gay tsunderes are the herald of that cliché archetype’s end, so be it

0:47 – “Rin has a stronger kick – but Haru’s stroke is stronger!” See, I was wondering about this. If this truly is going to be a sports anime, how are they gonna get around the fact that swimming is like the least interesting sport imaginable? There’s no interaction whatsoever, you’re just racing the clock and hoping your training and technique makes you move in a straight line a little bit faster than the other guy. Where’s the dramatic turns and shocking turnarounds in that?

Granted, if Chihayafuru made freaking karuta compelling, I guess swimming should be no problem…

2:30 – And they cut from the beginning of the battle to Rin pensively staring up at his bedroom ceiling. As if the countless thematic parallels to Evangelion weren’t already abundantly clear

2:40 – Oh wow, he lost? Jeez, so much for the Australian swimming gulag.

2:46 – Yeah, that’s not exploitable at all 

3:53 – It is incredibly strange seeing that KyoAni archetype staple  being applied to a male character. Normally the non-threatening male accomplice is obsessed with girls while only existing as full comic relief (Sunohara, Isshiki, even Kyon’s old friends from Haruhi), but this guy is adopting a role normally filled by one of the female characters. It’s interesting to see the ways their clearly well-established and formulaic (in scenario structure, not plot development) system maps itself to something like this

4:42 – Gou led Rin to the pool? So she’s essentially playing matchmaker for her brother and his childhood friend. This plot is developing fast!

5:00 – “Let’s start a swim club!” KyoAni mantaining a perfect batting average on school-club-centric anime

I need another beer and another bingo card

5:05 – “Let’s ask Haru!” And of course he’s just waiting in his bath

5:16 – Wow.  That’s actually an awesome gag – him being basically naked as per the usual, then one beat with the character who’s maybe a little uncomfortable about Haru-chan’s unstoppable Free!


6:45 – “He came back every New Year, but never told us?” Haru grimaces, but says nothing. He keeps the pain tucked deep inside

7:36 – “And Haru-chan can be the vice president!” Wow, Haru-chan is such a natural vice president it’s scary

8:39 – “We heard you had a job that involved swimsuits.” Oh man, Genki’s got a sly side. I like it

9:11 – “Traps and pecs everywhere!” Goddamnit Gou, keep it in your pants. This is hard on all of us

9:58 – “There’s nobody named Matsuoka on the swim team.” Oh shit, the plot thickens! And becomes less wholly predictable, which I am so completely in favor of

10:44 – “You’re not allowed to run away.”  KyoAni’s sense of visual comedy and comedic timing is definitely one of their saving graces. It doesn’t make their SoL’s watchable for me, but it’s apparent in all their shows

11:10 – Oh my god are we seriously getting a Let’s Clean The Pool synth montage? Goddamnit Free

11:16 – Haru-chan you have a serious problem 

11:21 – This poster is actually amazing 

13:01 – Haru-chan you have a number  of serious problems 

15:00 – “Damn! I can’t shake him!” I’d guess that’s because you’re both going in straight lines in the same direction. Because, you know, this is competitive swimming

15:36 – “I’ve felt it before… this sensation.” Oshit Haru’s about to unleash his final form

17:15 – “Please let me join!” Yes! I am all in favor of more screentime for KyoAni’s new, less chipmunk-based female characters

18:01 – You know what else is great? Seeing these characters don’t live in a school club vacuum 

20:10 – “That’s why he quit swimming. He hurt Rin.” Seriously? Is this degree of emotional oversensitivity attractive? Because c’mon, Rin’s ego is clearly made of glass here – I don’t think Haru giving up the one thing he loves because Rin can’t lose gracefully is the sign of a nurturing male figure.

20:27 – Goddamnit KyoAni, you and your breathtaking background work 

20:47 – “I’m n-n-not doing this to swim with you guys or anything!” It’s okay Rin, we believe you

22:?? – There is no escape 

And Done

This show is very silly, you guys. Extremely silly. I just want you to know that.

See you next week.

One thought on “Free! – Episode 2

  1. I agree that it’s silly, but damn if it doesn’t also have some of the best artwork of the entire summer season. And I have no problem admitting it – the fanservice, while hilariously ridiculous, is nonetheless much appreciated. You might be drinking beer but I get out the popcorn with my front row seat. 😉
    (Also, while swimming clearly isn’t an interesting a sport as basketball or whatever else the kids are watching for sports anime these days, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the least interesting. I mean, there’s also golf. Or bowls.)

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