Free! – Episode 4

Welp, three episodes in and the fourth awaiting. Last time, it was around week four that I went more or less literally insane on Crime Edge fever. These are different times and I’m a different man, but cracking is never really that improbable. So just… just give me a moment to get the demons out.

If I may be briefly indulged, I have to say I have a whole goddamn lot of respect for comedians. And I mean actualcomedians here, people who make real jokes with setups and punchlines and creativity and wit and insight and storytelling and tone, who don’t go for easy targets, who don’t play off in-crowd camaraderie just to tell an audience what they always wanted to hear. I’m not talking about hur dur what a wacky 4koma situation[1]   orlulz we are both fanz of anime[2]   or WOOPSIE DAISY I SLIPPED AND NOW TITS[3]  , I am talking about COMEDIANS goddamnit. And I don’t want to say my elitist preferences regarding lulz are because I have more developed taste in comedy or anything, but they are because that is exactly true.

There was a point here.

Right. As far as actual comedians go, I have tremendous respect, because comedy is goddamn hard. First, it certainly is a legitimate art form – it requires creativity and personality and an understanding of pacing and structure, and at its best it can conjure insight and common humanity in a method all its’ own. Second, one of the great challenges unique to comedy is that it’s inherently built on revelations or surprises – sometimes it shocks the audience, sometimes it surprises them by combining old thoughts in new ways, sometimes it merely rephrases the mundane to make it the absurd or profound. Meaning comedy requires a constant infusion of novelty, and cannot be built on craft alone. Meaning every single joke needs to reach further, think deeper, and try harder than the one before.

Meaning goddamnit you guys I did not sign up for this. I HATE THESE COMEDY WRITEUPS. Fuck this shit, fuck this show, fuck you people.

Let’s swimming.

Episode 4

0:00 – Fun fact: I actually wrote that one on Tuesday to cut down on prep work, utterly sober. One day I will do a writeup and it will just be one continuous scream.

0:00.1 – Addendum: In all seriousness, all the love[5]  . You are my favorite community

0:13 – It’s a tough decision.[6]   What if Rin’s there?

That actually is a great gag though. I am continuously perplexed by the amount of moe they are able to wring out of Haruka.

You know, I actually think I might be able to enjoy moe more when it’s applied to a gender I’m not attracted to, since combining it with actual attraction to make this “Look at this adorable thing, helpless thing! DON’T YOU WANT TO FUCK IT?!” combination just doesn’t work for me

1:11 – “What’s Med. R? Is that someone’s name?” Ohhh, so they added glasses-pusher to give us an audience proxy, too. Man, these guys know how this genre structure works!

Should I do a bit more on that one? Uh, briefly: you know how so many sports or action shows/films/books/etc center their story on some kind of newcomer or rookie? Well, that actually serves a ton of purposes – it saddles you with an automatic underdog, it provides for a fully articulated heroic journey, it optimizes the opportunity for surprises, etc. But one of the critical roles it serves in any story where a game with established rules is central to the drama is that it lets other characters directly explain those rules and concepts to the camera without it coming across as clumsy exposition – if they have to explain it to the rookie, then letting the audience know how everything works comes across naturally

Sorry if you already knew that or it was obvious. Moving on!

1:26 – “Man, even if it’s justified, this much exposition seems kinda boring. How can we… oh, right. Manservice[7]  .”

1:50 – I feel like they’re getting some pretty distinct expressions[8]   out of these more angular and older-looking character designs. KyoAni are pretty much expression masters (though White Fox[9]   are giving them some competition)

Damnit, this episode is giving me too many real things to talk about! Stop being interesting, Free!

1:58 – “It’s my brother’s old regimen.” Gasp![10]   Seriously can’t tell if the show is pushing these undertones or if all-male sports shows are just naturally homoerotic

3:30 – Well, at least I know ONE thing[11]   the show is selling!

3:36 – …and selling…[12]  


3:55 – Wow, they didn’t even make a joke about that. Man, at least Monogatari puffs up its’ smut by pretending to be about, like, perspectives and shit

4:13 – Glasses you stop being a sex object[14]   this instant!

4:21 – Seriously these camera angles are unstoppable[15]  

4:39 – Alright if I pause every time this show objectifies Glasses I’ll never get anywhere. But I do like that Gou just straight-up admits she’s forgotten the plot and it’s all biceps to her

4:54 – I’m not the only one who sees those penguins, right?[16]   Just making sure

5:19 – Man, Rei just gracefully sinking[17]   to the bottom of the pool actually had me laughing out loud. I forgot how good KyoAni are at physical comedy

5:32 – “Haruka-sempai… why do you swim?” Jesus Gou, getting into the deep philosophical questions already? Give it time, we haven’t even had tea yet

6:00 – “But I think he’d be a little closer to his dream if he were with you guys.” THE ANTS ARE A METAPHOR FOR TOGETHERNESS.[18]   Jesus KyoAni, you’re gonna have to try harder than THAT to impress me

6:27 – It’s actually awesome to see the rival say this[19]   pretty much immediately. Very tired of rival sycophant #387

6:40 – It all comes down to talent, eh? Sorry, I don’t buy it[20]  

That’s right, I’ll plug last season’s shows if I want to. Just how I roll[21]  

6:55 – “They haven’t even been working out,” he mutters, disgusted. Flinging the hand towel over his shoulder, he walks out all in a huff

7:10 – And then he goes for a run. It’s obviously pretty presumptuous to say, but I’m kind of jealous of people who find such satisfaction in competition – all my demons are related to my artistic output, and I can’t quiet them by just being even meaner to my body. A shame

7:30 – Man, I had this expression for like all of high school[22]

7:53 – Bow before your overlord. 

This episode’s straight-up very funny. Which actually makes writing about it harder. Conflicted!

8:29 – Oh my god Rei’s laugh is great

8:50 – Even goggles won’t stop him from glasses-pushing . To whoever declared they’d be covering glasses-pushing duties – that still counts!

9:44 – Rei really does add a lot to this series.  Genki and bighands are too upbeat and Haruka is too moe (and by moe I mean lobomotized) to really add enough flavor to the dynamic

9:57 – Laughed as he sank again. So good

10:01 – Man after my own heart, Haru-chan 

10:30 – And they just cut away from Sensei. This episode is really goddamn funny!

That said, my drunk is escalating faster than this episode is ending. Power through!

11:22 – “The water doesn’t like you.” “A more appropriate analogy would be.. a submarine.” See, I can’t just pause and say “hey look, the show made another great joke.” Free! you are killing me

11:51 – I am continuously laughing what is wrong with my body.  Man, applying classic glasses-pushing techniques to swimming is just endless entertainment

12:58 – “I believe the color also plays a psychological role.” Or the entire process plays a psychological role. Because this is just some magic dancing shoes shit applied to mostly-naked men

13:33 – How’d this suddenly become the best comedy I’d seen in years?  Free, you weren’t nearly this good last episode. What the fuck happened?

14:05 – Because why not 

14:28 – Don’t worry Gou,  it was hard on all of us 

14:36 – “Now I know how guys feel when they go shopping with girls…” Ohoho, directly addressing how this show plays with traditional narrative gender roles, Gou? Hmmm…

14:59 – “Well, this is awkward.  Should I tell him he looks great in that suit? Shit, no, that’s stupid, we haven’t really talked in years. God, what would we talk about, anyway? Did we even have anything in common beyond swimming? I wonder if he picked up the new One Direction album. Fuck, no, that’s stupid, HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW YOU ANYMORE.

15:01 – “I like swimming.” 

15:57 – Look, we get it.  It’s your catchphrase. Everyone’s real happy for you

16:05 – And a thousand pens hover restlessly over a thousand possible doujins 

16:09 – I’d say it writes itself, but that’s not true. It’s actively writing itself 

17:34 – Why is it so funny every time??? 

18:47 – It really only gets better . Watching this makes me think no other studio actually understands how jokes work or something. Timing, people. Setup. Expectations. Don’t linger on the dismount. Jeez

Anyway, this episode’s structure is also classically sound comedy stuff. An internal arc built through a series of comic but actually relevant conflicts (Rei can’t swim!) resolved by the addition of a variable actually moving the central plot forward (Rin’s “I need you” speech)

19:45 – “Just dive in.” “…what?” “Dive in… with your heart.” “That doesn’t help.” That might actually be my favorite joke. Don’t you get it, Rei? HE’S TRYING TO IMPART A MEANINGLESS SHOUNEN MORAL

21:21 – Yes, obviously the graceful freedom of the noble butterfly  inspired him to swim. Great work, Free

And Done

Jesus, that episode was actually good! Consistent humor! Excellent pacing! What the fuck!

I don’t know where that came from, and it kinda only makes my job harder, but I’ll take it! Pretty honestly impressed here; in my mind, this episode shifted the show from “an amusing experiment in anime gender norms cast in a very typical genre shell” to “an actually witty and kinda self-aware experiment in gender norms cast in a very typical genre shell.” That’s a good shift! That is a very good shift!

Also Gou is a great audience stand-in, Rei makes the overall team dynamic much, much funnier, and the comedic pacing is just awesome. Holy shit guys, this show just got kinda good!