Free! – Episode 7

No manic energy tonight. Very sleepy. Our glistening men will have to use those ample shoulders of theirs to carry a little more weight than usual. Hopefully that won’t be a problem – I found last episode pretty dull in spite of all its touchy-feely character-building pretensions, and I’m really just here to watch Gou be a derp and see Haru and Rin shoot smoldering looks at each other. I’d always thought KyoAni’s slice of life shows were lame, but never before had I actually witnessed a combined beach/desert island/haunted house/slumber party/flashback episode – that is like four played-out tropes too many. Get back in gear, Free. Juggle your resources like this and you’ll never make it to regionals.

Episode 7

0:15 – Wow, this rise out of the water  used as much animation as an entire lesser episode  of Titan

0:23 – Nagisa if you screw this up for Haru  so help me god

2:12 – I kind of wonder if this is any more or less watchable for me than any of KyoAni’s other slice of life shows. I mean, the novelty of it being maleblobs as opposed to moeblobs has kinda worn off, so outside of the vaguely appropriated sports shell, I’m pretty much left with K-On with abs. I guess you fuckers tricked me.

2:52 – Nice shot 

3:16 – Holy shit,  I’m already liking this episode waaay more than the last couple. They’re actually building some real tension here, and all these shots are great. Are they actually trying to evoke Rin’s feeling of discomfort? Is this show trying?

Oh jeez you guys I’m sittin’ up in my chair

3:28 – Animating a fish must suck

3:48 – HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS. LOOK AT THAT OMINOUS SHOT COMPOSITION.  And the split fish shadows dancing on the ground… man, where did THIS show come from?

4:12 – Oh, of course, it’s a dream. That’s perfect – those overwhelming cicadas earlier, now slowly fading into this creeping piano line… all the smudged colors, and the way reality seems to sort of crumble at the edges… alright, Free. Take the stand

4:22 – Well now I’m glad I didn’t do some theme gimmick this week.  Lovely shots left and right

4:39 – This is so great.  A creepy, distinctive setpiece that conveys every single thing we need to know about Rin’s past and motivation with barely a word. KYOANI WHY U TROLL ME LIKE THIS

5:01 – Why are shark teeth a thing 

5:39 – Oh but it is 

6:07 – Gou prattles on about her meaningless shenanigans. Haru’s eyes reside elsewhere.  Soon!

6:33 – “I’ll have their individual swimming styles and data recorded by the time of the match.” Alright, again, that’s great and all, but… this is swimming. You swim your fastest, and the other guy swims his fastest, and the fastest guy wins. Not a whole lot of room for strategic interplay there

6:56 – Rin’s effect on Haru is so strong it activates his hair-tossling automatically 

7:46 – Why are you doing this to yourself?! You’re going down a road I can’t follow, senpai! 

8:19 – Don’t we all?  There’s not a man on this team without some devastating watersports-related baggage

8:59 – Yeah, it’s basically exactly the same as K-On . Last week someone mentioned how male bonding was much more prevalent and overt outside of America’s defensive, screwed-up society, and that makes sense to me. But these characters just don’t ring as teenage males to me – they ring as children, just the way moe SoL characters so often do. It’s a really weird disconnect, and the fact that they’re using it for male characters makes me think this has just become an established rule of the escapist SoL genre. Is it working? I’m kind of blind to moe – are scenes like this successfully making people want to hold these characters’ hands and pinch their cheeks and tell them there aren’t any monsters under the bed?

9:27 – Man this is a weird effect. I’m recognizing Rei’s character so strongly – it’s a weird mixture of glasses-pusher and the direct moe parallel, the authoritative and standoffish but secretly passionate straight-laced type. And Haru is the blank-faced savant, and Rin is the tsundere, and… dear god

9:41 – Is this the plot of the rest of the show?  So, more training, the club will prosper, more slice of life shenanigans, you’ll meet Rin but there will be a conflict and you won’t be able to beat him swimming solo so eventually you’ll meet near the end of the series in the relay and win for real. Did I get it?

9:51 – Not to get 2deep4u or anything, but that’s twice in five minutes that Haru has thought of Rin and then turned to watch an object fly away into the sky. Symbolism!

9:57 – “Matsuoka-senpai, you’re not taking the bus to regionals with everyone else?!” Again Free shows some less-than-graceful exposition

10:29 – This is a conflict I can actually get behind.  It only required one dedicated scene to establish, but it’s fundamental enough that anyone can somewhat understand this character now

11:15 – “I’m going to see my dad.” Also nice. I like that they don’t drag this out with some trashy reveal – that flashback already told us everything, so the show can just move on.

11:24 – Here’s another iteration of that “rookies are useful for narrative” thing – one of the main purposes of Rin’s roommate is simply to give him someone to exposit and react to . Characters monologuing exposition to themselves is pretty ugly

11:54 – They are going crazy with the water  this week

12:45 – Nice parallel with the roommate’s own feelings.  This episode overall isn’t quite living up to those first few minutes, but it’s still a far cry from what this show was last week

13:17 – I love these shots . One of my favorite things about anime. They’re called pillow shots, I believe – they add nothing to the direct narrative, but they convey mood and a sense of space, and work wonders for pacing. A very un-western convention that carries across film, anime, and comics. In this case, they’ve significantly shifted the tone of the show throughout this episode, and here in particular they pull back the focus from the specificity and passion of Rin’s speech to the contemplative wider atmosphere of the early morning in an extremely organic way

13:36 – An absolutely lovely pan.  The scenery looks more like a sketch with watercolors than harsh cells. The bird in flight adds a nice focal point to draw the eye upward and also echoes that reoccuring “object in flight” motif

What happened to this show you guys

14:07 – All of it together now 

14:19 – Pff, you call those bags under your eyes?  Tomoko is not impressed

15:28 – Makoto’s going for a PhD in thoughtful concerned looks 

15:39 – Can you feel the heat?  Cause you can jump in the pool if you want, the first race doesn’t start for an hour

15:55 – Omigod you guys regionals 

16:47 – At least the show also realizes  swimming is an absurd subject for a sports show

17:11 – Gou is best Free . I can’t say I’m thrilled that the moment KyoAni adopt a more angular and less moefied design style, they use it for The Swimming Anime

17:42 – He’ll be publishing his thesis any day now 

18:35 – Oh no he didn’t 

18:56 – Oshit they dropped the bass. Now you KNOW It’s On

19:19 – Makoto stop your body can’t take the strain 

19:28 – Nice shot 

21:32 – That’s right. ALL the water 

And Done

Oh man, intense ending, huh? I guess Haru’s gonna have to start giving a shit if he wants to get on Rin’s level.

Anyway, that episode wasn’t the funniest, but it handily made up for that by being far more visually inspired than I ever remember this show being. New episode director? Either way, I’m all for it, and I’m looking forward to the aftermath of Haru’s sweet, chlorinated tears. If you want to get serious, Free, I am right there with you

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