Watch It or Pass It: This is the first offering this summer season that gives us
wet pretty boys. The answer is obvious.
Summary: Nanase Haruka loved to be in the water – loved swimming. In elementary school, Nanase Haruka, Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin, and Hazuki Nagisa attended the same swimming class together. Time passed, and as Haruka was living an uneventful high school life, he suddenly encountered Rin again. Rin challenged Haruka to a race and showed him how much stronger he had become. Soon enough, Makoto and Nagisa also rejoined the group, and along with a new classmate, Ryugazaki Rei, they established the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club. -taken from Crunchyroll
If you happen to have blood in your veins and are not a fungus or lichen, you must have heard of the furor that a half-minute video wrought on the internet amongst the female anime fanbase, including the fujoshi masses. Kyoto Animation released a short video of four boys removing their clothes to reveal skin-tight swimming trunks, the kind that professional swimmers wear in competitions, think Olympics. This short video only served to whet our appetite because we wanted more of those four boys. Fanarts, fanfiction, AMV, MAD, meme, and just about every form of self-expression brought those four boys to life, because we all wanted more than just 30 seconds of animation. Crunchyroll even opened a petition (which I signed) to submit to Kyoto Animation begging them to make the anime happen.
And then the news that Kyoto Animation did mean to make this into an anime after all and its name would be known as Free! Why that name? I’ll explain a little later.
The anticipation had been building up since March and now it’s the beginning of July. The first episode aired today (July 3rd) for premium users on Crunchyroll. It’ll be free (oh yes, the puns!) for non-premium users a week from today.
Episode Plot (mild spoilers): The episode starts off with all four protagonists in their younger years, gathered at their local swimming pool. Haruka is only interested in being connected to the water. He only swims freestyle, hence the name of the anime. While he’s swimming, another boy joins him in the water, Matsuoka Rin, and asks him to join him for the next swimming tourney. Haruka turns him down and starts swimming again. Fast-forward to the present and Haruka is in his very small bathtub, simply submerged in water. Now that the boys are in high school, they meet up again. Rin had moved to Australia to attend a swimming school because of his goal, but now that he was back in Japan, he was attending a school that specialized in producing powerful swimmers. When they were little, Rin promised Haruka he’d show him something very special. And Haruka wants to swim no matter what. He dares Rin into showing him that very special something again. Rin gladly takes up the challenge.
Animation: We’re dealing with boys and water. It is a given that 3D animation works much better to depict water. And in this case both the 3D and 2D blend seamlessly and without hiccups. As is the norm in televised anime, the foreground in all the scenes is beautiful and detailed; eyes shine and tremble, cheeks blush, water drips. In turn the backgrounds suffer. There’s less definition in faces and at one point you can’t tell who’s getting on a platform, ready to jump, until a character in the foreground mentions the new character’s name. This should not deter you from enjoying wet boys in swimming trunks.
Character Design: All four boys, so far as this first episode is concerned, are very distinct. Their hair and eye colors are different. Even their personalities are different. There’s the main character, Nanase Haruka, who flips his hair whether it’s wet or dry. Tachibana Makoto seems to be very attached to Haruka to the point that he’ll walk into his home to pick him up for school, and not bat an eye while doing so. The third boy is Hazuki Nagisa and he seems to be the life of the party, pulling the other two to go along with his plans. The fourth boy, and the one who has been living in Australia, is Matsuoka Rin. He now has serrated shark teeth and swims like nobody’s business. The one thing that I noticed right away was their shoulders. Swimmers have square shoulders from constantly exercising those muscles. Even dressed, you can tell their shoulders are the shoulders of swimmers. I like that detail. KyoAni and Animation Do did their research.
Seiyuu: The first one to speak is Haruka. They’re all in grade school and they’re supposed to sound like boys. I couldn’t tell you who the seiyuu are for their younger selves, but I can say with certainty that the seiyuu for Makoto and Nagisa sound too girly. Their voices jarred me and were distracting. Even after watching it more than once, I still find their voices wrong for the young boys. When they’re in high school, they get male seiyuu. I think the actors did a great job.
Localizing: Honorifics were kept. I think it’s because Haruka is sometimes called Haru-chan and he hates that. It makes sense to keep the honorifics in if this will be a running gag throughout the season.
Opening and Closing Credits: The opening has lots of bubbles, 3D animation, naked male torsos and a very catchy song by OLDCODEX, whose frontman is the seiyuu for Makoto. The closing credits don’t disappoint. If the opening was naked, wet fun, the ending was cosplaying fun in the desert where Haruka searches for water and sometimes they’re in a club dancing which looks like tons of fun. You still get to see naked navels, though. The song is performed by all five seiyuu.
Conclusion: You have to watch this, specially if you’re female and like boys swimming in next to nothing next to other boys swimming in next to nothing, and some cases nothing at all. This is only the first episode, but already the internet has exploded as a result of this anime. I’m pleasantly surprised that Crunchyroll’s servers didn’t crash from the overload. There is a fifth boy who will appear in later episodes. He’s not part of the original four boys, but he seems to eventually bond with the other four over water. Or maybe it’s the love of sports. All that matters is that we’ll have more eye candy.
You thought your body was ready for the first episode? You will not regret watching this. It’s a must-see! You will never see swimming the same way again.
Disclaimer: I was not provided with a free copy of this episode. I do have a paid premium account on Crunchyroll.