Polysyllabic Support Lead
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club made quite the splash when it debuted last year. Based off the light novel High Speed!, Free! won a massive audience of fans with its jaw-dropping production values and really, really, really ridiculously good-looking cast. Sensing the summer heat, the boys are back for another go-'round in Free! Eternal Summer--check out what Crunchyroll's Newsletter team had to say about this abtacular sequel!
by Nate Ming (Anonymooo)
Y'know what Free! is? A welcome thing.
You have no idea how many times I look over a new season listing and roll my eyes at the sheer amount of boobariffic fanservice shows, while titles based on otome games go for more subtle fanservice for their audiences. The creators of Free! just don't give a crap, and that's for the best. Absolutely gorgeous animation from KyoAni tells the tale of the Iwatobi High School Swim Club, naturally populated by absurdly fit young men who somehow abstain from the usual vices of high school boys. Even as a longtime sports anime fan (and completely obsessed with mid-fight commentary), I find Free!'s brisk action refreshing, giving the feel of Mitsuru Adachi's pacing and focus on character development... only this time with an almost fetishistic attention to muscle detail.
Sequel season Eternal Summer doesn't go for anything abstruse, instead picking up in the next school year, with former sorta-rival Rin having been absolved of his "de facto antagonist" status, and Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei (with Gou creeping around in the background) competing in a new year's swimming events. Absorb more knowledge about your favorite characters! Gawk at their physiques! Marvel at KyoAni's ridiculously beautiful animation! Get in a fight with an MRA over abstract concepts like whether or not this show is objectifying to men! All this and more when you watch Free! Eternal Summer on Crunchyroll!
It's not been long since I was cooing at Chaika's smiling face during the spring broadcast of Hitsugi no Chaika. Imagine my reaction when I, streaming the OP of the very first episode of Free! Eternal Summer, saw the exact same expression on the show's resident perfect boyfriend, Makoto Tachibana's, face—it was mixture of horror and strange clarity.
The fact is, my friends, that Free! Eternal Summer uses the exact same fanservice tricks as shows like Rail Wars! and Sword Art Online. From shots intentionally framing posteriors, abs, and er...the family jewels to Nagisa's genki attitudes to the intentional phrasing of dialogue with homoerotic undertones, everything that you've seen in other anime to appeal to a male audience appears in Free! Eternal Summer in identical forms—just with male bodies instead of female bodies under the camera's sordid gaze.
For a male like me, Free! Eternal Summer is something of an eyeopening experience. And while—HOT DAMN!—the drawn out shots ogling every inch of our favorite swim team's bodies are certainly enough to make me perspire a bit, I'm really talking about the strange sense of detached clarity I'm allowed by Free! Eternal Summer to see that these are cheap tricks...and they're used everywhere. We're so generally inundated by male-oriented fanservice that we've almost become like fish in water: it's impossible for us to see the tricks because we're so used to them. But swap out cute girls for water-dripping muscled boys, and it's suddenly easier to see the water as water and the fanservice tricks for what they are.
I'm just going to admit this from the get-go: I watched Free! as a joke. Imagine my horror when I realized, by the end of it, I was in constant fan mode. Free! Eternal Summer only made this worse. Characters that during the first season, I wasn't too invested in, (Haru, Makoto), are ones that I love now. When I say I love everyone, no, really, I'm not exaggerating. Watching the show every week is generally accompanied by keyboard spam, crying about how hot everyone is, and laughing at the following explosion of EVERYONE IS TRYING TO STEAL EVERYONE'S BOYFRIEND!! jokes. Despite my proclaim of loving and adoring all anime, this show is the only one I have to watch the day it comes out.
Crazy fan garbage aside, I really do think Free! Eternal Summer has stepped up it's game from season one. The animation is just as beautiful, if not more. The characters are really fleshing out (hurhur), and the introduction of new ones just adds more fun and interest to the story, instead of taking anything away. Do not even get me started on how many times a day I listen to FUTURE FISH. At the end of the day, the show really has a lot of heart. I can get invested, have ~drama~, fun, and it just makes me smile. Free! Eternal Summer knows exactly what it is, and uses that to its advantage, and hey, I have no problem with that.
(I love this dumb, dumb, stupid show. XD Ask Zerogouki how many times I call/txt him and scream HEY FUTURE FEEEEEEESH.)
Even amongst some of the most popular anime, few have garnered as much fan support as Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club. The heartwarming, beautifully animated series was a huge hit online before it even started airing, and now the Iwatobi boys are free styling into their second season, Free! Eternal Summer. Character-driven anime like this often suffer in a second season from being unable to recreate the first season’s magic without reversing character development, but Free! Eternal Summer maintains its spark without regressing the characters at all. They remain excellently developed and with fully fleshed-out personalities, making them even more charming and memorable, but also completely unique. The characters continue to develop this season too, this time confronted by impending change and having to adapt to it. Some of the character development in response to this has characters literally shouting about facing themselves, but some development remains beautiful in its subtlety; particularly in the case of Free! Eternal Summer’s stoic protagonist, whose emotional changes are only expressed by his eyes and minor changes in behaviour, the understated way in which some characters face their personal obstacles is stunning in its effectiveness. When the louder, more obvious scenes are used sparingly within this context, they become much more effective as well. Along with new characters that further complete the story without feeling forced, Free! Eternal Summer is a truly fun anime filled with charming characters.
In fact, the characters of Free! Eternal Summer are so heartwarming and well-developed that the series focuses on them for much of the episodes, sometimes sacrificing plot progression for it. While there is no filler content, Free! Eternal Summer could afford to spend less time on character development and more on the plot, but as the series is so highly character-driven, it still doesn’t feel slow-paced. There is also sometimes a sharp divide between character development time and plot development time, but again, as the plot so heavily relies on the characters’ internal conflicts and relationships, it doesn’t feel overly jarring. Moreover, Free! Eternal Summer’s plot is arguably more cliché than not, being about high school seniors dealing with graduation looming, but the incredible dynamic between the characters and the dash of the sports genre still make the plot feel fresh and exciting. Without a doubt, Free! Eternal Summer has made a splash within this summer’s anime, and with the season’s end fast approaching, it makes me wish this summer was indeed an eternal summer.
While the Free! franchise undoubtedly has a strong female following, that doesn't mean it is appealing exclusively to women. I quite enjoyed the first season that aired last summer, Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club. Yes there is no question that it was filled with fanservice for the ladies, it is a series about guys with rippling muscles in skintight swimsuits after all. But I was easily able to look past that and focus on the comedy, the characters, the tense races, and the gorgeous animation that has become KyoAni's calling card. On top of that is the fact that even while being aimed primarily at women it still had fanservice for male viewers in the form of the club manager Gou and the club advisor Miho.
The second season, Free! Eternal Summer, is more of the same stuff that viewers would have experienced in the first season. That is far from a bad thing, though. Especially if you enjoyed the first season. Eternal Summer isn't without new additions, however. This season has a bigger focus on the rival school Samezuka, showing us the trials and tribulations of their members beyond Rin. Additionally, Eternal Summer brings up the topic of what Haru and Makoto are going to do once they graduate from school. The new things Free! Eternal Summer brings to the table aren't revolutionary nor are they particularly deep or well developed, but at least KyoAni is trying to cover more topics and build the characters when they easily could have just phoned this season in and then roll around in the profits. That being said, even with the new additions, I don't think Free! Eternal Summer does enough to change the minds of those who disliked the first season. But for established fans I highly suggest diving into the pool again, the water's great.
Let's be clear, Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club will not go down in history as a landmark anime. If the grand history of anime were a swimming pool, Free! would be on the shallow end. The characters are fairly archetypal, the plot is thinner than Ama-Chan's hips, and it revels in its use of fanservice and melodrama. And everything, EVERYTHING, is related to water somehow. Still, despite these flaws, Free! is not painful to watch. At all. It has a sense of awareness combined with an innate charm that prevent it from being irritating. Things that could irk under a more pretentious pen are used by Free! to amuse the audience. Free!'s sense of fun and humour are what keep it accessible to everyone. They lighten what could otherwise be a dreary and melancholic series, and turn it into a fun one. You don't have to adore the sight of muscular men dripping in the hot sun to enjoy Free!... but it helps.
Free! - Eternal Summer, the second season, promises to be much of the same. Attractive boys will wear minimal clothing, there will be so much homosexual metaphor that the term "subtext" seems like a hideous understatement, and it will feel like the fate of the entire world depends upon whether or not this guy wants to swim with that guy. A new season means that new swimmers are introduced, which is a logical step considering the character-based narrative, promising to provide more options for yaoi fanart; and the key emotional turmoil has shifted from Rin and Haruka's rivalry to the more mainstream stresses of seniors in high school. At the very least, this should make a series about a group of supermodel athletes and their hot teacher a touch more relatable. The added attention for the Samezuka club is not going unwanted either, and it means that maybe, just maybe, Gou will realise that Seijuro is awesome. If you watched and enjoyed the first season, you're likely to love the second. Free! is all about embracing what you love, whether it be swimming, mackerel, muscles or Haruka, and the tone and style of the anime reflect this. It's not pretending to be more than it is, and that's enough to make it a worthwhile series in itself. To be honest, Free! is a difficult series to criticise because, quite simply, it makes people happy; and who wants to take away from that? If Free! makes you happy, keep watching it, and watch Eternal Summer.
The directors of other sports anime could learn quite a lot from watching Free! Eternal Summer. Putting aside the show’s gorgeous, big-budget animation, it’s the rare series that understands how to properly pace a competition sequence. The races in Free! are intense, immersive, and mercifully bereft of the endless interior monologues that plague the genre. By taking the time to develop its cast outside of the swim meets, it avoids having to pause the action in order for each participant to explain why he wants to win. I’d wager that Free! can complete a 100-meter race before the volleyball in Haikyu!! moves from one side of the court to the other. I don’t enjoy watching competitive swimming in real life, but I still shout at the TV whenever a fictional race looks too close to call.
While we’re at it, I’m making Free! required viewing for the directors of male-oriented fanservice shows as well. Considering that just about every episode counts as a “swimsuit episode,” the series displays a remarkable amount of class and restraint. A traditional harem comedy forces its female cast into heated debates over one another’s cleavage that would never occur in the real world, and presumably requires the construction of a catapult to constantly fling the hero into impossibly awkward situations. The camera in Free! may linger on its characters’ ripped bodies, but the writing generally avoids forcing them into contrived situations for the sake of sex appeal. Even when the series does pander to its target demographics, it has enough sense to do so with loaded dialogue rather than by engineering “accidental” groping scenes. I wish with all my heart that fanservice shows aimed at me were half as entertaining and easy to watch as Free!
I still can't say if I like this season more than the first one but Free! Eternal Summer definitely had it's moments which I didn't get from the first season. The characters are still the same, no doubt, but you can see more of their determination this time around when it comes to what they want to achieve. Last year's Free! had a more team appeal compared to this years's Free! Eternal Summer which seems more each character improving something about themselves for themselves. This isn't a bad this of course. Considering that with this season the characters are a grade level higher, with some this being their last year, this would be the best time for those "who they are?" and "what they want out of this?" in preparation of the separation/graduation that will eventually come.
They still show that support for each other during those times so the team bonding is still there. It's also good to see males having these types of bonds with each other especially in anime. Even though some people might view that differently, it's really no different that how other males in sports might bond with each other. The new characters brings something but as to what exactly isn't coming to mind. The character of Sousuke does however gives us a little more insight into the past of Rin and his relationship with him. I don't need to go into how awesome the animation is in this show. If there is anything that can be agreed upon is that the visuals are just perfect. I always enjoyed seeing them take part in their races. Those underwater scenes are second to none in animation. Okay I might have exaggerated but seriously, they are the best. Looking forward to what the rest of the season has to offer. If you've never seen the first season of Free! don't worry. You can easily get what's going on but still watch it anyway just to know what happened to build up to the point of where they are now. I don't think we will be seeing a season three but if there is one I'll welcome it.
To me, the hallmark of an awesome sports anime is two-fold. Fold number one: the sport the anime follows must be presented in such a way that it is both the coolest and the most important thing in the entire world. Fold number two: before long, I am going to want to run out and DO whatever the sport in question is. I’m pleased to say that Free! does both. Countless times while watching the show I would turn to my wife (herself not an anime fan, though she enjoyed Free!) and ramble something along the lines of “I wish I’d gone out for swimming in high school” or “I think I could’ve been pretty good at 100m freestyle!” Note: I only ever ran track.
Interestingly, it’s the very slice-of-life way in which Free! handles its subject matter that makes it feel like such a special series to me, and Eternal Summer does this even better than the first season did. Where most sports anime and manga are focused almost exclusively on the competition and the main characters training to BE THE VERY BEST, Free! is more relaxed, focusing more on themes of friendship than on hard work or victory. Much of the plot is derived from the characters’ personal lives, scarcely relying on the races themselves to fuel the drama, though when races eventually DO happen, they always prove tense and exciting since characters are rarely protected by the plot.
Eternal Summer features more conventional sports anime elements (a more concrete rival team, more frequent competitions) but it’s the continued focus on and devotion to the characters as they face new changes and challenges both in and out of the pool that lets me enjoy it as much as I do.
Jumping into Free! Eternal Summer I did not really know what to expect. What I got was a decent sports anime with camaraderie is its main theme, also a lot of gratuitous ab shots. First thing I noticed is the animation is really really good. Some of the swimming scenes (especially during relays) make the character look like they are human dolphins with spectacular abs with how quickly they move. So far a lot of the early episodes are mostly concerned with 2 things: The development of the rival team led by Rin and the continuing struggle for new members by the Iwatobi High School Swim Club.
Overall it is a pleasant, relaxing anime that feels more like a slice of life series than your traditional sports anime. Other than Rin, there isn't really a hot-blooded character aiming for the top. Many episodes are more concerned with the status of the main team's relationship with each other rather than any of the training they do. Honestly, if it wasn't for the frequency that they do relays I'd have doubts that this was a sports series at all. Overall I'd say ABternal Summer is worth a watch.
Did it surprise me that a sequel was announced for Free! Iwatobi Swim Club? Honestly, not at all; I could practically smell the chlorine of the second installment coming this year or the next - and lo and behold, Free! Eternal Summer reached our shores this summer. Just like the previous season, Free! Eternal Summer deals with Haru and the gang up to their swimming antics and everything in between (albeit one year later).
That doesn’t mean Eternal Summer is a flop, though. In fact, there’s a lot of noticeable improvement. The pacing of the story pick ups from last season’s dog days, and leaves you satisfied just enough to continue watching (more so for those that enjoy the fanservice and homoerotic interpretations). The new characters provide a more versatile cast, with Rin having his own group of Samezuka Academy to match Haru’s Iwatobi club. This comes with the shift in obstacles, as now Haru and his friends face the troubles that any graduating high school senior will have. Even with these problems, Eternal Summer still shines with its light-hearted humor and general feel-good vibes: the boys of Iwatobi and Samezuka flex their muscles and dance in career costumes (with Gou happily along for the ride). As a whole, Eternal Summer is just doing what it does best - if not, even better - and is back making waves every Wednesday at 8:30am PDT on Crunchyroll!
What about you? What do you think about Free! Eternal Summer? Sound off in the comments and let us know!
Best show ever!
This series has the potential to go through several "generations" of the Iwatobi Swim Club. I really hope they go that route since I love long series, and this one is really fun. Slice-of-Sports-Life needs to be a new subgenre.
And hurray for fan service actually aimed at me! \○/
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I can't believe I missed passing my review for this show...
Well, this show has the power to take out my boomerangs and throw a couple laps down the swimming lanes. I'm not exactly what you would call graceful, but I imagine myself cutting through the water like a badass Haru.
The show is silly, but enjoyable nonetheless. A must watch for anyone who likes simple, down-to-earth fun.
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