Sunday, October 20, 2013

Free! - Review

Studio: Kyoto Animation
Year: 2013
Genre: Sports, Drama

Synopsis: [ANN]
"Four boys named Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Rin all participated in a swimming tournament shortly before graduating elementary school and later parted ways. Years later, they reunite when Rin challenges Haruka to a race and wins. Not wanting to be defeated so easily, Haruka gathers Makoto and Nagisa and a new recruit named Rei to form the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club."

This was not originally part of my review plan, but because I got several requests so here I am, humbly giving you my thoughts on KyoAni's latest effort. 

Hmm..I'm not sure where to start, all I can say is this is a niche anime, either you hold a rave party celebrating the chiseled abs or you could care less about it, and I place myself closer to the latter category. Sure, it was amusing to see KyoAni going in a completely opposite direction and actually trying to please the female population (at least a portion of it), but if you are not someone into fanservices, regardless of which kind, it probably doesn't have much in store for you. Mind you, KyoAni is extremely coy with the way they presented this, nothing is explicit and everything is implicit but no less obvious. You could try your hardest arguing this is a story purely about beautiful friendship between men, but don't expect too many people to believe you. Fan girls have a mind that could twist all male relationships into something romantic in nature, so with Free!, where the bromance vibe is borderline shonen-ai, forums are bound to overran with "pairing" discussions. I remember there is one scene where Rin pushes Haruka against fence, all I can think of at the time was damn, so much sexual tension. Yeah, you totally see where they are going with it. 

As for the story, it's about a guy who has too much pride to just admit his love for his swim buddies. No, really, I think I summed it up pretty well. The angst comes across as more comical than angsty, because you know exactly what's going to happen eventually – Rin gets his mind out of the gutter and come to terms with his feelings. It helps that Haruka and Rin have opposing personalities, Haruka being the reserved eccentric, and Rin the hotheaded tsundere. It seems that in the realm of anime, the theory of "opposite attracts" never fails. If you think about it, each of the five guys in Free! embodies a well-known stereotype, aside from the two I already mentioned, there is also the shouta, the glasses, and the gentleman. The creators clearly didn't have to think hard on it. I really don't have too much to comment on the plot, it couldn't get more conventional even if tried. 

Yes, then there is the collection of sculpted abs and utterly ridiculous looking swimsuits, which are more memorable than anything else in this show. Though I suppose that's the point. Why haven't anyone thought of using swimming as a plot device for fanservices?  It's pretty damn convenient if you ask me, it's really one of the only situations where the characters can constantly strip down to bare chest for a good reason. Smart move, KyoAni. The animation quality is what we have always seen from the studio - clean, crisp, and detailed, but nothing too special considering their designs are similar across the board.

All in all, it's been an enjoyable ride, nothing more and nothing less. If you like fanservices and bishonen in ridiculous swimsuits, Free! is the thing for you, just don't expect a deep plot that ponders on sophisticated philosophical questions, you won't find any here.

Overall Score: 7/10

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