Doujin writers, on your marks.

Haruka loves swimming – in fact he loves water so much that he will submerge himself in his bathtub regularly. He used to swim competitively (although only freestyle) with his friends,  but times have changed, and for some reason or other he quits competing. Now in high school, he has been reunited with his swimming buddies Makoto and Nagisa, who are eager to convince him to take up competitive swimming again. Also returning, however, is Rin – Haruka’s apparent rival who had been in Australia for the past few years…and seems to have changed quite a bit.

Get set…

Free! has been one of the most talked about anime leading up to its release for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Kyoto Animation, not exactly renowned for animation featuring copious amounts of manservice, are behind it. And this is a great thing. Too many shows with a female audience in mind get shackled with the bargain bin animation studios and are by and large terrible, so it’s just really, really nice to have a company as competent as KyoAni at the helm. Even if it means having to deal with the ridiculous whingeing from the KyoAni fanboys who can’t get their head around the concept that not everything has to be aimed at them, and that their discomfort at seeing scantily clad members of their sex is what us female fans are able to deal with constantly. In all,  Free! sure is nice to watch with a nice tall glass of chilled entitled otaku tears.
Whilst most people are going to be going into this for the huge amount of shirtless, stripping and dripping men in close proximity to each other, there’s a lot of other nice things here that are generally the norm for KyoAni’s works – the lovely backgrounds and lighting, the great sense of art direction and camera angles, and perhaps most of all, how absolutely beautiful that water animation is. It was a great idea to have this air in the summer season because I’ve never seen anything that makes me want to swim as much as the water animation in this show.
The characters aren’t particularly special so far, although they have nice designs and I’m interested in seeing more about them. I’m probably most interested in Rin, because he has pointy teeth and I want to know what his deal is. The glasses boy who appears in the opening and endings has yet to appear, though. It’s true that they’re pretty archetypical – you could genderswap these guys and have nearly any slice of life school anime ever, but KyoAni make it work. The only complaint I have with them so far is the way KyoAni have drawn their muscles. Something about the way they’re defined makes them look like wrinkles on paper. They’re swimmers, so it makes sense for them to be ripped, but something about the muscle lines just seems odd to me. It could be just me, though.
For those still whingeing about an anime with a full male cast (because oh no wherever will you find an anime with only female characters?!), there are two female characters of note so far – the boys young teacher is quite appealing, as is Rin’s sister Gou (who, in an amusing contrast to the boys, has a male name), who seems like she may play a bigger role.
Also, that ending. That was, uh, interesting.
There’s still not a great deal to be said about it at this point, but it’s off to a relatively strong start and its beautiful to look at. I’ll be following it, and if the second episode is good enough, I’ll blog it too.

GO! The ending made me burst out laughing so I had to include a cap from it.

Out of 5,