This episode begins with something long overdue – a flashback with Rin! He transferred into Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa’s elementary school and they became fast friends. (Or, Rin would call them friends. Haruka seemed shy.) Rin was a chipper, energetic young boy with big dreams that he gave his all to work towards. And then he transferred away again…. but not before that one last race with Haru, which ended in tears.
In the present day, Haruka is managing to get over Rin’s behaviour and enjoying the company of the other Iwatobi boys as they work on their highly specified training. But one of them isn’t content with everyone sweeping the issue about Rin under the carpet – the one who knows the least about him. Rei, who lacks the shared past the other boys have with Rin, is sick of the way they put up with his shit and decides to face Rin alone.
Dammit Free! you can’t just give me a Rin flashback episode and then not even reveal what the hell happened to him during his absence. Exactly how long am I going to have to wait to know what happened to the happy little guy in the flashback to turn him into The Incredible Sulk, and exactly how long am I going to have to complain about this? It’s like Rei just represents the fans at this point and is basically saying ‘Right. Enough.’, so I’m really looking forward to the next episode, although if Rin’s personality change still doesn’t get explained I’m going to just rest my head on the desk for a while. I like that grown-Rin is showing a bit more depth now, but it’s still just not enough, and there has got to be more to him than this sulky Haru-centric nonsense. Even Rei – frequently billed as a gag character – has more depth than him, and especially in this episode too.
But…oh well. The flashback was adorable. The boys as children are adorable and Rin is adorable and yes, it’s true that adorableness can make me forgive a lot. It wasnt completely deficit of insight, either, it definitely emphasized the gap between past and present Rin.
What I also liked about this episode was the side-characters. While I haven’t really spoken a great deal about them, I think Free! has some pretty good ones, and I’ve warmed up to Gorou – their old swimming teacher who became a pizza delivery driver and who acts as their unofficial coach – quite a lot. The running gag that he could swear he recognized Ama-sensei from somewhere finally reaches its punchline, too. It was an obvious one – the first episode alone basically already spelled out that she used to be a gravure idol – so I’m glad it wasnt stretched out as much as it could have been. But Gorou’s a pretty cool dude and I’m glad to see him appear more recently.
I cant say this episode wasn’t frustating, but that doesnt mean it wasnt enjoyable.