Although Rei has managed to confront Rin, he ends up having an emotional outburst and doesn’t get the answers he wanted to his questions (namely, why Rin entered the relay, and what Rin’s deal is with being a dick to Haru.) Luckily for Rei, even with being so much in the dark about Rin the other Iwatobi boys are keen to let him know how much they value him when they worry about him to the point that they visit his house. SWIMMING FRIENDS FOREVER STICK TOGETHER.
Anyway, its finally time for the regional tournament they made it too, which means everyone gets to stay in a hotel near the venue – everyone including Rin and the Samezuka boys, of course. Which gives Rin and Rei the chance to meet up one more time before the tournament, and this time Rin’s a little more willing to share his thoughts. However, when Sharkyboy returns to his own hotel he learns that due to worries about his recent performance he was pulled out of the relay and put into the 100m Freestyle instead.
I never would have thought that ought of all the characters in this show, Rei is the one that gets the most character development. Him having an angry outburst like that was one of the last things I expected from him. Also, he goes after answers, he questions what other people dont, and he’s just so much more than the silly gag character so many people treat him as. (And, of course, he is still the best.) I’ve also noticed that Haru has been having development of his own – he’s a lot more open to his friends and has stopped brushing them off. He thanked both Nagisa and Makoto in this episode for what they’ve done for him, separately, and genuinely. He really has sweetened up, and its just a nice thing to see. Sure the comedy might be the main draw for a lot of people watching this, the shirtless boys for others, and the sports action for others still, but its actually those nice friendship moments that do it for me. I’m a big sap and I like it when characters have such charming bonds like this, and I’m glad that Haru is realizing how important they are now. The epitome of all the friendship bonding is the fact that in Rei’s collection of swimming books that he bought in order to study the theory of swimming he literally has a book called ‘the importance of teamwork’ which is just about the corniest thing ever when the camera pans to it but I loved that.
As for Rin….well, Rei isnt the only one who wasnt entirely satisifed with his answers, let me tell you. We at least know that his training in Australia didnt go the way he wanted it to (because he ‘couldnt swim the way he wanted’, which says to me that the swimming maybe only subconsciously mattered to him if it was with his friends) but dammit Rin that still doesnt excuse you from ignoring everyone for years and then turning up as the newly crowned King Sulkalot. Most likely the anime is going to end with him finally admitting to himself how much more fun it is to swim with Haru and letting himself be happy about it again. Actually, since he has now been forced into the 100m Freestyle, AKA Haru’s speciality..Haru might end up doing that too somehow.
It’ll be sad when Free! ends in the next episode; it’s been a really fun ride if not silly and at times overly melodramatic. It’s been highly successful if DVD sales are anything to go by (and in the anime industry, they definitely are) so a second season is quite likely, especially if there was more to that novel that won the award that started the whole thing.