S: If you have ever felt that you’re missing something in your life then chances are that Free! can help fill that void. You may not know it yet, but Free! will soon consume your every waking moment in a way only sports anime can. The sheer excitement that is felt when watching beautifully animated pretty boys swimming in a relay confounds me. I honestly did not expect to become so invested in this show, yet here I am watching the second season. Free!: Eternal Summer provides more of the same, but in the best way possible. I didn’t anticipate anything of worth when coming into this show originally, and I think that’s what took me by surprise. Sure, in hindsight, not a whole lot happens, but the journey that you take with the characters is enjoyable until the very end.
Following the first season, the characters have finally moved past their angsty phases and everything seems to be going fine. So, of course, a new character must be introduced to cause drama amongst the group once again. What’s more, Haru is beginning to doubt himself and his reasons for swimming, escalating to the point that he no longer strips at the sight of water. What happened to only swimming free, Haru? All the while, our favourite high-school, not-sexualised-in-any-way, swimming boys are training to win… some swimming competition thing. I don’t quite remember what it is, but that’s not the point. The point is half-naked bishies.
The Blu-Ray also comes with several extras including a full OVA episode featuring the major characters taking part in a water gun fight at the Samezuka school festival. Though this episode doesn’t really have anything to do with the main story, it’s fun to see unlikely characters working in teams to take each other down.
I actually ended up watching this anime with Calo, who expressed great interest in it. We also decided to do a collective review together, hoping to convey some points that we might not have been able to alone. Now I’ll pass the words over to Calo, so that she can provide some of her views on Free!.
C: Calo here. You may remember me from such reviews as ‘I have too many feelings about Ghibli Studio animation’ and ‘I don’t like Sword Art Online, but this is OK’. I can count the number of sports anime I have watched in single digits, so when I first started watching Free! I wasn’t sure what to expect. At first I was taken aback by the red haired, red-eyed, shark tooth boy that nobody seemed to question or fear. The stakes of the show seemed very small too, losing a relay between friends appears fairly inconsequential at first. However, the passion of the show and its characters wins you over in the end. Low stakes become high when you care about characters and context, this is true of Free! and Free!: Eternal Summer.
All our favourites are back, Haru, Makoto, Rei, Nagisa, Rin the shark boy, and shark boy’s inexplicably normal looking sister Gou. Their relationships and interactions with each other carry over well from the previous season, whether it’s swimming related drama or not. But there’s only so many times one of the boys can go through a swimming related existential crisis, and Free!: Eternal Summer shakes up the routine by giving the boys something else to worry about: their future. I mean, yeh, swimming and the future of the Iwatobi swim club plays a large role in that, but it’s nice that the entire season isn’t caught up in that one aspect and branches out a little. New characters are also thrown into the mix, including Sosuke, a friend of Rin’s with a harsh exterior, and Momotaro, the old Samezuka swim team captain’s little brother. They both add something new to the generally enjoyable cast lineup.
S: When Free! was originally announced, I felt compelled to see how exactly the creators would expand on the 30 second trailer that generated so much fame. Well, I don’t quite know how they did it, but the show certainly lived up to the hype. So much so that it received a second season. From a simple animation trailer for Animation Do to showcase its prowess, Free! really stepped up to the podium and solidified itself as a genuinely terrific series.
C: Free! is a show with polished animation. Like the best animes, it gives attention to the everyday mundane, but doesn’t skimp on the quality of the visuals. But its real time to shine is when our favourite swim team takes to the water, taking part in relay competitions. Despite a little embellishment with the addition of the team’s cute, personalised animal mascots, it’s a great representation of a swim relay with the added bonus of dramatic angles and cuts. As a person who used to nod off at school swim carnivals, these segments had me yelling and cheering at the action on screen.
S: I could get lost in the beauty of the animation for the water in this show. As Calo said, the emotion that is portrayed throughout the races is enthralling; she truly was yelling and cheering at the screen. Yet I also found myself on the edge of my seat during times of, almost sexual, tension as well as moments of standard high school tomfoolery. Free! is the kind of show where you can easily find yourself eagerly awaiting the next bout of boring exposition.
C: Speaking of exposition, the voice acting for the most part was good. I usually prefer Japanese dubs over English, but aside from the more emotional scenes were the Japanese voice actors knocked it out of the park, they were equal in quality. Although I do admit that the casting of soft spoken Vic Mignogna as Rin ‘shark boy’ Matsuoka, who is portrayed in Japanese as more rough and having a harsher voice, was a bit of a surprise.
S: Whether you watch the English or Japanese dub of an anime usually has no real bearing on the story or the essence of the dialogue. However, there is one episode in Free!: Eternal Summer that I urge you to watch in Japanese. Towards the end of the season, Rin and Haru take a spontaneous trip to Australia in order to force some character development. While the English version of this episode unfolds predictably, the Japanese one took me by surprise. Watching two Japanese guys awkwardly communicate with thickly accented Australians is adorable. Sure the episode is more or less the same no matter what language you watch it in, but the Japanese voice actors seemed to put more heart into it.
C: Free! had the gimmick of being ‘that one swimming anime’, and that may have been the reason it got so much attention. But the team behind it had the skill to elevate the series into something fun that never overstayed its welcome. Free!: Eternal Summer continues the trend by being an enjoyable anime, with a host of likeable characters who just. love. swimming. so. much. It might seem silly at first, but it’s got a lot of heart, and there’s a lot of fun to be had.
S: Maybe it’s the solid character interactions, or the enthralling plot line. Or maybe it’s just the ridiculous premise that the show has. Whatever it is, they got it right. Free! has awakened a new thirst within me. A thirst that can only be quenched by sports anime. I cannot recommend this enough to people just looking for a fun show that is easy to find yourself caught up in. Free!: Eternal Summer specifically provides a healthy balance of drama, comedy, and beautiful animation, with a plot that never feels sterile.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.