free! 1

Categories: episodic review, free


“I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.”


Goddammit, Kyoto passes up apron-only Mikuru (canon, in my mind), apron-only Tomoyo (canon, according to Tomoyo After), and apron-only Mio (canon, in Ritsu’s mind) for apron-only (plus swimsuit) Haruka? This is like me passing up the chance to write about Hanekawa and Senjougahara taking a bath together to write about apron-only Haruka. Oh wait…

(I would have preferred if Haruka said, “Because I don’t want to get hot oil on my nipples” instead of “Because I don’t want to get oil on my swimsuit” as his excuse for going apron only. That’s all good, but why doesn’t Makoto call him out on it and say, “Well, that’s why you wear a fucking shirt and pants!” Oh who am I kidding. Explaining why fanservice exists is like trying to explain why my dog likes to roll around in pee. It just does.)


I took a vacation over the 4th to Portland, and it was my first time in the city. I can’t lie: part of me wanted to check out Portland because of Portlandia. And then I discovered things like knot stores and artisanal light bulbs are real. I went into the artisanal light bulb store and got chewed out for being a tourist. That’s kinda how I feel about the characters on Free!. They seem fake and like caricatures, but I can totally see them being normal characters at the same time. Nagisa reminds me a lot of Bunny and Hunny from Ouren. Makoto reminds me of the captain of the rugby team before he met Sagara.

(There are also a lot of gutter punks in Portland. I thought Haight-Ashbury had a bunch, but Portland takes the cake. There were also quite a few rednecks, including a large lady who was standing behind me in line for coffee complaining, “There are sure a lot of foreigners here today.”)


One thing I found a bit odd about Free!‘s animation is that during quite a few of the fanservice poses aren’t natural for men. Sure, sticking out the chest or butt may work better for a haremette, but it feels weird on a guy. Guys pose and move in a different way. The animation feels like The Hawkeye Initiative. I think maybe it’s because the team for Free! is the mostly male K-On! team rather than the mostly female Tamako Market / Nichijou team. The director Hiroko Utsumi and animator Futoshi Nishiya are used to moe haremettes, and it shows in the movements of the Iwatobi Swim Club. Strangely, I think this Hawkeye Initiative could have been avoided if Naoko Yamada and Yukiko Horiguchi were in charge instead. I mean, look at how fucking manly the Principal took on the deer. When he charges the deer, the focus is on his powerful thighs rather than his ass, which is how male characters should pose. That’s the kind of manly man animation I want for Free!.

(Another good example of men posing as men is Needless. And the ultimate example: Kogarashi.)

(Speaking of Hawkeye, the new rebooted Hawkeye is fantastic. I haven’t picked up a comic since the start of Batman Inc., but Hawkeye has been fun and Pizza Dog is awesome. With that said, I haven’t been reading a lot of manga recently either. I totally blame Animal Crossing New Leaf.)


Whip my hair! Whip it back and forth! Seriously, what guy does this? Ararararagi doesn’t do this. It feels like Free! at some point started out as a normal harem anime (I mean, the guys all have feminine names, but that could be any sort of reasons, so why not speculate that they were haremettes once?), but they decided to switch it into a reverse harem setup because, well, the harem market is pretty damn saturated. I don’t blame them. It’s targeting market inefficiencies… Kyoto saw that there weren’t any traditional shoujo shows around, so BAM! Have some Tamako Market. Now they see there’s no triple-A reverse harem franchises, so BAM! Have some Free!. It’s like anime moneyball. The only problem is that Kyoto Animation is not the Oakland A’s. They’re the freaking Red Sox and Yankees rolled up into one. They have two franchises that print money in Haruhi and Full Metal Panic. They have other franchises that they could milk if they want to: Lucky Star, K-On!, and Hyouka Chu2. Hell, if they get really desperate, remake Little Busters.

But I think that’s why fanboys are all up in arms about Free!. The show itself seems fairly generic reverse harem, but everyone is upset Kyoto made this because what they really want to say is, “Because you wasted time with Free!, we’re not getting more of what we want. And that is Mio tripping.” I can kinda understand that, but I’m always for new shows. As much as I want another season of Haruhi, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Tamako Market. Sure, it didn’t break any new ground, but it was well done and not like anything else airing at the time. It was quite a juxtaposition at the time since Kyoto took a leap from their normal moe-centric style to make Tamako whereas Shaft did Shaft things with Sasami. And, well, Tamako became a heck more endearing. So I commend Kyoto for taking a chance and also trying to corner the male beefcake market for themselves.


Gou is the typical everywomen in the reverse harem setup. She has a splendid ponytail. That is all.


I do wish the plot was a bit more interesting than the typical Prince of Tennis-ish/Kuroko no Basket-ish/Code Geass-ish setup where the childhood friends become bitter rivals. I get the feeling we’re going to take a slice-of-life slash sports anime with light reverse harem antics route. I don’t expect the plot to be substantially higher calorie than Tamako Market or K-On!, but I’m okay if this show just ushers in an age of lady fanservice. It’ll balance out Photokano, at least.

(I also find it interesting that with Free!, Chu2, and Kyoukai no Kanata animated, Kyoto has animated most of the second place winners of the Kyoto Animation Awards for new stories. There were no first place winners those years…)


I counted Haruka disrobing four times in this episode. Talk about gilding the lily. We get it. He has fabulous abs and aren’t afraid to use them. I think the fanservice isn’t Haruka shirtless but Haruka actually disrobing. It’s like watching a magical girl transformation sequence. In fact, Kyoto should have just indulged and given Haruka a thirty second transformation sequence for stripping off his clothes.

(What do we know of Haruka thus far> He likes swimming. A lot. A lot, a lot. But only freestyle because fuck the rules. He also likes eating fish. That’s about it… and he’s the main character…)

(I do agree with him on the freestyle bit. What other sport hands out medals for doing the same thing a different way? Do they hand out medals for running backwards the fastest? Running on one leg the fastest? I mean, it shouldn’t matter how one gets down the pool. Just the fastest wins.)


And he likes taking baths with his swimsuit on.


At this point, I was thinking, “If Umisho‘s Amuro mated with Free!‘s Haruka, their offspring would be Gargantia‘s whalesquids.” Those two love to swim. Love. Love. Love.


The opening and ending… terrible. The ending especially. Arabian Nights theme? What the hell? It’s inexplicable. It’s Kyoto trying to do a K-On!-ish music video rather than a fitting ending. This is as bad as the Hyouka ending that had Chitanda and Ibara roll around in baby clothes. What fangirl (or non-traditional fanboy) is going to be thinking, “You know what? I really enjoyed watching Haruka disrobe four times that episode, but I really could use a Backstreet Boys meet Lawrence of Arabia ED to chase that down with.”? I think a better ending idea would be fanservice poses of the boys in their school uniforms. Or McDonald’s uniform. Hey, it worked for Maou-sama.

(The psuedo-tough guy voice in the opening doesn’t cut it either. It’s like watching D’Antoni trying to run a six-second or less offense with Dwight Howard.)


Three MVPs…

1. Haruka’s abs.
2. Rin’s abs.
3. Makoto’s abs.

14 Responses to “free! 1”

  1. Even though she likes Kuroko’s Basketball, my wife says she can’t stand the blatant manservice in Free. At least Kuroko’s Basketball manservice was not so in your face, and the series had an actual plot. I found Free’s first episode somewhat enjoyable, but only because I had more fun mocking the manservice and characters than the show’s content. What about your wife, Jason? What does she think of the show?

  2. I watch the ending for the dancing in the club filled with half naked men wearing gas masks in the background.

  3. Man, I wish I’d known you were coming to town! Ah, well.

    This show… does not look like it’s relevant to my interests, but Kyoto can do what they want, no argument from me.

  4. “Because you wasted time with Free!, we’re not getting more of what we want. And that is Mio tripping.

    I think the first iteration of this I can remember was: “Because you’re wasting time remaking Kanon we’re not getting more Haruhi“. I suppose that turned out okay.

  5. Aww, I just lost my bet that if you blogged about this there’d be no way you wouldn’t mention Hosaka in relation to Haruka. I mean, that scene in front of Rin’s school! Not to mention the tendency to daydream and the cooking hobby. Other than that, he’s eerily similar to Houtarou in looks and general temperament.
    Also we have Makoto (named after a fox) who has Yui’s walk to school, and Nagisa (named after a sickly girl). If only the MC had been called Haruko we’d have an Air link too…
    And I’m glad to see that KyoAni staple of forming a club is here.

    She has a splendid ponytail. That is all.

    This is why I love blogsuki.

  6. I’m glad Jason is watching this so I don’t have to! I guess I should give KyoAni a benefit of a doubt, with their sterling reputation and all, but making an annoying talking bird the de-facto main character in Tamako Market used up all of my goodwill.

  7. I watch the ed for Rin feasting on delicious tears

  8. “I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.”

    Not knowing anything more about Free! than “KyoAni + Swim Club”, I was seriously expecting something like a K-On!-ification of Umisho. Was rather surprising to see a Kyon-ification of Umisho instead.

    Okay more like a Hosaka-ification, but that doesn’t sound as droll.

  9. Fuck you Portland, fuck you!!

  10. As a 100% straight male, I enjoyed the first episode and am curious to see where it’s going. **** the fanboys!

  11. In here, all the guys behave like girls. It made me laugh more than it should.

  12. This show is worth watching just for the title “Gay Swimming Club”

    Huh? Is that not the real subtitle?

  13. Portland! D’Antoni trying to run the Lakers into the ground! A brief ponytail appearance!
    Most excellent blog. I hope you visited the greatest bookstore on Earth (Powell’s City of Books) while in Portland.

  14. Hmm, might be tempted to check this out but hopefully you do another thin slicing for this summer season before I help myself to some new shows. Interesting read, as usual, keep up the good work! looking forward to seeing some more posts!

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