Free! – 04

Free - 04 -5 Free - 04 -11 Free - 04 -22

It seems KyoAni got the memo from fujoshi complaining about the lack of butt shots in the first three episodes of Free!

The festival of one-word synopses continues, and this time around it’s “shameless” – not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’ve made it clear that I respect Free! for making no bones about what it’s about, and as such I have no problems with this episode being the most blatant yet when it comes to objectifying the cast.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it admirable, but anything that shakes up the status quo where shows like this about girls make up the bulk of the schedule (and the upper ranks of the Blu-ray charts) is a good thing in my book.

That said, I think I’m about at the end of the line with Free!.  Ultimately whatever the gender of the main cast this simply isn’t the sort of series that interests me all that much, and it isn’t providing much outside the novelty of its existence that I find really interesting.  I’ve pretty much accepted that Makoto and Nagisa are irrelevant in the larger scheme of things, and that Rei is comic relief.  The only characters that matter to the story are Haruka and Rin, and I don’t find their stories very compelling.  The drama around Rin especially feels hollow to me – his seething drive for redemption is supposed to be powerful and intense, but it just comes off as petulant and a tempest in a teapot.

That leaves us with the comedy as really the last tangible thread to grasp onto as a reason to stick with Free!, but I’ve given the series a month of episodes and I still find the humor pretty hit-and-miss.  There are a couple of gags that are pretty solid but they get recycled until they lose their punch – like Kou-Gou’s swooning over the dudes, and Rei’s hapless attempts to swim.  Those struggles were amusing but but not so much so as to be able to carry an entire episode (it should have been obvious someone obsessed with looking beautiful would bond with the butterfly stroke).  The biggest laugh I got in the ep was at the swimwear shop, and it was really at the sheer audacity of Free! in serving up the beefcake so brazenly more than anything that was actually said or done on-screen.

I’m perfectly fine with Free! – I don’t find it offensive or obnoxious, I don’t dislike any of the characters (though Nagisa is a lot to take) and it looks average for a KyoAni show (which means in the top 10% overall in terms of TV anime visuals).  I may even keep watching it for a few more eps to see if something connects with me.  But it boils down to the fact that it’s kind of boring if you’re not in it for the fanservice, or so it seems to me as someone who’s not in it for the fanservice.  I don’t want to get into the debate about whether these guys are really acting like typical guys again, but I do think the series would have been more interesting if the males in the cast behaved less like the females in this sort of show behave.  But that is what it is, and Free! is what it is.  I’m glad KyoAni made it, I’m glad the people who are pissed off they did are pissed off they did, and I’m glad it exists for the folks who’ve been underserved by anime in terms of fanservice.  It’s just not a show that holds my interest, and in the end being interested in the implications of a series’ existence isn’t enough on its own to keep you blogging it.

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Free - 04 -16 Free - 04 -17 Free - 04 -18
Free - 04 -19 Free - 04 -20 Free - 04 -21
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22 comments

  1. A

    What interests me most about this show and makes me want to watch it (besides the obvious fan service ;)) is Rin. I want to see what happens to him, his character interests me.

  2. Welcome to the forum, Ashley – I don't recall seeing you here before.

    As for Rin, I love Miyano-san and all, but Rin's not doing it for me. He needs to stop sulking and get over himself…

  3. A

    I suppose so ^_^ I'm just curious about him, I get entertained easily haha. And thanks I've been looking at this website awhile and decided to start commenting.

  4. s

    haha i expected this ep to be the one that made you hit your blogging limit; I dont blame you even though i still find a certain enjoyment from how the show is going about its fanservicey intentions

  5. D

    I'm with you on the gags!

    The series would do okay if the characters were younger, as they're supposed to be, coz the looks and build-up bodies aren't really fit for their immature personalities.
    I started reading translations of the novel and it's SO much deeper and better even though they're younger. Characters have depth and they're not so shallow and meaningless. Even Haruka isn't of a weirdo like he's shown here.
    I was shocked that the deepest and most interesting character of them all in the story is Makoto. You can tell a lot about each character from the first chapter; especially weaknesses.

    I guess I'll drop the show too and stick to the novel.
    Shame it turned out this way.

  6. m

    I really wasn´t expecting a deep story…but this is going in the wrong direction (or maybe I had different expectations). The way they interact with each other it feels so forced,the characters are plain and everything they do it's just for fanservice purposes and they're forgetting to build a believable plot or at least an pleasant story.I'm a girl who wants to see more than just muscles and guys in colorful swimsuits!!!

  7. M

    I guess this is the end of the line for Free! with me as well then,since I was more interested in your down-to-earth impressions rather than the show itself and watching it for the sake of the fujoshi reactions alone gets old fast – faster than I expected to be honest,I initially thought I could get by a whole cour being entertained by them.

  8. j

    Finally, a good banner! An awesome banner! Congratulations sir!!

    Sorry for being off-topic…

  9. C

    To be fair, even though it had little to do with what was 'actually said or done on screen' I believe the swimwear shop was SUPPOSED to be the most humorous part. I mean that butterfly swimsuit wasn't supposed to be in any way attractive right!??? hahah

  10. A

    I felt the changing room montage was an absolutely dead on 100% parody of all those changing room montages we've seen in all those other anime with predominantly female casts.

  11. H

    I don't know if I take any part of this show as 'parody'. I think it is really 'parity', to be honest. In essence, KyoAni is making a fanservice show that features guys, with guys and girls in exactly the opposite roles from normal. Although there's a bit more outright ogling with Kou and especially Ama-chan-sensei. Really, the deck chair and parasol? It's not cause she really *needs* to supervise the team.

  12. m

    I'm a girl so I'll watch it for the abs XD But I agree with you Enzo on all the points you made. Its so fanservice-y, I think that's the whole point of the show. It's fine that Free's audience will be mostly girls.

  13. k

    (it should have been obvious someone obsessed with looking beautiful would bond with the butterfly stroke)

    I knew Rei would end up swimming the butterfly, but someone obsessed with looking beautiful and moving naturally ends up swimming the most unnatural and inherently awkward stroke? The irony is so thick I can't help wondering if it was in fact supposed to be a joke. ^^;; I guess it's a good thing that Rei is so analytic and technique-oriented, at least he'll be able to learn it well and swim it beautifully, but still.

  14. I'm not a swimming otaku but I am a sports geek, and I've watched enough Olympic competitions and national championships to have heard Fly called the most beautiful stroke by an endless string of commentators. And I agree – when someone is really good at it, it's easily the most aesthetically impressive swimming stroke to me.

  15. k

    Oh, it's beautiful when someone does it really well, but I don't think I've never seen anyone do it really well outside of actual Olympic/world cup competitions. To me it's so artificial, and the arm movement is so unnatural, that if the technique is not perfect it just looks like the swimmer is splashing and wriggling, struggling to go ahead.

    Of course this is anime so Rei will be fine, but after his little rant about how swimming itself is unnatural, and his obsession with beauty, I just feel it ironic that he ends up with the style that's the least natural and most tricky to make beautiful.

  16. H

    I think the search for beauty kind of went out the window a little with so much frustration at sinking.

    To me there's an aesthetic to butterfly that is based on the power and explosion of the stroke, and it can have both connotations of beauty and aggression. Plus, we consider jumping dolphins and breaching whales to be beautiful, both of which are not really natural motions, but have a similar aesthetic, to me.

  17. f

    @GE the fly is also typically the hardest stroke to learn/master because of the coordination required of the entire body to sustain it…which is why I was surprised that Rei was able to learn it so quickly if he couldnt learn the simpler stroke (though i guess for the purposes of the anime, it makes sense considering each member only specializes in one stroke)

    Like you, I held out for this series until this episode. I can't really take it seriously as a sports anime when they talk about swimming techniques and dynamics for about 20 seconds and the rest of the episode is filled with beefcake. I guess, what I was hoping for was a better balance between the manservice(which I tolerate) and the sports aspect (which I crave)….not fujoshi bait full-tilt

  18. No question fly is the hardest stroke, but the issue here is that Rei's non-stop "beauty!" musings foreshadowed his choice of stroke. It's pretty obvious this series isn't trying super-hard for realism on any level.

  19. H

    I actually enjoy the show. I think it's pretty much exactly in line with your usual KyoAni show, not as outright funny as Chuu2Koi or Tamako Market, but pretty much in line with them.

  20. E

    I enjoy this show quite a bit as well. Even though the cover of the show is awash in controversy, deep inside, it's a pretty simple slice-of-life show with generally likeable characters with a dash of drama and entertaining interactions. It feels like a PA Works slice of life drama (SOLD) in the reins of Tari Tari and Hanasaku.

    I don't really find this show to be that different from the status quo – it is like many shows that we have seen before. On the other hand, I enjoy watching it, and not just for the fanservice (but those are some nice triceps!). It's a simple, relaxing show, and one that's probably better enjoyed by not analyzing too deeply.

    Don't think too much, just dive in. Otherwise you will never be Free!

  21. Elevator, I don't disagree with most of your post. I would argue it's more in the way of a KyoAni SOLC than a PA Works SOLC (which tend to have more character depth) but I certainly agree that content-wise, this show is extremely orthodox. It's a SOL school-life moe show with indifferent writing. All the kerfuffle comes from the fact that the moe characters are hunky guys.

    My issue with it comes solely from the fact that I don't find the character interactions believable enough or the comedy funny enough to really be interesting.

  22. E

    It is pretty funny. I find it amusing / impossible that even though someone had correct arms and legs movement, he stayed in place in water and drown vertically. LOL.

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