Free! Review

Posted: April 1, 2015 in Anime, Anime Guide, Anime Reviews, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

Synopsis
After winning the medly relay in elementary school Haruka and his two team mates don’t see their friend Rin for many years as he moved to Australia to a swimming school. After time passed the three boys find Rin who immediately challenges Haruka to a race.

Story
Free! is an interesting story when it comes to sports anime, generally sports anime put a lot of focus on the sport that is featured. Free! is different in this case, since the sport focused in Free! is swimming it is easier for characters to be developed more as they don’t have to go through the process of explaining the rules or anything of that since most people grow up learning how to swim and knowing what events swimming has. What I found to be a bit disappointing is that the main character Haruka cares not for the sport but just for the act of swimming. So if he loses a race he is as emotionless as ever, this really stops the story from being able to become more than just good. The story more or less focuses on the bonds between characters and how they grow throughout the anime. At first the anime was fairly suspenseful, the idea of winning and losing having an importance was something that was suggested but was not delivered. One of the things that sports anime has going for it is the psychological side effects of winning and losing, sure everyone loves to see a victory but the most interesting part is generally the mentality of someone who has just lost in an important moment. Free! doesn’t have this, the only character who has this mentality is Rin and he is technically the antagonist of the series so the whole effect is more or less lost on him. Free! also focuses on the idea of being free, the idea of anything being possible when doing something you love, looking for the beauty in life. Through past events Rin is no longer free but instead trapped in an infinite cycle until he beats Haruka. For him Haruka is the obstacle that stops him from obtaining freedom in swimming. The pacing of the anime is rather odd, one moment they are fixing the school pool so it’s ready to be swam in and then there will be a time skip to a summer break where they train for the qualifiers, this in itself isn’t really the problem but the actual pace that the story goes at. It gives a feeling of being rather fast and you forget on what really is going on and what is really important, the actual competition or the journey. Overall I give the Story a 7/10.

Characters
For an anime that focuses on the building of relations between characters and the development of characters I have to say that there is definitely a lack of focus on crucial characters in these areas. Haruka who is the protagonist of the show has no emotion, normally this isn’t something that bothers me, in fact characters like Inaho from Aldnoah.Zero I really enjoy as they do have something to compensate for it like the ability to analyze the situation and adapt. Haruka on the other hand has nothing going for him, he appears rather air headed and is more or less a comedic relief character. Whenever he does show emotion which is only twice from my recollection it feels rather shallow, I can’t help but feel like he only really cares about a situation until another character says “it’s all right.” Rin who is the antagonist of the anime feels like he is the best example of what the standard for the characters was supposed to be, he has a back story that is relevant to his current disposition and shows all the psychological traits that you would expect the protagonist to have but instead Rin has it. At times it seems like Rin is who the story should be centered around as he would be a much more interesting character to follow than Haruka and his friends. RIn displays a vast range of emotions and can go from 0-60 in a matter of seconds when it comes to the result of a race which makes him an ideal character for a sports anime. Yet there isn’t exactly a lot of screen time for Rin to show what more he can do, his potential was cut short in my opinion. Nagisa is a decent character but lacks the importance to feel like he belongs as a main characters, with no back story provided for him all the viewer knows of him is what they see and at the start of the anime and he really isn’t that impressive, once again being a character that doesn’t care for the result of the race but wants to swim as a team as it is more enjoyable. Overall I give the Characters a 4/10.

Art and Animation
The artwork in Free! is pretty good, it is definitely one of the stronger points in the anime the character designs aren’t your average designs which gives Free! more of a fresh feel to it. The scenery is well detailed and complimented the characters and the animation nicely. At times it feels like the scenery is very much forgotten in the experience as the anime tends to focus on the characters but early episodes placed a good importance on the scenery which was nice to see. The animation was also another strong point of the anime, if there is one thing about the animation that impressed me it was the motion of the water. There is something about water that I enjoy in anime and Free! lives up to that expectation. The motion of the water moving wasn’t the only thing that I was impressed by, there was a fair share of first person scenes that looked stunning when seeing them, they also looked accurate based on the fact that I know what it is like to swim freestyle. The anime also focuses on the beauty that can be portrayed through sports which isn’t something you see a lot and I appreciated that in Free! Overall I give the art and animation an 8/10.

Sound and Music
The sound effects were surprisingly good, the splashing of water actually sounded like splashing water which is also a positive for sound effects. The voice acting was a bit questionable, in particular the voice actor for Haruka. Shimazaki, Nobunaga did an alright job but knowing that he also voices Furuya from Diamond no Ace made me disapointed with Haruka, he definitely gives off the right moods and emotions but something was missing with Haruka. It didn’t help that Haruka’s personality did change after the first few episodes. Other than that the voice acting for the rest of the characters was pretty good. The sound track was nice to listen to and there where a few tracks that actually impressed me, such as the track used at the end of the first episode. The reason I was impressed was the fact that there was dub step used, I thought this was mind blowing considering that most sound tracks are fairly standard when it comes to the selection of instruments. The sound track was able to highlight the tone of each scene quite well and didn’t cause any problems in terms of clashes. Overall I give the Sound and Music a 6/10.

Final Thoughts
Free! is a bit of a let down to what I was hoping for, it’s a good anime for someone who is new to anime or just wants to look at pretty pictures. The characters are fairly flawed and don’t really have a lot of depth to them. I wouldn’t say that you should stray away from Free! I would just say that it shouldn’t be high on your list of anime to watch. Overall I give Free! a total of 6.25

Comments
  1. Kurisu says:

    You put Haruto in the first sentence.

    I enjoyed Free! more than the sequel Eternal Summer. The first season was more in the spirit of freedom while the second season was more of a coming of age story. Eternal Summer was mostly about Haruka trying to find himself as everyone is putting immense pressure on him. Free! as a whole was about the search for freedom and enjoyment in swimming with more realistic themes of friendship than many other sports anime that use friendship as a driving force to win competitions. It’s a sharp contrast to a shonen anime like Kuroko no Basket which I believe abused the concept of the power of friendship. For character, Haruka was created to be indifferent towards everything except his fish (mackerel?) and swimming free. I guess they made him frustratingly emotionally unavailable so that his confusion and helplessness later on is a bit more meaningful. Makoto is the best guy though. He’s really cute.

    I enjoyed the sound of the water but really disliked all of the opening and ending theme songs from both seasons. Just not my type of music.

    ლ(́◉◞౪◟◉‵ლ)

    Like

    • tehelfie says:

      Thank you for the correction, that is all fixed now. I completely understand where you are coming from in terms of the story, I haven’t seen Eternal Summer yet so I can’t say for that at this moment, for me I can completely understand the idea of friendship being able to win competitions but at the same time even with a lose I feel that the characters didn’t express necessary emotions for the time, I also understand that since they were a new team they didn’t have high hopes but I feel that a lose at any level should demotivate someone who has put in the effort to do well.

      Like

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