If you’ve read my Top 5 Anime Series then you already know what this is…
If you haven’t then you may be in for a surprise…
I’ve tried denying my love for this anime, but it’s just too strong.
Let me tell you why this anime is my favourite:
2D female characters
Gou is just the best.
I love her.
She’s a well thought out female character, especially for one in a shounen anime.
She’s a strong leader – she takes control of the swim club, making sure the guys are eating the right food and doing a training regime that will make them stronger. She organizes the trips to the competitions and does all she can for the guys to make sure they succeed.
Gou has an amazing dynamic with Haru, Makato, Rei and Nagisa. I love Kyoto Animation for not making her a love interest – instead making her her own person and not some love struck school girl.
After all, we all know Gou’s one true love is muscles!
Miho Amakata is also a great female character. I love her secret backstory, her willingness to help the guys in their endeavour to start a swim club, how she helps Nagisa overcome the problem with his parents, how she helps Makoto and Haru decide their futures in the second season, and then how she gets pissed at the guys every time they suggest she wears a swimsuit. I sort of wish she had more screen time, but she makes a strong impression whenever she is in a scene.
Fan service for women
As a girl I often feel uncomfortable watching shounen anime because of the high amount of fan service for guys. I stopped watching Food Wars/Shokugeki no Souma because I just couldn’t take the amount of half naked women having foodgasms in the first episode. It was a food anime for God’s sake! I just wanted to watch someone cooking delicious food!
Fan service really makes me despair. Half the time it isn’t needed!
So it was so nice to watch a shounen anime where men’s bodies were being sexualized instead of women’s. For once I wasn’t watching women with big boobs running around on a beach. Instead there were pretty half naked guys in swimsuits with very nice muscles.
And you only see women in swimsuits twice: Miho Amakata in the pages of a magazine which is part of her backstory, and when Gou is watching the guys doing island to island swimming, and even then she’s wearing a full swimsuit with a jacket over the top. She never goes in the water, or runs along the beach, making stupid faces while splashing water. She’s there because she’s their coach and isn’t downgraded to some chick in a swimsuit.
Strong characters and character interactions
All the characters in Free! are well developed and thought out.
They all have their own individual characteristics: Rei’s obsession with beauty and theory; Nagisa’s cheerful attitude, pushy parents, bad eating habits and when he does that thing when he rubs his head against someone else’s back when he wants something; Makoto’s caring attitude towards his team mates, his kind smile, his strong leadership and fear of the ocean; Haru’s indifference, obsession with water, resolution to only swim free, indecision about what to do with this life, his joy at swimming with his friends and protectiveness of Makoto.
You can put all the characters in a situation and just know what they are going to do. I feel like I know them as real people rather than just characters.
I think one of my favourite aspects of this anime is the relationships between the characters. I love how all tension between Rin and the Iwatobi swim club disappears by the end of season 1 and they’ve returned to the friends they were before Rin disappeared to Australia. I love Rei’s selfless act in season 1 when he gives up his place in the relay, because he knows how important it is for the others to heal their relationship with Rin, which can only be done by swimming with him again.
Even when I rewatch Free! I still shout at the screen during the races.
They’re so tense and exciting!
I always want to fall through the screen and stand on the side lines and scream “Go go go go go Makoto!” along with the rest of Iwatobi.
As it is, I still scream and shout alongside everyone, offering my encouragement to the characters on screen who I know can’t hear me… It’s a lonely sad existence.
Awesome openings and closing songs
I don’t think I need to say much about this point.
I’ll let Youtube do the talking for me.
Let me just say that Oldcodex and Five Style were the perfect choices for this anime in terms of using them for the openings and ending songs.
Maybe that last point wasn’t a valid one, but it’s a beautiful one.
I know some people have a lot of issues with Free! because of the high amount of guy on guy interaction which suggests something more than friendship, especially between Haru and Rin in season 1.
I am of the opinion that the relationships are more than just friendships – that they do have romantic feelings for one another.
I doubt that Kyoto Animation will ever make the relationships canon because of the limitations of Japanese genres (they’d have to reclass the show as shounen-ai), but the unknown is great fuel for interesting fan art xD
I could seriously talk forever about how amazing Free! is. I might do an in detail blog post about the show one day, but it’ll leave it at this for now.