I’m back from San Diego Comic Con and I’m all caught up on Free! Eternal Summer. While there aren’t too many things going on in episodes four and five, there’s an immense amount of character development, including a spotlight episode for Nagisa. It’s great to see some of the less prominent characters get their day in the limelight.
“The Somersault Turn of Promise” focuses mostly on Rin and Sousuke. The two childhood friends have picked up their relationship right where they left off, including their friendly competitions (complete with punishment games). It’s nice to see more of Rin’s childhood self. The juxtaposition of the flashbacks and the present day scenes do an excellent job of showing how out of touch with himself Rin was last season.
This season, Sousuke may be the one to learn an important lesson about friendship. While his moments of kindness and friendliness seem genuine, he shows his manipulative side when he tries to convince Rin to give up on swimming with his friends in favor of his dream. Of course, Rin slaps that notion down pretty fast, passionately claiming he can do both. I don’t think Sousuke is a bad guy. He’s just selfish. His sudden interest in relays, which he previously hated doing, hints that he’s already starting to change.
Admittedly, I don’t really know what to make of Sousuke as a character. He feels totally shoehorned in, like the childhood friend no one ever mentions who randomly shows up to cause trouble. Except he’s in High Speed!, the novel on which Free! is based. I’m not sure if his inclusion is meant to feel jarring, or if I just don’t personally care for him.
The Iwatobi guys don’t do much while Rin and Sousuke take a trip down memory lane. They’re subjected to Gou’s hardcore nutrition and training routine, but it’s more comic relief than genuine plot development. It’s nice to see everyone appreciating Gou’s hard work though. I can’t imagine it’s easy putting together a swimming regimen. It just goes to show how knowledgeable Gou is about swimming. She comes from a swimming family, after all.
Speaking of Gou, she has a run in with Momo this week, who is way more zealous than his brother could ever be. I really like Momo, with his inconsistent swimming techniques and his dorky hobbies, but I hope he lays off eventually. Being creepy is the worst possible way to try and win someone’s heart.
“The Somersault Turn of Promise” doesn’t do a whole lot to further the storylines, beyond having Rin start signing people up for the next competition, but it does provide a lot of insight into Rin and Sousuke’s past and present friendship.
“A Resolution’s Heads Up” is even less relevant to the plot, but it provides some fantastic development for Nagisa. Last episode, I expressed hope that we’d see Nagisa express his emotions more overtly, and we get that here. Was the plot in which it was built around kind of contrived? Absolutely. But it’s handled in a way that makes Nagisa’s problems feel important and meaningful.
Nagisa has always come off as the most carefree of the group, so the revelation that he used to be a miserably overworked student gives him some much-needed depth. His parents lack of understanding about his passions is something everyone can relate to, even if his choice to run away is immature. I feel like we finally get to see the real Nagisa, the one who buries his feelings under a sunny exterior because he’s afraid of the outcome if he expresses them openly. Rei’s lecture about giving up before even trying to reason with his parents feels like real, important advice. Nagisa sometimes feels like the tagalong, so Rei, Makoto and Haruka’s open expression of affection and support is really sweet.
It’s also worth mentioning that Nagisa isn’t the airhead I’ve always assumed he is. Free! doesn’t focus at all on their schoolwork, so I’ve always guessed at their academic abilities based on their character types. It’s quite a revelation that Nagisa is very intelligent (when he’s not completely burned out). Meanwhile Makoto, whom I thought excelled at everything, doesn’t even know that Pangea no longer exists. That sense of ignorance and gullibility actually endears him to me, since Makoto is otherwise portrayed as nearly perfect.
Despite some great Nagisa moments (his angry rant at whom he thought was his mother), “A Resolution’s Heads Up” feels kind of out of place in the grand scheme of things. Which is fine. It reminds me of the “stranded on an island” episode from last season, which does absolutely nothing to further the story, but provides some rich character interactions. Since Free! is primarily a slice-of-life anime, I can definitely get behind episodes like these.
Free! is moving along pretty well. I hope we can see some more interaction between Rin and Haruka moving forward, since their friendship is the driving point of this series. I’m especially interested to see what Haru will decide concerning his future plans. I personally would like to see him train for the Olympics with Rin. I imagine we’ll find out what he ends up doing soon enough.
See you next water time!
Images are copyright of Kyoto Animation.