Free! Eternal Summer is on the cusp of a dramatic turn. Things have been relatively carefree up to this point, at least concerning the graduation story line. But with so few tournaments left for the third years, stakes are heightened and friendships will be tested.
“Invincible Prime” follows the Iwatobi and Samezuka swim teams as they head to the first day of swimming prefecturals. This episode focuses mostly on Makoto. At prefecturals, he challenges Haruka to a “real” race, during what he seems to think is one of their last chances to swim together. Makoto doesn’t seem like the type to swim professionally, and I think it’s becoming apparent to him that he and Haruka are on different paths. I appreciated seeing a side to Makoto beyond “aggressively pleasant”, even if his graceful reaction to his loss is kind of frustrating. The flashbacks this episode really drive home that Makoto makes a lot of personal sacrifices for Haruka, whether they’re necessary or not. I’d love to see Makoto act selfishly for once. I get the feeling that there’s going to be continued drama between Haruka and Makoto, and I think it’d be a good opportunity to really get inside Makoto’s head.
Makoto admits to a perceptive Nagisa that he’s jealous of Rin, due to the fact that Rin and Haruka will likely end up on the same road. Rin and Haruka are more-or-less evenly matched. Their comparable skills are emphasized by their minuscule time difference, and those times could potentially start them on a road to the Olympics. Haruka doesn’t seem to know what exactly he wants, but it seems more likely that he’ll go on to compete professionally than retire from competitive swimming and do something else.
Despite Makoto’s struggles, the Iwatobi swim team wins each of their respective events, with the Samezuka team mostly coming in second. It’s nice to see how each of the characters react to their victories or losses. Rei’s triumph at his improvement is especially cute, even if he didn’t really have that much competition. Samezuka keeps their spirits up because of Rin’s inspiring leadership. Nitori, the only major Samezuka swimmer to not qualify for the next tournament, manages to improve his time.
Former Captain Mikoshiba comes out to support Samezuka and his little brother, even when he finds out that Momo also has a crush on Gou. Despite their love rivalry, Mikoshiba proves to be a fantastic older brother, as he loudly cheers on Momo during his race.
Gou, meanwhile, puts herself on a “no muscles until Nationals” diet, much to the bemusement of the Iwatobi swim team who nevertheless commend her dedication. Gou’s relationship with Rin is also showcased, and their interaction as they visit their father’s grave is sweet.
Sousuke expresses disappointment at Rin’s loss to Haruka, to which Rin responds with a lack of concern. He seems to equate Rin’s lighthearted attitude toward swimming with lacking motivation or getting soft. Based on the preview for next episode, it looks as if he and Rin may finally butt heads on the issue.
The Iwatobi and Samezuka teams will compete in the medley relay next, and I can’t wait to see how that goes. While Iwatobi is a well-oiled machine, the potential disconnect between Haruka and Makoto could hurt their times. And Samezuka has some strong swimmers, but aren’t as practiced as Iwatobi. There’s some real tension bubbling, both in swimming and in the relationships between the characters. Things may get a little more serious for a while.
See you next water time!
Images are copyright of Kyoto Animation.