This week’s Free! steps back a bit from the dramatic turnings of the plot and does some light character introspection. While it doesn’t exactly shine a deeply profound light on its characters, it does provide a nice break from the steady build-up from the last few episodes.
“The Locomotive of the Twist” primarily follows Makoto through a temporary gig as a coach at Coach Sasabe’s swim club. Ever the nurturer, Makoto immediately takes to the group of enthusiastic little kids. One little boy, Hayato, claims to hate swimming, and the episode focuses on Makoto’s attempts to find a way to inspire the boy to swim.
Makoto’s nature shines as he gently encourages Hayato to come out of his shell, teaching him to swim the backstroke so that he doesn’t have to have his face in the water. It’s clear by the end of the episode that coaching is something Makoto could potentially do full time, and he seems pretty disappointed when his temporary gig comes to an end. Makoto has had as much trouble as Haruka deciding what he wants to do after high school, but going into coaching or some other kind of child care profession seems like a logical fit for him.
While he’s coaching, Makoto runs into Hayato’s older brother, Kisumi, who happens to be an old middle school friend. Kisumi is charming and friendly, and he seems enthusiastic about meeting Makoto and Haruka again (much to Haruka’s chagrin). It’s a bit unclear what his relationship with Haruka was like in middle school, but it looks as if he attempted to fill the hole that Rin left in Haruka’s life. Present day Kisumi seems closer to Makoto, though it could just be because of Makoto’s friendly nature. Kisumi doesn’t seem to be too interested in swimming himself, and it’s nice to meet someone who, much like Gou, is happier on the sideline. I don’t know if Kisumi will be back, but I hope so. He’s a fun and cute character.
Before Kisumi leaves the swim club, he accidentally reveals that Sousuke (whom he knows from elementary school) is recovering from a shoulder injury. It’s apparently a big revelation for Haruka and Makoto, and it could possibly explain Sousuke’s current angst. Perhaps his bad attitude toward swimming stems from the injury, or the situation that surrounds it. I’ve said before that Sousuke isn’t a bad guy, and his support of Nitori this episode is touching. Maybe once the truth about his shoulder comes to light, he’ll be able to let go of his issues.
“The Locomotive of a Twist” is light on Rin, Nagisa and Rei, beyond some supportive moments from each of them. Haruka is prominently featured, but he seems more dead-eyed than ever, and the next episode previews hint at a potential slump. It’s rarely apparent what Haruka is thinking, and his reaction to Makoto’s coaching gig is confusing. Is he happy for him? Does he actually care? My patience is running a little thin with Haruka’s attitude, and I hope it gets sorted soon.
I feel like the main issue with Haruka and Makoto’s relationship is that while they clearly care for each other, they inadvertently drag each other down. Makoto’s whole life has become centered around taking care of Haruka, which has enabled Haruka to become complacent and alarmingly dependent on him. Their relationship is strong, and I see Haruka’s support of Makoto even if it’s not apparent. I just think they could both benefit from time apart. We see how Makoto thrives in the company of people like Kisumi and the kids at the swim club, and I think that if they both learned to live on their own, their friendship would come out better for it.
Next week’s episode looks like it could be the dramatic peak for the series. Haruka may finally confront his future, and it’s possible that Sousuke may be the catalyst.
See you next water time!
Images are copyright of Kyoto Animation.