Seven Coloured Compass

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Free!

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It’s summer and you know what that means… it’s time to get in the pool and feel Free! (haha, do you get it? No? Rude.)

Free! logo

Name: Free!

Japanese Name: Free!

Air Date: July 3 2013 – September 26 2013

Studio: Kyoto Animation, Animation Do

Episodes: 12

PLOT

The story revolves around Haruka Nanase, a boy who has always loved to be immersed in water and to swim in it. Before graduating from elementary school, he participated in a swimming tournament along with his fellow swimming club members, Makoto Tachibana, Nagisa Hazuki, and Rin Matsuoka. After achieving victory, each of the boys went their separate ways.

Time passed, and in the middle of their uneventful high school lives Rin appears and challenges Haruka to a match, showing Haruka his overwhelming power. Not wanting it to end like this, Haruka gathers together Makoto and Nagisa once again, and brings a new member named Rei Ryugazaki to create the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club in order to defeat Rin.

[via ANN]

When the first episode aired, I pushed aside all other anime I was watching (yes, including Bleach) and dived straight for this! All those PVs, key visuals and fan art finally got to me and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to watch something summery and get my stubby little hands on those boys… (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ hehe, shirtless boys in speedos, here I come!

I had my eyes particularly on Rin… because he’s voiced by my precious Mamoru Miyano! He is my god, and I hope that there will one day be an official religion dedicated to him. If not, I plan to take the world by storm with this religion… if anyone wants to join, then feel free – haha, OMG I just said ‘free’ and this review is about Free! LOL… am I the only one finding this funny? (-__-)

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much recently. I’ve been trying to catch up with episodes from Polar Bear’s Cafe, plus I’ve been trying to settle into college… I’M A COLLEGE GIRL. So I do apologise, but posts are going to be late every so often due to excessive amounts of homework I’d be getting and my busy schedule. I AM SO SO SORRY TT^TT

First Impressions

NAKED NAKED NAKED NAKED (。♥‿♥。) … oh. What a disappointment. I thought I was going to get at least some fanservice from the first episode but nope. They crushed my dreams. The main character – Haruka Nanase – was in the bath when his best friend Makoto Tachibana came to pick him up for school. So… Makoto walks directly into the bathroom while Haru is still in it. Whoa, that’s a bit straightforward isn’t it?O_o anyways, Makoto helps Haru out of the bath and the camera slowly films Haru… the chest, the abs, nearly there and… wait. He’s wearing his trunks in the bath (-___-) goddammit! Kyoto Animation, what kind of people are you to ruin my wild fantasies?! It has gotten to the point where I’m actually visualising the whole scene again just to fulfill my fangirl heart. Oh the agony! Haru also apparently cooks shirtless with only an apron covering his trunks (´⊙ω⊙`) I really thought he was naked then. Who knew my mind could be like this?! STOP PERVERTED BRAIN, JUST STAHP. I’m sure I’m not the only female who feels this way… raise your hands if you are part of the guilty party *raises hand up sheepishly*, if you raised your hand, I applaud you. Give yourself a round of applause, even if you’re reading this in public *claps* I dare you.

Episode 1*makes inhuman sounds*

MAKOTOOO!~❤ why are you such a little cutie? D’aw, why do you have to make it so easy for me to love you? He resembles the caring, older brother type which I now have a thing for… apparently. He really is such a precious little thing (maybe not little because this guy is TALL) and I adore him to pieces. His friendship and closeness with Haru is beautiful and I love how he knows what the latter is feeling without him saying so. There’s something about Makoto that really attracts me to him; his smile is somehow refreshing and his feeble attempts at stopping Haru from stripping (yes, stripping!) really make me smile with him and of course, I get a good laugh out of it. But I wasn’t joking about the stripping. Haru always has a compulsive need to strip every time he sees water or hears the word ‘pool’… I’m not complaining, it’s just something important that needs to be said (¬‿¬)

Someone’s a cocky, arrogant laddie… it’s my beloved Rin-chan (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧. y’know every time I watch a new anime, Mamo-chan always voices a character in it. I swear he’s stalking me… I like it, keep it up! After elementary school, Rin moved to Australia to attend a swimming competition. He has recently returned to Japan and visits his old swimming club where he bumps into Haru, Makoto and Nagisa. A tense situation arises as all three notice how much Rin has changed; personality wise and appearance. He’s no longer the bubbly child they remember from childhood, but rather cold, arrogant and egotistic. Does Mamo-chan always end up voicing these sorts of characters? Yes he does it very well, but seriously I swear he mostly goes for the arrogant characters… as well as the out-going and frivolous characters! Mamo-chan has the perfect voice (*´ω`*) it’s no wonder I love him so much!

Rin MatsuokaSQUEEEEEE!! >////<

Plot wise, nothing much has been offered however, it does gets the chance to show off some bromance and fierce rivalry within the first episode. I hope Kyoto Animation plan to develop the rivalry between Haru and Rin because… they ended the episode on a cliffhanger. A CLIFFHANGER. But this also gives Kyoto Animation something to build tension upon and raises questions that can only be answered by the characters themselves. How did this rivalry begin between Haru and Rin? Why did Haru quit swimming competitively? Why do all the characters love swimming so much? These are questions that most fans would be pondering on and hopefully, they will be answered in future episodes. Gimme more, MORE I SAY (屮゚Д゚)屮!!!

Midway Impressions

I’ve had a little look around to see what people’s views on Free! are, and I was really disappointed to see some people poking fun at their bodies and how they behave around one another. Some say the bodies look strange and inhuman… I beg to differ. A few of you may know that I am a competitive swimmer, but I was also at national standard ranked in the top 20 for the 100 metre freestyle before my health began to deteriorate – I caught viruses and infections so obviously it affected my training. Look at me rambling about myself… shut it Jimmy! If you look at Olympic swimmers such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte etc., you can see that their bodies are of similar appearance. Nothing to complain about here.

ASDFGJKLASHDSHGKLFDABHJ *HEAVY BREATHING* I CANNOT FATHOM THE FEELS I AM FEELING RIGHT NOW. The Iwatobi boys are off on a training camp in order to prepare for prefecturals, so they’re training… in open water! Obviously since Rei is a beginner, he starts off doing kick whilst the other three swim ahead. At this point, Rei feels guilty because he feels like he is going to let the team down at the rate he is going, so at night he goes out and trains more. Bad choice. A sudden storm takes Rei by surprise, and he starts to drown whilst yelling for help. Upon hearing his cries, Makoto frantically leaves his tent and dives after Rei. Both Haru and Nagisa hear the commotion and dive in after them. Once Makoto reaches Rei, he’s overcome with fear and is rescued by Haru; Rei is rescued by Nagisa. A while later, Haru manages to drag Makoto onto a nearby island to find that he is unconscious and his breathing weak. Worried, Haru contemplates on what to do, and is about to perform CPR (mouth to mouth) until Makoto awakens. Now this is where i must point out something. For those who ship Haru and Makoto together and were looking forward to some lip-to-lip action, you should notice how much Haru is shaking, and how worried he looks. His best friend is before him; unconscious, and barely breathing. He could have lost him. So imagine all the conflict Haru is feeling inside him. Think about it.

CPRWe all know what happens next…

Episode 7 marks the beginning of the prefectural tournament Iwatobi were preparing for in previous episodes. Rin and Haru are placed in the final heat (heat four) for the 100 metre freestyle (my best event yay!) and the top eight who have the quickest times qualify for finals. Now this is where is gets confusing… Rin and Haru are placed in lanes four and five; Rin won whilst Haru placed second, but Haru still didn’t qualify even though he got the second quickest time. In swimming, heats are determined by seed times with the first heat having the slowest competitors, and the last heat having the quickest. The lanes are organised in spearhead formation with the slowest (in the heat) on the outside lanes, and the fastest on the inside. Watch the Olympics and you can see how this works. But. Haru was in the last heat, seeded as one of the fastest, came second, got a time a few milliseconds off Rin’s, and yet HE STILL DOESN’T QUALIFY which is bugging me to no end! Unless there were seven other competitors in previous heats who went quicker, I am not content with this result. NOT AT ALL. What makes it worse it is that after the race, Rin says to Haru: “I win. This means I’ll never swim with you again. Never.” Haru looks so distraught, and lost after that. My heart twisted in knots, and it was painful to see Haru so upset TT^TT

The competition beginsSide by side, but not together.

Overall Opinion

Free! was one of the most anticipated anime series of the summer season, and has accumulated a whole horde of fangirls. But has it REALLY lived up to its expectations?

The plot isn’t a complicated one, or anything special for that matter, but it’s refreshing and simplistic. It’s about friendship, being able to move forward with the help of others and following YOUR own dreams instead of living out someone else’s. Haruka Nanase, the main character, only cared about feeling the water since he first started swimming as a child. He thought that was all that mattered, until a transfer student by the name of Rin Matsuoka shows up and gets him to swim on a relay with him, and two other teammates, Makoto Tachibana and Nagisa Hazuki. After the sensational experience of swimming with the best teammates you could ask for, the four youngsters felt something that would change their lives; the feeling of being a team, and being one with them. However, they were not completely aware of this, so when Rin goes to Australia to follow his dad’s dream and become an Olympic swimmer , his confidence is shaken when he realizes that something isn’t right. Swimming isn’t as important for him if he doesn’t do it with his best friends, so he assumes he’s just weak and gives up on swimming, and so does Haruka.

Several years later, the boys have grown up with Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa attending the same high school – the former two being sophomores, and the latter being a freshman. Unbeknownst to them, Rin has returned to Japan, and demands a race against Haruka with the result of his victory. Rin thought this victory would make him free from the feeling of weakness and pain that surrounded him, but it simply didn’t work. Beating Haruka wasn’t what he needed to become ‘free’. He needed to swim with him again. As a team. So, seeing his old teammates forming a swimming club all over again, he feels lonely, and left out, and he doesn’t know how to move on. However, in the final episode – which was by far the best one of them all – friendship saves Rin from the dark and endless abyss he was in, and in the process, Haruka finally feels whole.

The animation is by no means, flawless. Half assed anime to please the fans, you say? I’d like to see you stuck in a studio trying to make the animation as realistic as possible. The swimming strokes, when they swim through the water and turn on the wall, the moment when they dive in… everything was realistic, and they took the work to animate it the best they could. The movements of the swimming styles follow the rules of FINA (the governing association for swimming), and everything is carefully taken care of. As a swimmer myself, KyoAni depicted the different techniques and strokes well.

What makes Free! stand out above all overs, is that the story is VERY much character-driven. The swimming itself is merely a by-product of the characters’ desires and interests, so the passion for the sport is clearly there. The boys development and progress is down to the fact that they lean on each other, and this makes this a rollarcoaster for your emotions. I genuinely care for each, and every character in this series, so the feels and angst where all over the place. The characters are intensely loveable, despite the flaws that make them human, and they’re not the typical stereotypes at all either. Rei and Haru displayed particularly rattling progress, and most of the other characters also showed signs of growth by the end. In the end, all characters got equal development, and KyoAni certainly deserves praise for this.

ReunionAnd they’re whole again! THE FEELS MAN ;____;

The opening song ‘Rage On’ by OLDCODEX is a rock number, and is probably one of my favourite songs ever. It’s intense, which arguably suits this particular type of series; since swimming is one of the more difficult sports to commit to, and also it is indeed intense. The lead singer – Tatsuhisa Suzuki – just so happens to be the seiyuu for Makoto Tachibana, which was a nice little fact to figure out about halfway through the series (unless you knew beforehand, as to which I applaud you). The ending song ‘SPLASH FREE’ by STYLE FIVE consisting of the five main seiyuus for the lead characters, is an incredibly catchy tune that will have you singing in no time. Trust me, I was up and dancing before I could even comprehend what was happening. But the voice acting, oh man. It was the best. It felt as if the seiyuus literally poured out their feelings for this one, and the feels got to me very well. As for the soundtrack, it consisted of calm, uplifting tracks that fitted the moods/atmospheres completely.

Free! is a prime example of why you should NOT underestimate a show’s potential based on what it is. Yes, it may have started as a commercial which stole the hearts of millions of fangirls everywhere, but it became so much more than the original ‘fanservice’ image. It became one heck of a series with the greatest animation, character development, and story development ever. It doesn’t lack substance! This is the highest praise I can give a series, and Free! truly deserves it. Free! is officially my favourite anime series ever, and I have high hopes for a season 2! If you judged this as a ‘gay swimming anime’, here is my challenge to you. WATCH IT AND SEE FOR YOURSELF THAT IT IS NOT JUST SHIRTLESS BOYS CONSTANTLY STRIPPING DOWN. Then let me know your thoughts. And that my friends, is my rant for the day.

PhotoMy darling, precious swimming boys…

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