Sunday, July 14, 2013

Free! Episode 01

So you might have noticed by the title that I'm starting up a new show. If you haven't, then you probably noticed just now. Unless you skipped the last two sentences, in which case, I can't help you.

I was sitting around, and then my girlfriend comes up and says, "hey, there's this show that really confuses the hell out of me, maybe you should do something about it." And I, being the complete idiot I am, go "sure, what could possibly go wrong?"

Hence, I am actually going to be watching a currently-airing show. The idea is that this will be a weekly feature. Why am I doing a bonus this week? Two reasons. First, I really, really want to finish Sailor Moon by Friday. Because if I drag that out any longer, it might cause irreversible damage to my frontal lobe. By which I mean to say, I might decide to test the structural integrity of the front of my skull. Second, I want to try to get this blog up as close to the air date as is humanly possible.

With that being said, there is a very slim possibility that you might see another bonus episode this week. Very, very slim, depending on when the second episode airs (and when I can get English translations because those things are kind of important for my understanding). So we'll see. Worst case scenario is, I get to update this next on Monday. Best cast (or actual worst case depending), I might update these on fridays. It all depends on when it becomes available for me.

With that said, let's dive into the wet and wonderful world that is... Free!

Please be gentle. This is my first time.

Oh shit. That's how you know shit's bout to get REAL.

It's not very often that you'll see an anime begin with a disclaimer quite like this one. In fact, I'm not really certain I've ever seen one that needed to straight up say that right from the get-go. I mean, by definition, you are watching an animated television show. So why would you feel the need to disclaim that everything is a work of fiction, and not based upon real individuals?

Aw shit, shit's about to get real. The realest of reals. What will we be dealing with? Serial killers? Rapists? Child molesters? Lord knows I've gotten enough of THOSE from that OTHER SHOW.



We're dealing... with swimmers.

O-kay. So...

"Don't resist the water. Thrust your fingers into the surface and carve out an opening."

... hold on a second. This is sounding a lot like innuendo for something... but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Oh god no.

"Then you move your arms, your head, your chest..."

Oh no. This is going to be going somewhere incredibly dark very quickly, I'm sure of it.

Dude on the right? You have the girliest voice

I have ever heard. That takes a lot of effort, since


I take it back, BOTH of these guys have girly voices. Then there's some red-haired transfer student who just showed up last week, who dives in and begins to overtake that first swimmer.


According to aniDB? No. In fact, one of these dudes was freaking Light Yagami. You know, that guy from Death Note who went around killing everyone? I don't know about you, but my mind? It's friggin' BLOWN. And we're not even two full minutes into this thing yet.

Right... so this blue-haired swim prodigy is all, "whatevs, I just swim to swim, don't give two shits about time, I just like to swim." Then there's talk about accepting the water and.... oh.

.... oh. They sounded like girls because they were a hell of a lot younger, because now dude is like, a lot older now.

... well that makes perfect sense suddenly why everyone sounded like girls. So color me confused. What is this show about? Swimming is my best guess so far.

"My late grandmother had a saying. At ten, you're a prodigy. At fifteen, you're a genius. But once you hit twenty, you're just an ordinary person."

Wow. What a bleak outlook on life that woman had. He's got three years left, meaning he's 17, and he wants to be 'ordinary'. Then the OP starts and... what? What is this? WHAT AM I WATCHING?

Glad they clarified that right quick.

If rumor is to be believed? It's not just swimming. It's GAY SWIMMING. Because that's so much better than normal swimming, right?

At least the OP has a kind of rocking intro, that is completely composed of half-naked men swimming around in the water. Which is probably going to set the tone for this entire show.

Son of a bitch.

How bad can this possibly be?

I guess this dude's name is Makoto, and he likes to

shake down old women.

So this dude is running to school I guess? But he stops for every little thing, from old ladies to tiny kittens. He shows up at someone else's house, and runs around to the back because nobody answers the door when he rings the bell. He runs into the back and straight up comes inside. Dude, did you even take off your outdoor shoes? Hell no. How disrespectful can you be?! Oh, yeah, saying "scuse me" is totally going to excuse the fact that you are getting dirt all over the floors young man, you should be ashamed of yourself.

He continues this gross invasion of privacy by catching his friend... in the bathtub.


This guy's name is Haru, I guess? He's the so-called swimming prodigy I guess who has decided to do jack shit with his life because he finds the world boring. At least, that must be the thought process behind a so-called prodigy/genius that just wants to be an ordinary fella.

Haru is a nickname of some sort though. The he stands up out of the tub, with the help of his best friend...

Why do you look so disappointed? OH MY GOD NO.

He seems to be disapproving of his friend bathing with his swimsuit on.

If I were this guy, and had a friend like this? You sure as hell bet I'd be doing the same goddamned thing.

Wait. It gets worse. Or better, depending on your preferences. Because then this guy goes downstairs and puts an apron on over his swimsuit to GRILL FISH. Who cares about being late to school? Not this guy, because he wants grilled fish for breakfast and he will get it or else, damn it.

You know what this means?

It means this show is eye-candy. Pure and simple. This guy, he isn't acting out of motivation for anything. He is acting because he is being directed to act. He cooks becuase it is determined he must be in an apron. While wearing his swimtrunks. Which he just conveniently happens to be wearing. In a show about swimming.

For a guy who is supposed to not be giving two shits about swimming, he seems to be going out of his way to shove his crotch into our faces already. Just sayin'.

His excuse for wearing the apron? He doesn't want to get oil on his swimsuit.


Eventually he shows up, to school, after it's been revealed that he missed opening ceremonies. Called in 'sick'. I think he's just playing hooky because he doesn't give a damn, which makes me wonder why anyone is even bothering to do anything. Is this going to be one of those touchy-feely types of shows where we try to espouse the values of love and friendship?

Nope. It's about how this dude could care less about anything that doesn't involve swimming.

... wow. I actually did not see that one coming at all.


So they get to class, and we learn his true name finally.

Welp, that explains a lot.

Okay, so he gets mistaken for a girl a lot. That probably explains his irrational desire to show his crotch around as much as possible, at least. Y'know, to assert his manhood and all that. But then his best bud has his back, informing the teacher that he is, in fact, a man. He would know, what with having busted into him during his private bath time and all that. Then the class laughs because they're probably also used to this thing, and everyone thinks it's funny that the teacher is dumb or something.

Then he sits around, listening to the rumors about this new teacher, how she failed to achieve her dream in Tokyo and came here to become a teacher instead. Which causes him to immediately want to diss her because of her change in career choices. Right. Because that's totally a terrible reason to become a teacher...


Holy crap. This dude? He is completely acting like the female love interest in every anime ever. The only problem he he is clearly a man. Shit is getting the realest of reals up in here now, because this plot is moving by a mile a minute. Will he go have lunch with his best friend on the roof? Will they make out? Will his best friend suddenly cop a feel and immediately begin a twenty-minute Yaoi sausagefest extravaganza?

Wow, harsh.

Apparently not. His best friend does not involve swimming, and is, therefore, of zero interest at all.

Then there's some girl with red hair running along who gets pushed aside by some other dude, who immediately joins those other two dudes. He appears to still be just as girly as he was whenever they were all little kids together.

Yet another girly name. I am sensing a theme here.

Right, so he is suuuuper-excitebike that now they are all going to the same high school together. It'll be just like old times. Only with a lot more awkward boners, I'm sure.

Somewhere, a thousand girls just squealed in joy.

They all head up to the roof and catch up on old times, because it's been forever. And Nagi is all "holy crap cherry trees by the pool how awesome!" Little known fact: Cherry blossoms are generally seen as an incredibly romantic thing in Japanese culture. Which is why you'll see it in damned near every high school anime EVER. Because, y'know, romance and all that.

This particular pool is disused, however, and there is no swim club. Which seems like a perfectly good waste of funds if you ask me. Oh, and our girlbro Haru stopped swimming competitively a long time ago, and as previously established in this show, gives precisely two shits about it.

Nagisa, however, is incredibly disappointed. He was, and I quote, "looking forward to swimming with (Haru) again." But there's no swim club, and Haru just likes to be in the water, so Nagi asks if they have a hot springs club.

I... think this dude just seriously wants to see his old pal wearing practically nothing again. Because you know what? That is a perfectly normal reaction to everything, right? Right. Because the first thing you do when you see a guy friend you haven't seen in years is to suggest you go out to a hot spring.

Whatever happened to, I dunno, sitting around playing cards? Catching a movie? Looking at girls? You know, typical guy things?

Then Mako (which is technically also a girl's name) sees that chick with the red hair kind of looking over at the three of them all sad-like, and we move onto our next plot point: The swim club they all went to as grade school children is about to be shut down, so maybe they should go pay it a visit one last time. Finally, something seems to affect grumpy ol' Haru. Supposedly they are going to 'dig something up'. But now Haru is all like "no, I dun wanna" because he is a crybaby. Dude, what is your deal, exactly? It's like he is specifically acting in this manner purely to pander to the womenfolk, as opposed to acting like a character with actual motivations for living. Now, unless something suitably tragic has happened in his past that makes him not like his old friends, but still loves swimming...

Wait that just made no sense. Okay, so that's debunked. So what gives?

He doesn't want to go because he doesn't think it'll be 'fun'. Even though there is a pool there. A fact that his pal Mako is eager to remind him of - a fact that appears to exist only to torment the guy I can only assume must be the main character.

Then they head over to his place after school, to kindly reveal to us that his parents moved due to work, leaving him all by himself. How tragic. Then Haru starts cooking fish (again) for his bestest brosephs, at which point Nagi comments about how he was 'always a great cook'.

Dude, you knew each other back in grade school? Holy crap that is a semi-creepy remark to make, but okay. We'll just roll with it I guess...

Why no I'm not, but thanks for asking anyways.

Now Mako starts having reservations about digging up that thing they buried. Something about it just being the three of them, it not feeling quite right. What the hell did you guys bury anyways, a dead body? Wait, if that's the case, why would you dig it up?

Of course, now it is revealed that the fourth member, Rin, the readhead, isn't even in Japan anymore.

Rin. Which is also a girl's name.

So let me get this straight. You gave every single one of your male characters a female name. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

One character? That's funny. Two? That can be a happy coincidence that links them together. Three is suspicious. But all four? Okay, now you're just being blatant about it. No question, this is definitely a show about gay swimmers.

So we're being treated to another flashback, where Rin reveals he will be going to... Australia?! Holy hell. But even weirder? HE IS GOING TO A SWIMMING SCHOOL. IN AUSTRALIA.

First of all, I am pretty goddamned certain that swim school is not, in fact, a real thing. Second of all, I am even more certain that you do NOT have to go all the way to a foreign goddamn country in order to go to a GOOD one.

Oh you son of a bitch.

Thirdly? OLYMPIC ATHLETES GENERALLY TRAIN IN THEIR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. At least, that is my impression, up until they are old enough to join an actual Olympic team. But hey, what do I know about this shit? Absolutely nothing, it would seem, since Google seems to indicate that Japan's teams have trained in all kinds of crazy places, like France and Basildon. Which I guess is a place in Essex or something? Which is also a place in Great Britain. Okay, so we have established that I know jack-all about swimming. Either way? Moving to Australia to train to be a swimmer sounds just a tad bit extreme to me.

Just a tad.

So there's this upcoming relay race, which is the last time he'll be swimming with them, as he is moving the day after the race. Because, y'know, he's a complete dick as a child, not telling his friends he'll be moving and then kind of nonchalantly mentioning it the week before he leaves. I bet the ladies are going to eat this dude up. They seem to like abusive, neglectful man-types these days, as evidenced by some other show I've been watching.

Haru is all broken up over this thing, saying he only swims freestyle and hates doing races, but then Rin is all, "Hey, if you swim in this race with me...."



So the three brosephs show up at the place late at night, and little Nagi brought something special.


He calls this 'purifying salt'. Because, y'know, the place is haunted, so you clearly want some powdery white substance to help protect you.

Guys? I'm not feeling so sure about this show, because we're already halfway in and going into some incredibly awkward territory. Don't get me wrong, the whole bathtub thing was weird, but this? This is just downright surreal. I'm not even at the halftime commercial break and feeling like maybe this was a bad idea to watch.

So Nagi tells a story about how people have seen shadows moving inside and the sound of someone crying, and takes the next few moments to put salt on everyone to protect them from any evil spirits that might be inside.

By sugar do you mean.... cocaine?

Then Nagi plays it off all cool, saying none of that shit matters because it's all in your head! Dick. Haru makes an offhand comment about how cliche this whole thing is, and Mako is all "well, it is a common mistake, mixing up sugar and salt."

Since when? I've never had an issue telling the SALT CONTAINER from the SUGAR CONTAINER. One makes me hyper. The other? I SEASON MY FRIES WITH IT.

Though, that being said, maybe I should try putting sugar on my fries more often. Mmm, sugar fries... now I want to try some.

So Nagi kicks an empty can, causing our big strong loverboy to cling to his darling Haru all terrified, because he needs some major reassurance here. As they walk away, the camera does that dramatic thing where the characters walk off-shot, and then a CREEPY SHADOW EMERGES FROM BEHIND THEM. Oh no, whatever could this mean? CUE SUSPENSEFUL VIOLINS!

They finally make it to the lounge, and look at the picture taken after they won the relay. Spoilers: Haru looks super excited.

Sorry, I lied. It's called sarcasm.

This causes them to go into a flashback, where he remembers what his bestest buddy promised to show him. That thing? A trophy which they then bury in a time capsule, to be dug up when they are older.

That's a hell of a thing to put in the ground.IF YOU HAD ANY DOUBTS? CONSIDER THEM


Eventually, Haru is snapped out of his little reverie, and the trio go back upon their merry little way, with Mako still acting like a little goddamn girl.

Ignore the shadowy figure watching you....

Oh, but then they stop, and realize they are being watched. And the shadowy figure begins to come towards them! Stranger danger, stranger danger! You need an adult! Poor little Mako starts freaking out, but Haru? He's as immovable as Mount goddamned Rushmore. That is, until he realizes who it is that has come to visit them. Complete with his own completely rocking soundtrack, because he is clearly the badass that all the ladies will swoon over. Next to Haru, since this is technically a show about him, right?

Meet Rin. He's 17, loves swimming and creeping

around abandoned buildings at night looking for boys.

He's being a full-on dickhole though, because he's like, "yo, Haru, you're still hanging out with these guys?" Well, hi, nice to see you too. They want to know if they've learned anything in the time they've been apart. So clearly, that makes this the best time for a swim race.No. Seriously. WHAT?!

They totally ditch the other two and immediately start stripping their clothes because they are MANLY MEN DOING MANLY THINGS. Yet, somehow, the two comedic relief dolts are surprised that both of these guys are wearing swim trunks under their clothes. How is anyone surprised by this? I mean really now.

Then they do an epic face off and prepare to dive into the water... only to find the pool is totally empty. So, no swimming this time around. Rin reveals that he's already dug up the trophy, and could care less about it and what it represents, saying he "doesn't need it anymore." So obviously, that means he has to drop it on the ground and walk away, completely dissing his old pals.

What is the purpose of this? Well, aside from fulfilling the aforementioned DICK QUOTA I said he would likely have (because that is clearly part of his character), he is also trying to clearly spur the other only real challenger to his power into action. Because the one thing you want to do after a five year (or however long) training session in Australia is to go back home and taunt all your old pals how much more awesome you are than them now.

Right. Okay. Sure thing. I can totally accept WAIT SCRATCH THAT NO I CAN'T.

Then it's suddenly the next day and Haru thinks he was having a dream, except he wasn't and the others are like "man, he was totally weird". LIKE THE REST OF YOU SOMEHOW AREN'T. Haru has all the answers though. This Rin must have been a Lookalike. No, wait. A ghost. Wait, no, a DOPPLEGANGER. Because all of these things make sense. Why don't you just accept the fact that your friend was a complete asshat from the start, who only cared about competing and nothing close to resembling actual friendship? Because trust me, I've known someone like that before. He was always a tool back then, and I'm sure he's probably still a tool now.

So looking over these three having fun are the two girls from the rooftop before:

If they keep showing up like this, they clearly

must be important characters somehow.

So, despite having breasts, these girls must somehow be integral to the plot at hand. Red-hair knows exactly who all of these boys are. Possibly because she is a creepy stalker chick of some sort? Also, she has the exact same hair color as Rin. I'm sure that won't be getting mentioned at any point whatsoever. She knows everything about these guys, like their names and the fact they were all in the same swimming club.

Oh but we are dealing with a genius here, folks.

So how does she know all this? It's a secret. (Probably has nothing to do with the fact that she is probably secretly Rin's sister. Calling it now.)So, supposedly her name is Gou. I get the feeling we might not see her again until the very end of the episode. Next up, Nagi and Mako are getting chewed out for going into that old abandoned building. Because, y'know, that's called trespassing. Clearly, Haru avoids chewing out because he already left for the day. Like a true delinquent who cares only for swimming. Then their homeroom teacher walks over with what I'm sure is probably supposed to be some profound Chinese proverb, but I think it gets lost on everyone. EVERYONE. Including me.

Next up, the dynamic duo go searching lockers, wondering if they'll be able to find Rin because if he's back from Australia, clearly he would have transferred to their school.

Oh gee, would you look at that. Called it.

Thinking he found it, Mako realizes that his princess is in another castle. Until he puts two and two together, and goes, "holy crap, that was Rin's sister!"

Yeah, because the hair was not a completely dead giveaway at all here. Then we're treated to another bout of Haru trying to drown himself in his bathtub, while Gou stands outside his door. As she goes to walk away, she meets with the other two, who, as also predicted, meet up with her again near the end of the episode. It's almost like I've seen this formula a million times before.

Though, I guess I can't really harp on that too hard. I mean, after all, this is not a show with very much substance to it. I'll get into that later though, when I wrap this whole thing up.

So they get to talking with the girl, because what else are two high school boys going to do after school? Besides each other. Shit did I say that? Oh well, guess I did.

Yeah, because that was a completely obvious thing

that... was... obvious... right.

So Gou prefers to be called Kou, probably because the latter sounds more like a girl's name than a boy's, even if it is completely not even her real name. It's related to the way her name is read, so whatever. She wanted to meet with Haru to ask him about her brother, who came back a month ago and is attending some hoity-toity academy because he must be the pro-est of swimmers now.

Or it could be that. Wow.

Supposedly, they are a school which, brace yourselves, exclusively trains amazing swimmers. Clearly, this means that the three recently reunited bros should go find the fourth part to their comedy troupe, right?

Not according to Haru. Number of shits given = zero. Of course, Mako knows just how to handle his little lover, by tempting him to go because THEY HAVE A POOL, YOU LIKE POOLS BECAUSE THEY ARE SOMETHING YOU CAN SWIM IN AND HEY, YOU LIKE SWIMMING STILL AM I RIGHT? RIGHT?

I think I actually want to start punching things now, because this? This is getting GRATING and this is only the FIRST EPISODE.

Of course, anytime you mention the possibility of going for a swim, Haru gets all doe-eyed and then they cut to another scene. This time, on a train, to see THEIR WORSTEST OF FRIENDS. By sneaking into their school to look at their pool. So they start looking for Rin, but who cares about Rin? Haru came here to swim. And you know what? That means he's going to start stripping. Right. This. Very. Second. Because he came here to swim.

There is no possible way this could ever end well. None whatsoever. But let's follow this thing to its logical conclusion, shall we?

Not even his two bestest pals can keep him from taking off his clothes, nosirree. He came here for two things: To strip his clothes and get wet. And. Um. That just got really awkward and I will stop right there.

Then night falls and they sneak into the pool, and within five seconds Haru's thrown his clothes off and dove into the pool. So, now that everyone's gone, it's time for EVERYBODY to lose their clothes and go for a late-night swim. Because what else is there to do to fill the last two minutes of this episode?

That's right. You pander to your audience.

Mako steps over when Nagi calls, and gets pulled in, clothes and all, because who gives a flying f**k at this point. This is a show about swimming and everyone is going to swim whether they like it or goddamn not. At which point, Mako also loses his clothes, and these two look like they're about to start doing some seriously Dirty Swimming at this point, because oh holy mother of god you do not use body language like that in a platonic manner at all.

Of course, who should walk in during this naked frivolity than good ol' bad boy Rin himself, looking like some sort or Yakuza. No, seriously, just look at this douchenozzle.

Dude just needs some gold chains and he's set.

Rin goes to chase everyone out, and then Haru is all, "Dude, I told you. I swim freestyle." Then steps out of the pool, to MOTHER F***ING DUBSTEP. DUBSTEP. IF THERE WERE ANY STOPS LEFT, THEY HAVE NOW BEEN COMPLETELY PULLED OUT. Because while this badass music is playing, he's all "well, I got three years till I can be ordinary, so there's no point in trying to be ordinary now I guess".


Then there's a whole bunch of overdramatic bullshit about how he couldn't remember what it was he saw all those years ago, and Rin is all "bring it."

Now we're into the ending and.... oh my christ. This is... this can only be described as completely gay. Like... there are no other possible words to describe it. When you dress up like a princess? You're completely gay. Just. Oh god. No doubt at all.

.... so what do I think about this show? *takes a deep breath* Well...

It is surprisingly well animated. I can't believe the production values for this show, especially given its content. I mean, this is, by all rights, incredibly well-drawn. The artwork is, in a word, fantastic.

That, however, cannot possibly save this show, because what it is, plain and simple, is Yaoi-bait. They had one thing in mind when they made this show: To get as many girls to watch it as possible, by making the cast as gay as humanly possible.

All of these guys act like girls. Which all the girls are liable to eat up, because that's what they do. Oh, but they still retain some of their manly traits, that is, you've got the red-headed transfer student friend who is a dick, and the protagonist who is a super genius but even more super lazy. Or the two friends who are just there for pure comedic relief.

This is a show with no substance at all. They try to make all the pretenses, to make it seem like they're an actual show, but the entire plot literally revolves around guys swimming.

Truth be told? I'm amazed this show ever got to market, because frankly, this is the kind of shit that gets made because some guys want to know what focus groups they can get the most viewership out of. In this case?

Young women who want a show with mindless sexual pandering.

Well played, Japan. Well played. You've finally come full circle by creating a Yaoi-bait show for the ladies.

You know what the most depressing part of all of this is?

It will probably be three times as successful as the usual young-male pandering show will be simply because of the larger demographic.

So in short: Expect more shows like this in the future.

It is a bleak future.

Oh god.
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