Much has been made of the fact that the buzz-heavy Free represented Kyoto Animation/KyoAni in a departure from their typical character styles. Personally, I couldn’t give two bits about what other people had been hyping this show for. I was honestly just into it for the dynamic photography showcased in the trailer. And what do you know? It didn’t disappoint.
The main cast of Free is a fairly generic, if quirky, group of high school guys who all like to swim. Their personalities, and the nascent rivalry between two of them that this episode began to bring into focus, was not the selling point of the show. The photography was. This episode’s wall-to-wall phenomenal camerawork highlighted the characters in and out of the water and make them feel like energetic high-school athletes, covering everything from actual swimming to locker room hijinks to eating lunch on the grass with suitable flair.
People very, very often mistake anime directors for glorified illustrators responsible for nothing more than the smoothness of the animation. The reality is that directors in anime do a lot more, including many of the roles of their live action counterparts: making sure “cameras” are focused on the right things, choreographing body language, etc. For this show, though, the distinction is moot; everything visual was brilliantly handled. Director Hiroko Utsumi is logging a supercharged rookie performance. Backed by a very spiffy Tatsuya Katou (Future Diary, Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere) soundtrack, it’s hard not to see this show being a treat week-in and week-out. Lowballing, I’m giving it 3 more episodes of my time.