Showing is superior to telling, but not all showings are created equal. One of the ways to tell a high-class pro director from a replacement-tier one is the way they make a situation clear with the first snap of the camera. Case in point: those first 3 seconds of that shot after Haru saved Makoto. The way one set of feet was dragging and the other was limp immediately spelled out what was going down. Mix in effective not-use of music (just rain and heavy breathing), and you get an immediate impression of the state Makoto was in. It was a bit of imagery that felt like something adapted from an award-winning manga, except Free is a novel adaption that had to make its own storyboards.
One look and it’s pretty obvious someone’s not alright
Not that it matters, since the novel Free was based on was in the Kyoto Animation Award contest, but I think they were the perfect studio for this show. Of course, it’s a given that the high-energy swimming scenes would look good.* But the motion-heavy body language is boosting the comedy along with the action. something really pronounced in the one scene where Gou and Amakata revealed they wouldn’t be sleeping outside. Hiroko Utsumi really milked those one-syllable words for all they were worth.
When I set out to watch anime from the glorious annals of history, there are three general lines of attack I follow. First, I look for agreed-upon classics, shows everyone agrees are great and influential. Second, I look at catalogs, shows made by directors, writers, or studios that have a bunch of other impressive tics on their resume. Third, I listen to recommendations when people make them. Solty Rei, a 2005 sci-fi show about bounty hunter/parent Roy Revant and his two daughters, found its way to me via the second and third channels. The show ended up being a wholly worthwhile experience, an easy marathon that rightfully belongs in the early Gonzo catalog with its host of impressive titles.