Saturday’s slate is, as usual, packed. It’s also, in a less usual twist, clogged to the brim with sports. I’m saving Kuroko s2 for the nightcap, and for now going over the two adaptations of KMA-winning sports manga, old and new.
The two biggest unresolved plot threads of Free going into the final episode (Rin’s suspension from the relay team and the effects on his and Haru’s burgeoning rivalry) closely shadowed one of the show’s bigger strengths (its strong cast) but weren’t exactly playing to the show’s big strength; its kinetic visual sense. Given that, the direction the ending went wasn’t a huge shock. Though it was admittedly not one hundred percent something that I had anticipated, it still went down the right pipe.
So the show did end up relying on the rematch, but it did it in a bit of a roundabout way that allowed for more emotional investment in the interim. Since Gou did the signups without telling any of the guys, we got a lot of footage of them trying their best in individual events. They may all have eventually lost, but they did so in the seven-game Conference Semifinals series kind of way, where one lucky bounce (or something as trivial as Rei’s goggles staying put) would have been enough to turn all of that into a win. In other words, losses providing the perfect narrative building blocks of a relay challenge the next day.
Training-based interlude that it was, this episode did come across as extremely well-researched. It found ways outline some of the key concepts and terminology behind different swimming exercises and strokes. It also happened to include different ways people can learn how to swim. For example, I never encountered the “turtle float” method when I was learning to swim. It was a neat new angle on an old bit of knowledge.
It’s pretty standard for school life anime about high school clubs to devote at least one episode into persistently recruiting a new member, so this more generic premise made the episode a good point of comparison with other shows in the genre. It’s a testament to the man writing it that the garden-variety setup elevated the show and set an appreciably high baseline.
Based on what I’ve seen of reactions to Free on the internet, it seems like a large quantity of people are ruling it out with one glance at the promo material rather than 20 minutes of episode time. It’s becoming increasingly obvious how much of a shame that is, because this show is complete in ways it didn’t even have to be to be an enjoyable ride.