Before the episode, a point: Free’s first volume posted a combined BD/DVD sales figure of 25,000 volumes. If this stays above 20,000 copies per volume (it will), it’ll log in as Kyoto Animation’s best-selling TV title since Houkago Teatime planted their feet in London. If it gets a decent second week boost, there’s a non-negligible chance it passes Clannad’s 24,808 average and goes into the studio’s all-time top 5 behind Haruhi, Lucky Star, and the K-ons. Oh, and that mark is generally good for somewhere between the 40th and 60th best selling TV anime of all time. Those are some legit numbers. By accounts I’ve heard, the farm-system novel that birthed Free, High Speed, is playing out fairly directly on the screen and doesn’t leave much room for a sequel. That said, if I were an exec at Kadokawa I’d be doing my best trying to see if I could finagle one in. Remember, ignoring whether or not the ending is open or closed, 50 percent of anime that sell 4000 copies per volume or more get a sequel. I did some garbage calculations with a smaller sample of the 27 non-sequels to sell 20k+ volumes, and found that all but 8 eventually got movie or TV sequels of some kind. That said, 2 of those 8 were Kyoto Animation products.*
The more the series draws to its conclusion, the closer it resembles a cross between an 80s sports movie and a less-minimalistic Touch. It’s got the works; last-second comeback plays, a little bit of environment for the small town, plenty of memorable quotes. Not to mention the chat Haru and Makoto had while looking out at the coastline which finally made things click for the former. Nor that recollection scene Rin had at the old pool, choking down tears for something he could’ve kept but threw away. Nor the still-excellent background music that played during it.
This’ll be the last time I put Touch on here, if only because I’m done with it and it was awesome and any further thoughts will be coming in a full review up sometime next week. But before I lock the stadium up, I just want to geek out about one more thing. As before, major spoilers for a 20+ year old manga are coming up.
The title of this chapter alludes to the fact that it concludes a subplot between leading lady Minami and one of her admirers. This process includes a very touching scene of Nishimura, a sympathetic gag character, going full swirly on a couple of asshole guys who mocked his childhood friend. Which is all well and good, but that has next-to-nothing to do with why this chapter’s on here. It’s on here for one face, one which perfectly demonstrates the fiercely expressive power of Adachi Mitsuru’s character designs.
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.
So I’ve been reading Adachi Mitsuru’s Touch in the past couple of weeks. My opinions on it are more or less public record. The original reason I got started on it was to do a serious rundown of all the baseball series I knew of (since talking about baseball manga without mentioning Touch would be like talking about great basketball players and not mentioning Bill Russell). However, an interesting theme constantly showed up in that manga that I’ve seen in another series, Space Brothers.* Namely, both series focus on a relationship between two talented brothers who take their talents in different directions. And both do a fascinating job of exploring what caused those brothers to walk their separate paths.
I’m going to belabor this point, but Touch is an amazing, timeless classic manga. It’s also wildly unpopular in the states, something I kind of knew, but became much, much more obvious in my marathon sessions this week. Something I did not expect happened, and I had in no way been spoiled on it. The impressive thing isn’t so much that it happened, but how Adachi Mitsuru gives the audience the inside scoop. Suffice the man is a genius who’s madder than he lets on.
Warning: This article spoils a somewhat important twist in a manga that’s 20+ years old, but one that’s virtually unknown to western audiences. If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this and do read the manga.
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.
Recently, I’ve been taking on a major item that’s been on my checklist of must-read manga, Adachi Mitsuru’s Touch.* Though it’s not as popular in the States, it’s widely regarded as a classic in Japan. As usual, the conventional wisdom was dead-on and this classic has been a joy to read, bursting with old-timey summer atmosphere, gradually-blooming romance, and dust-covered baseball. I also noticed that several newer works I’ve read before this draw heavy inspiration from it.** Picking just one chapter from the thirty I’ve blazed through so far was difficult. I ultimately settled on this one because, among other things, it rolls out a musical montage to no music.
I’ve talked about Ace of the Diamond before. It’s my second-favorite baseball manga of all time*, and it is so because it a) is not about a team of scrappy underdogs, which allows for b) one of the most interesting dynamics in any sports manga – 4 highly skilled pitchers with alpha dog personalities competing for one starting spot on an elite baseball team. When that dynamic gets folded into competitive baseball matches, the result is a fantastic two-level narrative. This week, we were reminded who was alpha dog prime, and why. Before I go any further into how amazingly unique Tanba is as a character, here’s his “I logged a K against the other team’s ace with the tying run on third and two outs” face.**
Which might as well be the rest of my column, but I like to write