Podzilla 1985

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just Keep Swimming!

It has been a few years since I've found a new anime to add to my stable of favorites. Back in the 90's it seemed so much easier for me to be absorbed into a fandom. Sailor Moon and Pokemon were both early titles for me. I am still a long term fan of both, seven-teen years later.

Even during college, in the early 2000's, I seemed to have an easier tome getting into new shows. The last major fandom I got into was Ouran High School Host Club, and it has been around for a while now.

Sure I've enjoyed a lot of new anime, but for a long while I was just not having any luck with new titles. I'd enjoy them, but I wouldn't feel the need to track down stuff related to them. I just didn't click with them.

Over the last year however the trend for me seems to have been broken. I've actually added a few more titles to library of favorites.

One of these series is Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club.

I truly enjoy this show 100%, and not just for the obvious fan-girl reasons.

The story, though simple and based around sports, is endearing, entertaining and damn funny at times. I don't think that I've made it through a single episode without giggling loudly at something. The characters all have strong bonds of friendship and rivalry with one another. Though let's be honest here, the suggestive themes of boys' love are rather obvious even to the non-fan-girl. Add that to some insanely detailed muscled bodies, that are usually wet, and you can guess what 95% of this show's fan base consists of.

It's nice to see some fan service for the female anime audience once and a while.

Though the story plays a large role in if I like a show or not, the characters are usually what get me stuck on it. Free! follows five young men in there competitive swimming during high school. These boys have a few things linking them together. Four of them were members of the same swim club when they were younger. Three of those four ended up in the same high school and started a swim club of their own.

 The most humorous aspect though is that they are all guys with girly names.

First we have Haruka Nanase. He's a second year student who's a rather quiet person and doesn't usually change his expression much. Not exactly the type who displays his feelings easily.

Haru is what I like to call a total hydrophile. The boy loves the water. If it were possible he would become a merman in a heart beat. He is not happy unless he's swimming. He takes it to the point of stripping down at the sight of water and wearing his swimwear in the bathtub.

People seem to be captivated by his swimming style, though he "only swims free style." Haru quit swimming competitively in middle school after beating Rin in a race and hurting the other boy's feelings. When the two meet again in high school, and Rin challenges him, Haru's passion for racing returns.

I like Haru and all his little quirks. They make him very amusing. Nothing like seeing a guy, with a dead serious look on his face, trying to climb into a fish tank at the local department store.

Next is Haru's best friend, Makoto Tachibana. They are in the same class at school but he's more outgoing than Haru and often speaks up for his friend. Makoto actually seems to babysit him quite a bit. Picking him up before school and often fishing him out of the bath so he won't be late.

He's the most kind and considerate of the boys, but Makoto is also a bit weak hearted. He gets scared easily, and has a fear of the ocean due to some trauma as a child.

Makoto serves as the team's captain and specializes in the back stroke. He tries to be the voice of reason among the group, and usually does his best to keep everyone happy and safe.

Makoto is probably my favorite of the group. He's just a big old teddy bear that keeps an eye on his friends. Plus he's adorable when he gets scared or embarrassed. His heart is in the right place, though he probably takes on most of the stress from the team.

Nagisa Hazuki is the third member of the team. He was the youngest of the original relay team. Once he entered the same high school as Haru and Makoto, he tracked them down and suggested starting a swim club at school.

He's very spirited and always speaks his mind, even if he shouldn't. He causes a lot of trouble, but he's usually aware of what he's doing and finds it amusing. He's a bit of a brat and will still sometimes complain to get what he wants. He's very persistent when he gets his mind set on something. Rei and Makoto usually suffer the most from his actions.

He admired Haru as a swimmer when they were little, and joined the same high school so he could swim with him again. Nagisa usually swims the breast stroke and did most of the leg work at getting their club started. He also suggested that Makoto be the captain cause the idea of Haru taking charge, being energetic and motivating was just laughable.

Nagisa cracks me up. He's still a little kid at heart and gets excited over some of the smallest things. His acts can get old at times but I really can't help but laugh whenever this little guy says anything.

Rei Ryugazaki started out on the school's track team. He is obsessed with sports theory and "beautiful" form. If he is going to do something it is going to be beautifully. He is a first year student and in the same class as Nagisa. Because he doesn't think it's beautiful enough, he rejects the idea of joining the swim club several times. Though in truth he can't swim, and won't admit that. Somehow ends up giving into the smaller boy's request once seeing Haru swim and being impressed with his form.

Swimming can't be that hard right? If he just reads up on how it should be simple. Not quite.

Watching Rei try to swim is a riot on its own. After time he finally gets it, but the boy can only swim one style. Butterfly. Anything else and he will sink or simply not move forward at all.

I love Rei. You can't not love Rei.

He's too ridiculous not to love. The boy is too smart for his own good and it makes him dumb to the simplest things. Plus I love watching Nagisa press his buttons,making him freak out over the silliest things. His obsession with beauty is too much too. In his eyes everything must be done beautifully or not at all.

Plus we get "Detective Rei!" I laughed way to much at him stalking Rin, at Nagisa's request, when they all ended up at a festival on the same night. He's the odd man out in the group and you can't help but root for him to fill the gap that Rin left.

Ok I've mentioned him enough, it's time to say hello to Rin Matsuoka. Rin is highly competitive. He wants to be an Olympic swimmer and made a point to go to the best schools for it. That's why he moved away when the group was young. He spent time in Australia training to be a top competitor, but he hit a wall of sorts and returned to Japan.

Rin is a hot headed and an emotional guy. He hates to loose and wants very badly to make up for the race he lost to Haru when they were little. He comes off as harsh and cold, but he's a very passionate guy. It bothers him that Haru doesn't seem to care about competing and is rather obsessed with swimming head to head with his former friend.

He goes to a different school than the rest of the guys, but doesn't join the swim team right away. Once he does it's his ticket to swimming against Haru. He does have a bit if a heads up on what the others are doing though, because his little sister attends their school and is the manager of the other group's swim team.

Rin's best stroke is butterfly, but he makes a point to focus on free style so he can beat Haru.

I don't like Rin.

He pissed me off a lot.

I will say he redeemed himself in the end. He was just such a jerk. God he was totally just screaming "pay attention to me not your other friends", but in the most asinine ways.

I like him a lot better in season two. Though he is still far from being a favorite. At least he's not such a dick to everyone now. If we can just do something about those damn sharp pointy teeth. I don't care if you are supposed to represent a shark. Go to the dentist for crying out loud.

Yeah a little bit of silliness, each boy is supposed to represent a different creature.

So yes Free! did well enough on its first round that we've been given a second season to enjoy. Only four episodes are out so far, but I've been enjoying it once again.

Just wish I didn't have to wait a week between episodes. Guess it's better than bi-monthly like another series we love.

It's a new school year with new obstacles. Like getting more club members. Rin having to deal with the new role of team captain. Plus the hardest question of all, what are the seniors going to do after graduation?

 A few more characters have been added to the cast but I'll leave that for another time along with a more fan-girl related look at this series. I will say I really like the new additions. I think they'll add a nice new dynamic to the group. Plus some nice tension that may change a few of the more popular pairings within the series.

Yes sorry to be disappointing but the real reason Free! is popular will have to wait for another time. I will however leave the the fans with one last little tease.

OK maybe two...

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