Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is an anime based on a light novel series written by Koji Oji. The anime was produced by Kyoto Animation, and it was directed by Hiroko Utsumi. The series is being simulcast on Crunchyroll on Wednesdays.
The episode opens with four boys named Nanase Haruka, Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin, and Hazuki Nagisa attending the same swimming class at a swim club. After a brief scene there, we see an older Nanase remembering his childhood as a competitive swimmer.
It turns out that Haruka is obsessed with swimming. He wears swim trunks in the bathtub, and it appears that he also wears them all the time under his clothes. It’s mentioned later in the episode that Haruka gave up competitive swimming; with how obsessed he is with swimming, it’s never explained in the episode why he stopped swimming competitively. Hopefully that piece of information will be revealed later in the series.
Haruka and Makoto ended up attending the same middle school together, and have started at the same high school together. They run into Nagisa at lunch, and discover that he’s now also at their high school. Nagisa tells the other two that the swim club they used to go to is now abandoned and is about to be torn down, and suggests going there for old times’ sake. At first, Haruka refuses; however, when Makoto mentions that there’s a pool there and that it’s better than a bathtub, Haruka agrees to go.
The three friends trespass into the old swim club, and have a chance encounter with Rin. It turns out when it was time for middle school, he went to Australia to go to a swimming school in order to become an Olympic swimmer. When they encounter Rin, he acts rather cold toward them and comes across as if he’s above them. A little later in the episode, when the three friends talk about running into Rin, Nagisa comments that “He’s kinda changed.” When I saw that subtitle, I thought that came across as a bit of an understatement!
It turns out that Rin’s sister, Gou, is also attending their high school, and they learn that Rin is back from Australia and attending a boarding school that’s a major swimming school. Makoto and Nasiga get the bright idea to visit Rin at his school; again, Haruka wants nothing to do with it until Makoto mentions a pool and swimming. Now, is it just me, or is Makoto’s trick starting to get a little old? Hopefully that shtick will be scaled back in future episodes.
The three sneak onto the grounds of the boarding school and sneak into the pool that night. Wow, they commit the crime of trespassing twice in the same episode! Hopefully this doesn’t become a reoccurring thing that these characters do.
Rin catches the three of them in the pool and demands that they leave. Right at the end of the episode, Haruka challenges Rin to show off his skills. The way this challenge was presented in the anime, it felt so much like something you would see in a shonen series like Naruto.
Admittedly, the first episode can feel a little on the slow side, especially for a sports anime. However, I’m willing to cut them a little slack, since they needed to establish the characters and the story. Hopefully the pacing will pick up in the next episode.
After watching the first episode of Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club, I thought the series showed some potential. I’ll definitely be watching the next episode to see if that potential starts to manifest itself.
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