Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club: Episode 9 – “Hesitant Loosen Up!”

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is an anime about a group of four boys who swam competitively when they were younger, but one of the friends went to Australia to go to school to become an Olympic swimmer. Now in high school, three of the boys have started a swim club at their school, and the fourth boy has returned from Australia but goes to a different school.

The high school team acquires four members after Ryugazaki, a non-swimmer, joins the team; they have worked with him enough so he is now a beginning swimmer. Gou, the younger sister of the friend who went to Australia, serves as the team’s manager.

Episode nine begins with Haruka jumping into the pool for the medley relay at the meet. Haruka and the other members of the team win the relay and can go on regionals. However, both Haruka and Rin end up going through reflections and doubts during this episode.

We end up getting a summer festival episode in Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club because Nagisa, Makoto, and Rin decide to take Haruka to the festival for Hachiman-sama; the temple hosting the festival also hosts a festival for the god of water. They hope that by taking Haruka there, they can help keep his mind off of swimming. Unfortunately, Rin and his team also go to the festival in order to pray for victory.

When Rei and Nagisa see Rin at the festival, they decide to try to keep Haruka from finding out. Nagisa sends Rei to follow Rin and to contact him about where Rin is going. When he follows Rin, Rei sees him going to Iwatobi Elementary School. Here, Rin has flashbacks to when he was still friends with the others and about the relay they swam in and won when they were kids. By the end of this scene, Rin looks pretty torn up emotionally.

Near the end of the episode, Haruka finally realizes what it is he wants out of swimming, and the Iwatobi High School team gets some very unexpected news.

Overall, this episode serves two purposes. The first is that this gives the characters of Haruka and Rin a chance to reflect and to try to sort out the mixed emotions that both of them are feeling. By allowing this to happen, it allows the plot to progress and their characters to develop. The second purpose is to give the series a light-hearted episode with what happens at the festival; this gives the audience a chance to catch their breath before the story moves on to the regional competition.

My favorite part of episode nine was when Rei was following Rin and just how methodical he was being about it. He did a great job grabbing the mask in order to hide his face before Rin could catch him.

I also would like to add that I appreciated seeing the struggles that both Haruka and Rin went through in this episode. I think this was especially true for Rin, because it showed that there’s more to him than the arrogant jerk the viewers had seen for most of the series up to this point. Between this and getting Rin’s backstory a couple of episodes back, Rin has started to become a more sympathetic character.

I’m looking forward to seeing the next episode of Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club in order to find out what will happen to all of the main characters as they move on to regionals.

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