Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club: Episode 12 – “Distant Free!”

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 12 opens with Haruka having a flashback at the elementary school, where he, Rin, Makoto, and Nagisa are looking up at the tree. Nagisa notices the bricks around the tree having writing on them, and Makoto explains that for graduation, they put the garden together and wrote their favorite phrases on the bricks. Makoto’s says “I Swim,” Rin’s says “For the team,” and Haruka’s says “Free.” At the end of the flashback, Haruka kneels down and uses a small branch to write something in the dirt before he leaves.

Rin, meanwhile, is sulking on his team’s bus, because his team’s captain removed him from the relay. Nitori tries to cheer him up, but Rin yells at him to shut up and storms off.

Rin’s 100 m free race is shown, and he’s so distracted by everything that’s been going on that he has a poor showing. Haruka and the others try to get to him to talk to him. Nitori reaches Rin first, and Rin once again yells at Nitori. Rin says he’s no better than this and that’s why he was taken off the relay. Rin then declares that he’ll never swim again, kicks a garbage can over, and runs off. The Iwatobi team arrived just in time to hear that Rin had been removed from the relay and will quit swimming.

The Iwatobi team has to decide what to do. It’s actually Rei who tells the others that they know what they have to do in regards to Rin. Haruka asks if Rei is OK with this, and Rei says he is. They look for Rin.

Haruka is the one who finds him by the tree we saw at the beginning of the episode. A very important confrontation takes place between Rin and Haruka in this scene, which also features what it was that Haruka wrote in the dirt at the beginning of the episode. This particular scene finally got to the heart of the matter for Rin. It was a touching scene, but there were times when I felt that Rin was being a little “over the top.”  But this scene is very crucial for bringing the episode to its conclusion. The Iwatobi teams surprises everyone at the medley relay by what they do; I’m not going to say what it is in order to avoid providing “spoilers” to a reader that hasn’t seen this episode yet.

Now that the series is over, I can safely say that Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club would have to be one of my favorite anime of the Summer 2013 season. I thought the ending was realistic and worked well. This episode ends in a way that it would work well as a final episode of a series, but it also leaves open the possibility for another season. As a writer, I can see ways that the story could be continued for a second season, and I would gladly watch another season if one is produced. However, even if this is all that there is for Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club, I’d also be happy. I’m really hoping that a North American distributor will get the home video rights for this series, because this one I would happily add to my anime home video collection.

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