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 aired on Japanese television from July 4-September 26, 2013. As of this writing, Crunchyroll holds the North American rights for this series, and FUNimation Entertainment has the home video distribution rights.
Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is an anime about a group of four boys who swam competitively when they were younger: Nanase Haruka, Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin, and Hazuki Nagisa. However, Rin moved to Australia to go to school to become an Olympic swimmer. Haruka loves to swim, but he gave up swimming competitively during middle school.
Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa end up attending the same high school. Their school used to have a swim club, but it disbanded. Nagisa gets the idea to try to start the swim club back up, and he receives help from Haruka and Makoto.
Rin’s younger sister, Gou, also attends their high school. They learn through her that Rin has returned from Australia and is now attending a boarding school that’s a major swimming school. Gou ends up becoming the manager for the new swim club.
They need a fourth member in order to officially be recognized by the school. After much persistence from Nagisa, a young man named Ryugazaki Rei joins the group. He’s not a swimmer when he first joins, but with some help, he learns to swim well enough in order to compete.
Over the course of the series, the Iwatobi swim team keeps running into Rin, and this becomes a major source of drama for the series.
When I finished the first episode of the series, I thought the pacing was a little on the slow side. However, I was willing to chalk that up to having to establish the characters and their world. However, by the end of the second episode, I became so interested in the characters and their story that I wanted to watch more.
The early episodes of the series focus on establishing Rin’s relationship with his former teammates, as well as on the others’ attempt to get the swim club going at their school. After Rei is introduced and becomes a member of the group, the series started taking the logical steps of seeing the club train and competing in tournaments. Overall, I thought the pacing and progression of the story felt very logical.
The most powerful portion of the series comes in the last few episodes. As the team is getting ready for regionals, the first three members of the Iwatobi swim team focus a lot on Rin and the fact that he’s going to be swimming in the relay against them. Rei, meanwhile, doesn’t understand what the fuss is, since he doesn’t have the history with Rin that the rest of them do. Rei goes through some turmoil and character development during the last three episodes.
However, the character that went through the most change over the course of the series was Rin. He gets a major redemption scene in the final episode; 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.
After finishing the series, I can safely say Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club would have to be one of my favorite anime of the Summer 2013 season. I also liked how the final episode ended where it’s possible for it to both be a satisfying ending and still have potential to continue the story if the animation studio were to decide to produce a second season of the series.
I also have to say that I thought the animation for this series was rather impressive. I especially thought the swimming scenes were animated beautifully.
Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is, in my opinion, one of the better sports anime that I’ve personally seen. While the sport of swimming plays a major role in the series, the lives and personalities of the characters plays just as important of a role.
If you enjoy sports anime that also has a strong focus on characters and drama, then you’ll probably enjoy Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club.