There’s basically two stories being focused on in this episode. First, the focus is on Ikuya, and how he appears to be rattled after encountering Haruka again in the previous episode. Also, we see Haruka, Makoto, and Asahi plotting to find a way for all of them to see Ikuya for a reunion. We get a little bit of flashback footage while these three guys talk about their past and their desire to see Ikuya again.
But the main focus of the episode is on Rin in Australia, and a Japanese swimmer who suddenly appears and demands that Mikhail, Rin’s coach, coach him as well. Mikhail keeps turning him down, but this Japanese guy is persistent. In a comedic twist, we learn that Mikhail is just as obsessed with muscles as Gou is… which ultimately leads into the only scene where we see any of the characters who are still at Iwatobi High School. Right now, it seems like the high school characters are more on the back burner, but this might potentially change somewhat as the season progresses.
Rin and the other Japanese swimmer start hanging out together, and it’s revealed that this other swimmer is Ikuya’s older brother. During a conversation the two have about Ikuya, we get to see even more flashback sequences. I expect that some of this is footage from the prequel movie, and as a viewer who hasn’t seen that film, these flashbacks are very helpful. We also learn how Hiyori and Ikuya became friends, but we still don’t quite know what drives the dynamic in their friendship yet. Hopefully this will be revealed later in the season.
In a lot of ways, I would have to say this was primarily a Rin focused episode, with a secondary focus on Ikuya. Ikuya also has a connection with the Rin storyline, with his brother being part of it and all. Haruka and the other college characters were secondary in this story. Gou with the new girl at Iwatobi, as well as Sosuke, only got brief scenes. The other high school characters didn’t show up at all.
By the end of episode three, it appears that this season of Free! is going to be primarily focused on the college characters, and the others will kind of rotate in importance in each episode. Of the various groups, though, it seems that Sosuke is getting the least amount of screen time. Considering he has an injured shoulder and isn’t swimming competitively, I guess this is to be expected. But I do think the writers for this season have quite the balancing act trying to juggle the various characters. I’m sure it was much easier when the main characters were more centralized at their respective high schools. But now that the characters are now more spread out in locations, the writing has to be more challenging.
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