By the time I finished watching this episode, I thought the title was perfect.
We start with Hiyori still thinking about how his friendship with Ikuya seems to have fallen apart, while still using Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid as a way to illustrate his thoughts. Makoto comes into the room at that time, and unaware of what has transpired between him and Ikuya, starts referring to Ikuya as Hiyori’s friend. Poor Makoto, he had no idea that his words were like twisting a knife into Hiyori’s heart. This conversation reveals the depth of Hiyori’s jealousy toward Haruka and questioning why everyone likes him so much. Makoto’s simple answer is that he would understand if he swam with Haruka. Keep Makoto’s comment in mind for what happens later in the episode…
Then we return to where the previous episode ended, with Haruka and Ikuya starting to compete in the Individual Medley against each other. But what was interesting about this particular race is the fact that it doesn’t start out as the fast-paced racing action that Free! is known for. Early on, the race is depicted slowly, because the audience gets to see Ikuya’s reactions and thoughts as he races against Haru. At first, Ikuya is showing the struggles with swimming that we’d seen in recent episodes. But as he contemplates things, he realizes what he needs to do, and finds his original strength and drive. And getting to race against Haru is what ultimately helped to bring this about. Ikuya ultimately wins this race, and he and Haru reconcile while in the pool… with a hug. Hiyori sees this, which of course, adds to his jealousy. And Ikuya reunites with Makoto and Asahi as well, and we see the first metamorphosis of a soul that takes place in this episode.
Ikuya goes to make things up with Hiyori, but before he can get very far, they are interrupted by their team captain. The captain was so impressed with Ikuya’s performance that he asks if Ikuya would like to be part of the freestyle relay, which is the big event of the competition. Ikuya says he’ll only do it if Hiyori is part of the relay. After some hesitation, Hiyori agrees… and the captain is more than happy to oblige. This sets the stage for Haruka and Hiyori to swim against each other as the anchor for their respective teams in the freestyle relay. Makoto’s words earlier were ultimately right… and after swimming against Haruka, we see Hiyori experience the second metamorphosis of a soul in this episode. There’s actually one more metamorphosis of the soul near the end of the episode, when Ikuya’s brother realizes how irresponsibly he’s been acting, and ultimately wants to be around his brother more. He also apologizes to Hiyori for asking him to watch over Ikuya, because that was too big of a burden for him to bear.
We also get a brief scene of the Iwatobi’s high school team, where Gou gets a text message about Haruka qualifying for the same big swim competition that Rin already qualified for. There’s excitement about the prospect of Haruka and Rin swimming against each other again.
By the end of this episode, we get the resolution for all the tension going on between the college-aged characters, which means that we’ve seen a lot of the emotional drama come to an end. The main thing we still need to see, even though it’s been hinted at, is what will happen with Sosuke and his surgery. But I have to say that, overall, I was satisfied with how the various emotional dramas that had been taking place in the series were resolved in this episode.
With this resolution, though, it appears that the series will be shifting its focus more to our characters getting ready for the big race that’s coming up. And with things that have been revealed or hinted at, I’m guessing that most of our main characters will end up coming together at this big event. There’s only four episodes remaining of the series at this point, so it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of pacing we’ll be looking at for the remainder of the story.