So we finally make it to the All-Japan Invitational. But before that, we get to see Haru practice his swimming, and we get to see his thoughts as he swims. The thoughts we get to see are flashbacks of young Haru being around water, and showing how much he loved the water back then. This idea is later reinforced by a story Makoto tells the Iwatobi team members over breakfast before the first day of the invitational.
Through a conversation between Mikhail and Rin, we learn about the tragic backstory that led Ryuuji to give up on competitive swimming. This backstory helps the audience to better understand why, later in the episode, Ryuuji comes across as jaded and cold as he does. At one point, before Haru has his race, Ryuuji makes a comment that someone can’t become a competitive swimmer without giving something up. This thought bothers Haru during his first race, and ultimately affects his performance.
For the races that we got to see in the episode, it was refreshing to see the realism that the writers put in. While the Kirishima brothers had a good race together, there were other characters who didn’t place first or break any records.
After the end of the first day, we had a great scene between Haru, Rin, and Makoto. Haru opens up about what’s bothering him, and he gets some great encouragement and advice from the other two. But what really made this scene was Haru showing some MAJOR emotion. Not only did this stun me, it also surprised both Rin and Makoto. But Rin made a great aside at the end of this scene, when he asks something along the lines of, “What kind of teen drama is this?” I couldn’t help but chuckle at this remark.
In a scene in an earlier episode, there was a facial expression that Ikuya makes when he heard Haru and the others talking about Rin that made me think they were going to develop some kind of jealousy angle for Ikuya, since Ikuya and Rin were with the others at very different times in Haru and Makoto’s swimming years. Unfortunately, by the end of the series, this potential jealousy angle was never even touched on. In fact, we never even saw Ikuya and Rin being introduced to each other. Sigh. I feel like this was a missed opportunity.
During the episode, there was an emphasis put on the second day of the invitational in the dialogue. We saw at least two references to the freestyle race between Rin, Haru, Kinjou, and Ikuya as part of these dialogue references. However, when all was said and done, the audience got to see very little of the second day. We get to see Rin and Haru start into a race and then we cut to the ending credits. There was one final scene showing Albert watching the race, and we got to hear some commentary… but we still didn’t learn who won the race. Right after this was a screen that said, “See you in 2020.” So at this point, I’m guessing we’ll see how this race and the rest of the story progresses in some way, shape, or form in a little over a year from now at the absolute earliest.
Overall, this was a good episode, but I was left feeling a little disappointed that the audience was left not knowing how the All-Japan Invitational ended. I guess I’ll just have to patiently wait until 2020 for more Free!.