Free! Franchise’s All-New Film Reveals Title, Two Part Format, and Release Dates

Kyoto Animation’s livestreamed video for the eighth anniversary of its Free! franchise has announced that the all-new anime film in the franchise is titled Free! The Final Stroke. The project will be a two-part film project. The first part will open in Japan on September 17, 2021, and the second part will open in Japan on April 22, 2022. The video description teases that the films are the “final chapter” for the franchise. The project’s tagline is, “let’s go, to the stage of glory.”

The video confirms that Eisaku Kawanami is returning from previous installations in the franchise to direct the film at Kyoto Animation. Nobunaga Shimazaki is returning as Haruka Nanase.

The Free! franchise about the Iwatobi High School Swim Club includes three television anime seasons that aired in 2013, 2014, and 2018. The High Speed! -Free! Starting Days- prequel film opened in 2015. The Free! The Movie -Timeless Medley- the Bond and Free! The Movie -Timeless Medley- the Promise compilation films opened in April 2017 and July 2017, respectively. The Free! -Take Your Marks- omnibus film of short stories then opened in October 2017.

Source: ANN

Anime Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review: Free! -Take Your Marks-

Free! -Take Your Marks- is the 2017 film for the Free! franchise that serves as a bridge between Free! Eternal Summer and Free! -Dive to the Future.

Free! -Take Your Marks-
English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Release Date: October 2, 2018

Free! -Take Your Marks- is billed as being an anime film, but it feels more like four OVAs were put together back-to-back. There are four parts of the film, and each part has its own opening and ending credits, which was the big thing that made me feel like these were four OVAs instead of one film.

The first part of the film sees Makoto accompanying Haru to Tokyo as he looks for a place to live and prepare for college. While out apartment hunting, the two of them have an encounter with a young boy who is part of a swim club at a nearby pool. This encounter ultimately leads Haru to decide that the apartment near the pool is where he wants to live. It should also be mentioned that Kisumi Shigino, a friend of Makoto and Haru from their junior high days and is a main character in Free! -Dive to the Future, has an important role in this story.

The second story sees Nitori and Momotaro giving a trip to a hot spring as a gift to Rin and Sosuke, who are about to graduate. Through chance, Nitori and Momotaro also get tickets to the hot spring. This leads to a story of these four characters having a chance to get a little closer, and Sosuke getting some advice that guides him for how he wants to proceed. I thought it was nice to get a story with a focus on some of the swimmers from Samezuka Academy. While this may feel like a throwaway story, the scene where Sosuke gets the advice is important for what we see him do in Free! -Dive to the Future.

The third story focuses on Rei, Nagisa, and Gou preparing to recruit new members for the club for the upcoming school year. The thing that stood out to me was the video they were shooting, because it’s a throwback to the desert scenes and costumes we saw the characters in for the ending theme animation in Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club. I thought this was a nice nod to that ending theme animation. The only real gripe I have here is the fact that Asahi, who is a main character in Free! -Dive to the Future, only gets a passing cameo here. If a viewer doesn’t know who he is if they haven’t seen the High Speed! Free! Starting Days film, won’t realize that there’s more to this character than someone Rei happens to overhear while walking down the street.

The final story starts and ends with scenes of Ikuya Kirishima, someone else that Haru and Makoto knew in junior high and is a main character in Free! -Dive to the Future. However, most of this story focuses on planning a surprise party for Rin before he leaves for Australia, and the avalanche of misunderstandings and assumptions that accumulate as the others try to hide the party from Rin. While it was nice to see Rin getting a sendoff from his friends from both Iwatobi and Samezuka, it was a little disappointing that Ikuya’s scenes kind of felt tacked on to this story.

The stories included in Free! -Take Your Marks- do a great job of setting up how the characters get from the end of Free! Eternal Summer to the beginning of Free! -Dive to the Future. However, with the way this was done as four separate segments instead of one linear story, it feels a little on the choppy side. A part of me wonders if Free! -Take Your Marks- would have been a stronger product if it had been released as four OVAs under this title rather than as one theatrical film. With that criticism aside, I think that these stories did a good job overall of focusing on the characters, since many of them end up being important in Free! -Dive to the Future.

Even with its faults, I would recommend Free! -Take Your Marks- to fans of the Free! anime franchise. This collection of stories helps the viewer bridge the gaps between the second and third season, so it would be recommended to see this before watching the third season. But even if you start into the third season without seeing this, Free! -Dive to the Future makes sure to provide some flashbacks from both this film and High Speed! Free! Starting Days to help fill in any missing gaps that the audience may have.

When it comes to the Blu-ray included in this release, it has 1080p High Definition 16:0 (HD Native) video. For audio, it includes Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD: Japanese 5.1. For the DVD, it has English 5.1 Surround and Japanese 5.1 Surround. I watched the Blu-ray included in this set, and I had no complaints with either the video or the audio quality.

For bonus features, there’s a textless version of the opening (which was the same on all four parts), as well as textless versions of the four endings that appeared in this film. The set also comes with four art cards, with the characters dressed up in various outfits (Halloween costumes, police officers, pirates, and royalty). While this is a little better than what the release for High Speed! Free! Starting Days got for bonus features, I still wish there could have been at least something else here to make the bonuses worthwhile.

If you’re a fan of the Free! franchise and want to add all of it to your anime home video library, then this release of Free! -Take Your Marks- is a “must get.”

Additional posts about Free!:

Anime Film Review: Free! -Take Your Marks-

Free! -Take Your Marks- tells a whole new story and serves as a bridge between Free! Eternal Summer and Free! -Dive to the Future.

Free! -Take Your Marks-
Directed by: Eisaku Kawanami
Written by: Masahiro Yokotani
Starring: Nobunaga Shimazaki, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Tsubasa Yonaga, Daisuke Hirakawa, Mamoru Miyano, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Koki Miyata, Kenichi Suzumura, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Kouki Uchiyama, Kenji Nojima, Satoshi Hino, Chihiro Suzuki, Akeno Watanabe, and Satsuki Yukino
Run Time: 105 minutes

Free! -Take Your Marks- is billed as being an anime film, but it feels more like four OVAs were put together back-to-back. There are four parts of the film, and each part has its own opening and ending credits, which was the big thing that made me feel like these were four OVAs instead of one film.

Each of the four parts has a specific theme. The first section is called “Fateful Choice,” and it sees Makoto accompanying Haru to Tokyo as he looks for a place to live and prepare for college. It turns out the realtor Haru is going through is the uncle of Kisumi Shigino, a friend of theirs from their junior high days. Haru is picky about the features he wants in his apartment, and he shoots down all but the last one. When Haru and Makoto go to look at the apartment from the outside, they’re approached by a young boy looking for his swim coach (the former tenant who has just moved out). It turns out there’s a pool nearby, and the boy takes Haru and Makoto there. For viewers who are familiar with the High Speed! Free! Starting Days film, there’s a twist at the end when it’s revealed who the prior tenant of the apartment is.

The next section is called “Cooling Down at the Secret Hot Spring!,” and it sees Nitori trying to figure out a present for Rin and Sosuke, who are about to graduate. As Nitori and Momotaro are trying to think of ideas, Momotaro wins tickets to the Anago Hot Springs. It turns out Rin’s mother has a couple of extra tickets, so she suggests to Rin that he use them to take Nitori and Momotaro along. This leads to the four of them spending time together and creating more of a bond. We also learn that Momotaro has a fascination with capybaras, which became part of a running joke in the story. But when the group encounters another swim team at the hot springs, Sosuke gets an important piece of advice from an alumnus of the other team. I thought it was nice to get a story with a focus on some of the swimmers from Samezuka Academy. While this may feel like a throwaway story, the scene where Sosuke talks to the alumnus of the other team is important for what we see Sosuke do in Free! -Dive to the Future.

The third section is titled, “United Butterfly!,” and it focuses on Rei, Nagisa, and Gou working on a recruitment video for the swim club for the upcoming school year. It was amusing to see the theme they went with when shooting the video, because it’s a throwback to the desert scenes and costumes we saw the characters in for the ending theme animation in Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club. Now the desert footage from that ending theme make sense. LOL! But while working on the video, Gou comes across an old recruitment manual from the club’s formation, which includes a list of things to do. One of the items catches the group’s interest, but the page associated with that line item is missing, and they think this could be the key to helping them with their recruitment. While the answer isn’t what they were expecting, it still gives Rei an inspiration for finishing off the video. This segment also includes a cameo from Asahi Shiina, who was first introduced in the High Speed! Free! Starting Days film. He’s someone Haru and Makoto knew from their junior high swim team.

The final story, “The Eternal Blue of Journeys to Come!,” sees members from Iwatobi’s swim club and Samezuka Academy’s club getting together to plan a surprise party for Rin, who is leaving for Australia soon. He happens to see Gou and Momotaro in a fast food joint together and assumes they’re dating. If he had stayed longer, he would have seen that other people joined them at the table. This misunderstanding leads to an avalanche of assumptions and misunderstandings that build up in a humorous manner. It’s actually Haru who ends up settling things down just by talking with Rin and unpacking all of the assumptions and misunderstandings. This segment is bookended with scenes of Ikuya Kirishima, a boy who had been on the swim team with Haru, Makoto, and Asahi in junior high. In the first scene, we get a flashback of Makoto talking with Ikuya, and we learn about how the group of the four boys has fallen apart, with Asahi and Haru leaving the team. In my review for High Speed! Free! Starting Days, I mentioned that it would have been nice to learn what happened between the end of High Speed! Free! Starting Days and the beginning of Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club. This one scene helped to fill in that gap with a simple explanation. This may have just been a short scene that decided to tell instead of show, but it’s better than nothing.

The stories included in Free! -Take Your Marks- do a great job of setting up how the characters get from the end of Free! Eternal Summer to the beginning of Free! -Dive to the Future. However, with the way this was done as four separate segments instead of one linear story, it feels a little on the choppy side. A part of me wonders if Free! -Take Your Marks- would have been a stronger product if it had been released as four OVAs under this title rather than as one theatrical film. With that criticism aside, I think that these stories did a good job overall of focusing on the characters, since many of them end up being important in Free! -Dive to the Future. While there wasn’t much emphasis on Ikuya, that makes sense since a lot of his story comes out in the next anime season. It was a little disappointing that Asahi only shows up in a brief cameo, and nothing to let the audience know that he’s going to be important. The only way anyone watching this would know Asahi’s importance is if they’ve already seen High Speed! Free! Starting Days. Viewers who haven’t seen that film would potentially assume that he’s just some random guy walking around that Rei happens to overhear.

Even with its faults, I would recommend Free! -Take Your Marks- to fans of the Free! anime franchise. This collection of stories helps the viewer bridge the gaps between the second and third season, so it would be recommended to see this before watching the third season. But even if you start into the third season without seeing this, Free! -Dive to the Future makes sure to provide some flashbacks from both this film and High Speed! Free! Starting Days to help fill in any missing gaps that the audience may have.

Additional posts about Free!:

Anime Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review: High Speed! Free! Starting Days

High Speed! Free! Starting Days is the 2015 prequel film for the Free! anime franchise and is loosely based on the second volume of the High Speed! light novels.

High Speed! Free! Starting Days
English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Release Date: October 2, 2018

This film focuses on Haruka Nanase and Makoto Tachibana, two of the main characters from the Free! franchise, as they’re just starting out in middle school. This film introduces several new characters, although one of them had previously been seen in Free! Eternal Summer. The new characters introduced here are Asahi Shiina, Ikuya Kirishima, and Natsuya Kirishima. Kisumi Shigino, the character on the basketball team who becomes friends with the characters that join the middle school swim team, was the older brother of the boy that Makoto teaches to swim when he’s helping out at the Iwatobi Swim Club in Free! Eternal Summer. Asahi, Ikuya, and Natsuya become important characters in the series’ third season, Free! -Dive to the Future.

Both Haruka and Makoto have issues they deal with in this film. For Haruka, he’s missing Rin and believes that he’ll never be able to be on as a good of a relay team as the one he was part of with Rin, Makoto, and Nagisa. Makoto, on the other hand, finds himself questioning whether he’s joined the middle school swim team because he truly loves swimming or if she simply joined because Haruka did.

Speaking of Nagisa, we do get some cameos of him in the film when Haruka and Makoto go to the Iwatobi Swim Club. There’s also a cameo of Rei, but I thought that his cameo felt kind of forced. Asahi has forgotten to swim freestyle and has gone to the library to try to find books to help him overcome this block. Rei is the person who just happens to be standing next to him in the library. I understand that the writers wanted to acknowledge Rei, since he’s important in the main series, but Asahi’s mental block felt like it was included simply so there would be a reason for him to run into Rei. We also get to see Sosuke, who is first introduced in Free! Eternal Summer. He’s part of the middle school swim team competing against Haruka and Makoto’s team for the relay, but Sosuke also plays an important role for helping Haruka comes to grips with Rin heading off to Australia.

As someone who has already seen the three television seasons for Free!, this film helped me fill in some gaps I had about some of these characters when watching Free! -Dive to the Future. While that season of the anime provides some flashbacks to help viewers understand these characters and their background, it was nice to finally see everything that ties these particular characters together. I especially appreciated the character development and focus on Ikuya and the relationship he has with his brother. I have a feeling that seeing this film will now add some impact to Ikuya’s scenes when I re-watch Free! -Dive to the Future.

Overall, I enjoyed High Speed! Free! Starting Days, but I feel like there’s still a portion of the story missing. From what we see in Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club, it’s obvious that something had to have happened between the first year of middle school that’s shown here and the second year of high school at the beginning of the first season of the anime. Perhaps this gap is covered in the High Speed! light novels and was simply skipped over for the anime adaptation.

If you’re a fan of the Free! franchise, I would recommend watching High Speed! Free! Starting Days if you haven’t seen it already. Although, I would recommend watching this film before jumping into Free! -Dive to the Future, because I think the viewing experience for the third television anime season would be greatly enhanced by watching this film first.

When it comes to the Blu-ray included in this release, it has 1080p High Definition 16:9 (HD Native) video. For audio, it includes Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD: Japanese 5.1. For the DVD, it has English 5.1 Surround and Japanese 5.1 Surround. I was impressed to see that the Japanese audio, in addition to the English audio, was available in 5.1. This is a rare thing for anime releases in North America. I watched the Blu-ray included in this set, and I had no complaints with either the video or the audio.

Unfortunately, there are no bonus features included on either disc in this set. Instead, the “bonus feature” included here is a 20-page art book that includes various stills from the film. This is great if you’re into art books, but it would have been nice to have had some kind of bonus features included on the discs. Interviews with the English cast and/or trailers would have been nice, at the very least.

If you’re a fan of the Free! franchise and want to add all of it to your anime home video library, then this release of High Speed! Free! Starting Days is a “must get.”

Additional posts about Free!:

Anime Film Review: High Speed! Free! Starting Days

High Speed! Free! Starting Days is a prequel film for the Free! anime franchise and is loosely based on the second volume of the High Speed! light novels.

High Speed! Free! Starting Days
Directed by: Yasuhiro Takemoto
Written by: Masahiro Yokotani and Maiko Nishioka
Starring: Nobunaga Shimazaki, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Kouki Uchiyama, Mamoru Miyano, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Kenji Nojima, Satoshi Hino, and Chihiro Suzuki
Run Time: 110 minutes

Haruka Nanase and Makoto Tachibana, two of the main characters from the Free! franchise, are just starting out in middle school. They’re active members of the Iwatobi Swim Club, but classmate Asahi Shiina tries to convince them to join the middle school’s swim team. Another classmate, Kisumi Shigino, tries to get them to join the basketball team. Another classmate, Ikuya Kirishima, is the younger brother of the captain of the swim team. After some indecisive moments, Natsuya Kirishima (Ikuya’s older brother) convinces Haruka, Makoto, Asahi, and Ikuya to join the club.

Earlier, I mentioned that there was some indecisive moments before the boys join the swim club. Haruka is missing Rin and seems to feel that he’ll never has a good of a relay team as he had with Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin. Makoto also spends time during the film wondering if he really loves swimming, or if he’s simply in the club because Haruka is. Both of these are running threads throughout the film, and we see how hesitant both Haruka and Makoto are when they’re practicing for an upcoming relay with their other first-year team members. Quite a bit of the film is focused on the relay team being coached by uperclassman Nao Serizawa. Nao has his wok cut out for him as the tries to get the four boys to work together as a team.

Obviously, we get some cameo appearances from Nagisa, since he’s a member of the Iwatobi Swim Club. Since he’s a year younger than Haruka and Makoto, he wasn’t going to be an integral part of the story since he’s not going to middle school yet. The film also squeezes in a cameo for Rei. At one point in the film, Asahi has forgotten how to swim freestyle and is trying to find a book (or books) to help him past this block. He just happens to run into Rei at the library, and Rei tries to help. Maybe it’s just me, but Rei’s cameo felt a little on the forced side. It just didn’t feel as natural as Nagisa’s cameo appearances.

There’s also cameo appearances from Sosuke as well, since his middle school team is competing against Haruka and Makoto’s team in the middle school relay. Sosuke ends up playing an important role for Haruka to come to grips with Rin going off to Australia, even though it’s obvious that he really didn’t want to be in that position.

As someone who has already seen the three television seasons for Free!, this film helped me fill in some gaps I had about some of these characters when watching Free! -Dive to the Future. While that season of the anime provides some flashbacks to help viewers understand these characters and their background, it was nice to finally see everything that ties these particular characters together. I especially appreciated the character development and focus on Ikuya and the relationship he has with his brother. I have a feeling that seeing this film will now add some impact to Ikuya’s scenes when I re-watch Free! -Dive to the Future.

A complaint my husband had while watching this film was the fact that the script says the middle schoolers are doing a 400-meter relay. As a former competitive high school swimmer, he found this to be unrealistic. To him, a shorter distance, such as a 200-meter relay, would have been more realistic for middle school swimmers.

Outside of my husband’s technical gripe, I found that I enjoyed High Speed! Free! Starting Days. It was great to see some of these characters when they were younger. However, it still feels like there’s a portion of the story missing, because something had to have happened between the first year of middle school that’s shown here and the second year of high school at the beginning of Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club. Perhaps this gap is covered in the High Speed! light novels and was simply skipped over for the anime adaptation.

If you’re a fan of the Free! franchise, I would recommend watching High Speed! Free! Starting Days if you haven’t seen it already. Although, I would recommend watching this film before jumping into Free! -Dive to the Future, because I think the viewing experience for the third television anime season would be greatly enhanced by watching this film first.

Additional posts about Free!:

Anime Blu-ray Review: Free! Eternal Summer Season Two

Free! Eternal Summer Season Two includes two Blu-ray discs that have all 13 episodes of the second season. The set includes both an English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Free! Eternal Summer Season Two
English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: February 5, 2019

This series continues to follow the four members of the Iwatobi Swim Club: Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei. They have also repaired their friendship with Rin, who swims for Samezuka Academy. Rin’s sister Gou continues to serve as the manager for the Iwatobi team.

Free! Eternal Summer introduces a new character named Sousuke Yamazaki, Rin’s childhood best friend from elementary school. He transfers to Samezuka so he can spend his last year of high school swimming with Rin. Sosuke is a talented butterfly swimmer, but he also has a rather aloof personality.

With several of the main characters now being third-year high school students, there’s a strong focus on the characters trying to figure out their post-high school plans. Rin knows exactly what he wants to do, but Makoto and Haruka aren’t sure of what it is they want to do. Near the end of the series, Haruka’s confusion nearly causes him to break.

When it comes to the swimming aspect, Iwatobi’s team makes it to nationals for the relay, while Samezuka sends swimmers for both individual races and the relay. But Haruka’s issues almost destroy Iwatobi’s team and their chance to compete in the relay at nationals.

When I watched this series as a simulcast back in 2014, I thought that the first episode did a great job of setting up the new elements that were being introduced to the series. With Episode Five, I was very happy to see Nagisa get a character development episode. While most of the other characters had received character development episodes in the first season, Nagisa was the only one who hadn’t. After watching Episode Five, I felt I understood where Nagisa was coming from a lot better than I had previously.

With how the prefecturals progressed in Episode Six, it allowed Free! Eternal Summer to differentiate itself from the first season, since there was a story that focused on the Iwatobi team going to nationals.

I re-watched this series when I got this Blu-ray set, and my husband saw this season for this time. He was a competitive swimmer for his high school’s swim team, so it’s interesting to see and hear his reactions. Overall, he was impressed with the realism that went into the animation for the swimming. He also pointed out the realistic depiction of the aquatic centers and their Olympic-sized pools that appeared in this season. Another thing he pointed out was that he was happy to see the Iwatobi team emphasize improving the transitions in their medley, since this had been an aspect that had been ignored previously.

This set also includes an OVA titled, “Forbidden All-Hard!” This is something I had never seen before, and I thought it actually worked well. The members of the Iwatobi Swim Club go to Samezuka’s Culture Festival, and it climaxes with the four members of Iwatobi’s team and four members of  Samezuka’s team (Rin, Sosuke, Momotaro, and Nitori) competing in a survival game using water guns. The water guns felt so appropriate for this, and the decisions and reactions of the characters were on point. I especially enjoyed Haruka’s reaction to being hit with the water from the water gun. This OVA was funny and amusing, and it was worth the watch.

The Blu-ray video is 1080p High Definition 16:9 (HD Native). The audio on the Blu-ray had Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD: Japanese 2.0.

There are several bonus features included on this release. You can listen to audio commentaries on Episode 1 and on Episode 7. The “Web Previews” just seem to be the next episode previews that were included at the end of each episode that were put together into one feature. This didn’t make much sense to me, though, since they were included at the end of each episode in the main program.

Extended End Card collection was a roughly two-minute feature that showed various images being zoomed around and then showing the full image as the final shot for each one. My guess is that these were the shots used at the end of the episodes when they aired on Japanese television to announce the sponsors of the program. The Illustration Collection was another feature that ran for about two minutes, and it also primarily zoomed around the images and ended up with the complete image for each one. I’m guessing these were promotional images that were used for the series.

The Memorial Promo Video appears to be a video that was produced to be aired at an event to announce the forthcoming airing of the Free! Eternal Summer anime. This was an OK feature, although it was probably more interesting when it was first shown to announce this season. It spent most of its time recapping important scenes and shots from the first season, then briefly teased this season. There were also a couple of promo videos included that would have aired on Japanese television to promote the forthcoming airing of Free! Eternal Summer.

The textless songs were textless versions of the opening and ending credits. The U.S. trailer promoted the release of the series, featuring the English dub. Finally, there were also trailers included for other FUNimation Entertainment releases.

This Blu-ray release of Free! Eternal Summer is definitely worth it for fans of the Free! franchise that want to own the series in their anime home video library. It’s worth it both for the 13 episodes of the series and the OVA.

Additional posts about Free!:

FUNimation Adds Anime Films to Its Streaming Catalog

FUNimation Entertainment has announced that it will begin streaming the Heaven’s Lost Property Final – The Movie: Eternally My Master anime film in Japanese with English subtitles on September 18, 2020 in the United States and Canada. According to FUNimation, this marks the first time this film will be available in the West.

The company also announced that it will begin streaming the Free! -Road to the World- the Dream (Free! ~Road to the World~ Yume) compilation film in Japanese with English subtitles in the United States and Canada on September 18, 2020. The film is a “reconstruction” of the Free! Dive to the Future television anime series, but with an added “new episode.”

FUNimation will also begin streaming two compilation films for the Overlord anime, Overlord: The Undead King (Overlord: Fushisha no Ō) and Overlord: The Dark Hero (Overlord: Shikkoku no Senshi), in Japanese with English subtitles in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland on September 18, 2020. Together, the compilation films provide a recap of the Overlord anime’s first season.

Source: ANN

Free! Anime Film Announces 2021 Opening

The official website for Kyoto Animation’s Free! anime franchise is now streaming a teaser promotional video. The teaser announces that the franchise’s all-new anime film will open in 2021, and states, “Haruka Nanase: his challenge on the world begins ….”

The film’s staff had announced in November 2019 that the planned Summer 2020 opening date had been delayed due to “various circumstances.” The announcement assured fans that the director and the rest of the staff are hard at work to make a film that will “meet the expectations” of fans.

Source: ANN

Anime Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club: The First Season

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club: The First Season includes two Blu-ray discs and two DVDs that include all 12 episodes of the first season. The set has both an English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club: The First Season
English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Release Date: May 9, 2017

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is an anime about a group of four boys who swam competitively when they were younger: Haruka Nanase, Makoto Tachibana, Rin Matsuoka, and Nagisa Hazuki. 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 becomes the manager for the new swim club.

They need a fourth member in order to be officially recognized by the school. After much persistence from Nagisa, a young man named Rei Ryugazaki 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. But 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.

I watched this set with my husband, who was on the swim team back when he was in high school. This was his first time watching Free!, and he kept commenting on how realistically the swimming and meets were being portrayed. But he did have one nitpick with the animation during the episode where Rei is trying to learn how to swim in the pool. Makoto and Nagisa comment at one point that the dive Rei did was perfect, but my husband pointed out that the way this particular dive was animated made it look like off. Outside of that, though, he appreciated how the sport was depicted.

I thought the animation for this series was rather impressive. I especially thought the swimming scenes were animated beautifully.

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club became one of my favorite anime of the Summer 2013 season. I liked it enough that I went on to watch the second and third seasons of the series when they were streamed as simulcasts on Crunchyroll. In my opinion, this franchise is one of the better sports anime that I’ve seen. While the sport of swimming plays a major role in the series, the lives and personalities of the characters play just as important of a role. And the characters become developed on more than just a surface level.

The Blu-ray video is 1080p High Definition 16:9 (HD Native). The audio on the Blu-ray has Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolbu TrueHD: Japanese 2.0, while the DVD has English 5.1 Surround and Japanese Stereo. I had no complaints about either the audio or the video quality of this release.

As a bonus feature, three OVAs from FrFr! are included. These are shorts featuring the characters, and the stories are done in a comical fashion. These shorts were kind of amusing to watch. The only other bonus features on the release are a textless opening, a textless closing, and trailers for other releases from FUNimation Entertainment.

If you’re a fan of the Free! franchise, this release is worth picking up in order to add the first season to your anime home video library.

Additional posts about Free!:

Free! Anime Film Delayed From Summer 2020

The official website for Kyoto Animation’s Free! anime franchise has announced that the planned Summer 2020 opening date for the franchise’s all-new anime film has been delayed due to “various circumstances.” The announcement assured fans that the director and the rest of the staff are hard at work to make a film that will “meet the expectations” of fans. The site will announce a new release date for the film once it has been determined.

The franchise’s most recent entry was Free! ~Road to the World~ Yume (Dream), which opened on July 5, 2019, and was a “reconstruction” of the Free! Dive to the Future television anime series, as well as a “bridge” to the new film.

Source: ANN