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 includes 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 wat 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 plays 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 had Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolbu TrueHD: Japanese 2.0, while the DVD had 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.

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

FUNimation Entertainment Adds Anime Films to Its Streaming Catalog

FUNimation Entertainment has announced that it has added the following anime films to its catalog:

  • Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry
  • High Speed! -Free! Starting Days-
  • Free! The Movie -Timeless Medley- the Bond
  • Free! The Movie -Timeless Medley- the Promise
  • Free! -Take Your Marks-

The Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry anime film will stream in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The four Free! anime films will stream in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Source: ANN

Information on the 2019 Free! Compilation Anime Film

Kyoto Animation and Animation DO opened a website for the next compilation film in their Free! anime franchise, and announced that the film’s title is Free! ~Road to the World~ Yume (Dream).

The film will open in Japan on July 5, 2019, and will have a returning cast and staff from the Free! Dive to the Future anime. The film will be a “reconstruction” of the Free! Dive to the Future television anime series, but with an added “new episode.”

The franchise will also receive an all-new anime film in summer 2020. Free! ~Road to the World~ Yume is described as a “bridge” to that film.

Source: ANN

Free! Anime to Get a Compilation Film on July 5, 2019, and an All-New Film in Summer 2020

Kyoto Animation has announced that its Free! anime franchise is getting a compilation film on July 5, 2019, and an all-new anime film in Summer 2020.

The film opening on July 5, 2019 will be a “reconstruction” of the Free! Dive to the Future television anime series, but with an added “new episode.”

The 12th and final episode of the Free! Dive to the Future anime, which aired in September 2018, ended with the message “See you in 2020…” The series premiered on July 11, 2018. Crunchyroll simulcast the anime as it aired in Japan, and FUNimation Entertainment streamed an English dub.

Source: ANN

12 Days of Anime: Day 9

As an anime fan, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that I would have anime items (DVDs, Blu-rays, and soundtracks) on my Christmas wishlist. It’s a rather long list (LOL!), but I thought I would share the items that I’m most hoping to find under the tree this Christmas.

Anime Blu-rays and DVDs

Assassination Classroom Season 1

I really liked the Assassination Classroom anime series when I watched it as a simulcast, and I would love to have this in my anime home video library. I’m grateful that FUNimation Entertainment released complete season sets for the series on Blu-ray earlier this year, so now I can ask for one set for each season instead of two sets.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Season 1 Collection

Watching Free! -Dive to the Future- over the summer as a simulcast reminded me of how much I enjoyed the series. I’d like to finally start adding it to my anime home video library.

Haikyu!! Season 1 Complete Collection

I really enjoy the series and want to add it to my anime home video library. I’d love to have it available on physical media to watch whenever I want while I keep hoping and waiting for another season.

Shirobako Collection 1

I really liked this series when it aired as a simulcast, and I would love to add it to home anime home video library. I think my husband and son would both get a kick out of this one if they watched it.

Snow White with the Red Hair: The Complete Series

This was another series I enjoyed watching as a simulcast and would like to add to my anime home video library. I especially loved Shirayuki and how she was a great female character with a lot of agency. To be honest, I think my daughters would enjoy this series.

Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Part One

This was a fantastic reboot of the original Space Battleship Yamato, and it deserves a spot in my anime home video library. I think my husband would also enjoy this reboot as well.

Yuri!!! On Ice: The Complete Series

This was such a well-done anime. I enjoyed it so much that I binge watched it within a very short amount of time, which is unusual for me. I would love to add this to my anime home video library so I can watch this whenever I want on a bigger screen.

Anime Music

“History Maker” single by Dean Fujioka

This is the opening theme song for Yuri!!! On Ice. This is such a fantastic song, and for me, is among some of the best anime opening theme songs I’ve ever heard. I would love to add it to my music library.

Yowamushi Pedal Theme Song Album

This is a CD that compiles various theme songs from the Yowamushi Pedal anime series. The series has a lot of great themes, and it would be awesome to have them on a single CD.

Yowamushi Pedal O.S.T. 1

This is the first CD of background score music for Yowamushi Pedal. There’s a lot of great score music in this anime, and it’s music I can see myself listening to outside of the series.

12 Days of Anime: Day 2

2018 was a great year for me personally when it came to anime, because five anime series I had followed in the past continued with new episodes this year.

It started in January 2018, with the debut of Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line, the fourth anime season for the Yowamushi Pedal franchise. We got to see more of the 42nd Inter-High, as well as get character development for Yuto and Kishigami. The only downer for this season was the fact that it ended right at the beginning of the third day of the Inter-High. But even with that slight disappointment, it was overall a good season for the anime.

There were no continuations for me to start watching in Spring 2018, but I suddenly had two anime continuation simulcasts for Summer 2018. The first of the two that I started watching was Free! -Dive to the Future-. Even though I hadn’t seen the anime film that led up to this point, I was still able to follow what was going on through flashbacks. I enjoyed most of the season, especially the character development for some of the main characters, but I felt the ending was on the rushed side.

Summer 2018 also brought Attack on Titan Season 3, which picks up exactly where the previous season had left off. Unfortunately, the audience was not provided a recap of what had happened in the previous season in order to remember how we had gotten to this point. Having read this portion of the manga, though, I was able to piece together what had happened. And since I have read the portion of the manga that this season covers, I can say that the pacing was tightened up a bit, which helped to make the anime telling a little more exciting. However, it seemed everyone was caught off-guard when this season ended, because it was already known that there were going to be more episodes for the season and it had been assumed that all of the episodes were going to air in two consecutive seasons. Oh well. The series will continue in Spring 2019, so just a few more months of waiting to see how the anime will adapt the next section of the manga.

The Fall 2018 simulcast season has brought us Sword Art Online: Alicization. At the time I’m writing this, I have seen eight episodes of this season. All I can say is that a lot of the focus is on Kirito and what’s happening in the game world that he’s in. We had a couple of episodes featuring Asuna in the real world, but that the episodes featuring her have been a little on the dryer side. Hopefully in the future, when there are episodes that focus on her in the real world, that she’ll get a little more in the way of action.

October 2018 also saw Netflix release the entirety of The Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of the Commandments on their streaming service. This picks up exactly where The Seven Deadly Sins ended, except it reveals the fact that the final scene of the first series is actually from a dream that Elizabeth has. The series focuses on the revival of the Ten Commandments, but we also get character development for Gowther and Diane. It was an interesting season, although I came to feel that The Ten Commandments are overpowered. While yes, they need to be powerful adversaries, I felt that they were too powerful. But the character development and character stories are engaging enough that it does help to offset the overpowered villains. The story doesn’t end at the end of this series, though, so hopefully there will be another season in the works at some point.

Anime Spotlight: Free! -Dive to the Future

Free! -Dive to the Future is an anime series produced by Kyoto Animation and Animation Do and was directed by Eisaku Kawanami. The series aired on Japanese television from July 11-September 26, 2018. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American license for Free! -Dive to the Future.

Even though there was an anime film between Free! Eternal Summer and Free! -Dive to the Future, you didn’t have to see the film in order to understand what’s going on. Over the course of the series, a several flashbacks are presented to help the audience understand who some of the new characters are and how they fit in with the already established characters from the previous two seasons.

The format this series took was telling stories focusing on specific characters (or one character) in various places. There was a lot of jumping around during the first episode, which at times almost made the viewer feel like they were experiencing whiplash. But after the first episode, the amount of jumping around between stories slowed down dramatically. In fact, it quickly settled down on focusing more on the college age characters who are in Tokyo, with occasional appearances by other characters or groups of characters. Unfortunately, this really affected the high school characters at Iwatobi High. Three new characters were introduced for their team, but because we didn’t spend a whole lot of time with them, we only got very brief character development for any of them. In the end, the development was so brief that I still can’t remember what their names are. While we got to see them compete in two swimming events, their main appearances were to appear on screen for maybe a minute or so and provide narration to show that they’re following what their senpai are doing in the swimming world.

The season’s strength was focusing on Haru, Makoto, and Asahi trying to reunite with Ikuya. The writing for this story arc was very effective, and I found this to be a compelling story. Unfortunately, after Ikuya reunites with the others, the rest of the story leading up to the All-Japan Invitational started to feel a little rushed. We get to the All-Japan Invitational in the final episode of the season, but the audience doesn’t get to see the results of all the races. It just kind of stops during the second day of the event, while in the middle of a race that includes Haru and Rin. While we got a final screen saying, “See you again in 2020,” it didn’t totally ease the sting of feeling a little let down that we end up stopping in the middle of the much-hyped big swimming tournament.

After finishing Free! -Dive to the Future, I find myself wondering if perhaps this could have been a two-cour series instead of one. The extra episodes could have been used to flesh out the new Iwatobi high school swimmers, create more of a buildup to the All-Japan Invitational, and allow the audience to see Sousuke’s surgery and rehab that keeps getting referenced in the dialogue. Or, if they wanted to stay with a one-cour season, have the cour end before the All-Japan Invitational. Honestly, I would have felt a little less disappointed if this season had been used to the All-Japan Invitational, because this is a more natural stopping point.

Free! -Dive to the Future had a lot of potential, and it seemed to overall be living up to that potential in its early episodes. Unfortunately, by the end, it was obvious that the execution for the overall story could have been a lot better. But here’s hoping that 2020 will bring us the rest of the All-Japan Invitational and what’s to come next!

Free! -Dive to the Future: Episode 12 – “Dive to the Future!”

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!.

Free! -Dive to the Future: Episode 11: “Streamline of Unity!”

The main focus of this episode is on the high school nationals competition, so the high school students from Iwatobi are a big focus here. We start with Iwatobi’s team meeting up with Makoto and having a meal together. It was nice getting to see Nagisa, Rei, and Gou reunite with Makoto.

We also got to see a phone interaction between Ryuuji and Mikhail, and it was quite amusing. It’s obvious that Ryuuji finds Mikhail to be really annoying, so this provided for some nice humor. Hopefully, we’ll see these two come face-to-face at the All-Japan Invitational.

This episode also gave Haru and Rin a chance to reunite, and their interactions were wonderful. I loved how they both changed their All-Japan Invitational training schedules so they could go and cheer on their former teammates at the high school nationals.

We also learn that Asahi and Rei knew each other when they were younger. Perhaps this was something already known to viewers who had seen the prequel movie, but since I haven’t, this kind of felt like it came out of nowhere. This was probably one of the rare instances where seeing the prequel film would have tipped me off to the significance of a reaction Asahi has at one point in the episode before he and Rei meet face-to-face.

Sosuke also shows up at the high school nationals, and while talking with Rin, viewers get an update on how he’s doing post-surgery.

The races themselves were quick, and it was hard during the breaststroke to decide between rooting for Nagisa or for Nitori. Obviously, I knew only one could win, but I just couldn’t decide who to root for. In the end, though, it was an exciting race, and I have no complaints over the winner.

In this episode, we almost had all of the gang together. The missing characters included Nao, Natsuya, Ikuya, and Hiyori. From the preview, it appears that the final episode will be the All-Japan Invitational, so we should be seeing these four characters. Whether we’ll get to see the high school students at the venue cheering for their senpai is unknown at this point. If we don’t get to see them in the next episode, then this will be their final appearance in this series. But I really hope to see them there, because it would be nice to have one episode where ALL of the important characters appear in it at the same time at the same venue.