It's all fun and games until SOMEONE GOES SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN ALONE AT NIGHT JESUS CHRIST REI I WOULD SMACK YOU IF YOU WERE REAL
So, ocean swimming. Let's talk about it. It's a different beast than pool swimming, with its unique set of challenges and dangers due to fact that you're swimming in nature. The tides can wear you out faster and carry you far from where you wanted to end up. You're also a surprise guest in an animal's home, and not all of them mix well with people (eels going after rings or other shiny objects you might be wearing, jellyfish stings, sharks mistaking people for seals, etc.). In my experience, there are three main rules you should follow if you're going to swim in the ocean: 1) Know what you are doing. 2) Always have someone with you. 3) Respect the ocean.
The last one might sound silly, but a lot of people tend to forget that when they're swimming in the ocean, they're dealing with a force of nature. And when you underestimate nature, it has the unpleasant habit of kicking your butt. Number one and two are kind of two halves of the same coin that come from following number three. If you don't know what you're getting yourself into, the possibility of hurting yourself goes way up because there are a lot of unknown factors when it comes to nature. This is one of a whole host of reasons why someone should always be with you; if something happens, then who will notice?
I'd like to share my own story about being stupid in the ocean. One time when I was a teenager, my family and some close friends of ours who have a daughter who's a year younger than me (we were as close as sisters when we were little despite not being blood related) went to the beach. There was a strong riptide warning that day and we were cautioned to be careful and not to go too far out. However, we wanted to float and talk, and couldn't do that with waves constantly crashing in our faces. So the two of us and my brother went out further than we should have, sharing a body board to float on while we talked. And we had a great time, until one of us (I can't remember which) bothered to look at the shore and noticed that it was receding into the distance. We'd been caught in the riptide. We decided to try to paddle out. My brother was strong enough on his own that he powered straight through it and got back to shore, but my friend and I couldn't do that. It was a helpless and terrifying feeling, using all of my strength to try to swim forward while watching my goal slip further and further away. A little while after that, we were picked up by a lifeguard boat, and were so tried we couldn't talk, let alone get on the boat. To this day I get teased about this by my family, but honestly, I deserve it. It was a stupid idea, but even though I knew better, I went along with it anyway. One or all of us could've been seriously injured or drowned just because we wanted things a certain way.
Because of this, the end of this episode got a pretty angry reaction out of me, but not the kind that I've seen directed towards the cliffhanger itself. No, I was mad as soon as I saw Rei swimming in the ocean at night without telling anyone where he was going. Even without the sudden rainstorm, a number of bad things could've happened to him. Aside from magically being able to do the butterfly stroke, he can't really swim. It's one thing to swim in the ocean during the day on a set course with three much more experienced people willing to help you. It's another to be out there, in the dark, by yourself, with no one there to help you or aware of where you are if something goes wrong. Because of this dumb decision, he's putting Makoto in danger too. If anything, I hope that the fallout from this accident emphasizes how stupid this was and that no one should ever try it (apparently the TV broadcast had a warning, but the Crunchyroll stream did not).
This PSA has been brought to you by Muse Taking Anime Too Seriously.
Getting back to the actual content of the episode, I think that this will be a turning point for Rei's character. We've seen in the last few episodes that he has an obsession with perfection, and being the newbie of the group he also feels that he's holding everyone else back. However, the truth is that no one is perfect when they first start something, and admitting that you need extra help is the wiser path than insisting against it because "it's not beautiful." It's upsetting that it's taking the possibility of drowning to bring that up, but I'll be surprised if this doesn't knock some sense into him.
As you can guess from that paragraph, I doubt that anything really bad will happen to Rei or Makoto, although next week's episode will undoubtedly be a serious one. After I watched the episode, I checked out the Tumblr tag and saw lots of people yelling about how Rei just died and that Free! is now a psychological horror anime. First of all, we don't know that, and secondly, sudden character death would be too much of a thematic whiplash from a show like this. This is a show about swimming (yeah, yeah, I know, stop laughing), and now they're showing the dangerous side of it. Everyone in the fandom needs to take a chill pill and stop making Madoka Magica comparisons. (Why is that the go-to comparison now whenever an anime decides to get a little serious?)
Anyway, here's a riddle: what does the ocean, a dead goldfish, and a horde of strange monks have in common? I sure don't know, but whatever the answer is, it's some kind of trauma that Makoto doesn't want to talk about. You could make the argument that this episode is actually Makoto's episode, since there are a lot of subtle clues that bolster his character as the kind childhood friend who cares about everyone. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I'm really liking the "actions speak louder than words" approach to characterization that Free! is using. More often than not, anime characters are forced to fit into a trope box so that the show can get away with easy characterization, but this show is letting the interactions define that instead. For example, Haru can tell the difference between Makoto being genuinely cheerful or just putting on a happy face, and calls him out on it. Also, Rin is aware of whatever happened between Makoto and the ocean, while Nagisa doesn't seem to be aware of it, which struck me as a little odd (or he could've just forgotten, which I wouldn't put past him).
Speaking of Rin, Shark Watch this week finally resulted in a solid conversation between the siblings, and oh my gosh, they are cute. Hopefully he stops shutting Gou out from now on, because I'd like to see more of these interactions. What I said above about characterization applies here too; we're increasingly seeing that Rin is putting on a facade but does care deep down. We still don't know the reason why though, and we'll likely have to wait until the current crisis is resolved.
|I'm pretty worried though|
|I got on the right ship|