Monday, September 30, 2013

Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 (Final Thoughts)--The Boys of Summer

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 1

I am already planning next year's party!

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 2 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 3

I'm having problems believing that this is actually over! Part of me is still expecting an episode next week so that I can bother you all with my feelings and silly theories on this blog... But! Unless KyoAni wants this to become the next Full Metal Panic/Haruhi Season Three, I'm going to take the endcard at face value and expect something next year. For now, I'm savoring this final episode. The last time we get to see the gorgeous swimming animation, the last time we get to see the main group act like dorks...and the last time I wished I could reach through the screen and slap Rin in the face.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 4 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 5

I mean, as I've explained at length in other posts, I see where he's coming from. Not being able to swim in the relay was a hard blow. I expected him to be upset, but I didn't think that he'd throw the emo fit to end all emo fits, come in dead last in the race because he had too much angst to bother trying, and then finally fail at getting out of the pool, making it look like he was injured. But nope, it's just his sore loser side coming out again, and Rin's willing to drag down all the people who care about him so that he can have his fit.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 6
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 7 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 8

I just... urgh. This is a real pet peeve of mine, in real life and in fiction. Yes, he has issues. Yes, he has a legitimately sad past. That does not excuse any of this behavior. In the last couple episodes, but especially in this one, it feels like his background has been used as an excuse to justify how Rin is acting when the reality is that he's a brat whose current situation is of his own creation. If it was out of his control, then sure, I'd have more sympathy for him. But screaming and throwing things (not to mention that horrible split-second where I thought he hit Nitori) demotes him to a two-year-old in my view. The guy has a lot of maturing to do.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 9
That is the sound of my heart breaking
I apologize for that rant. I needed to get that off my chest, since I feel like fandom has been giving Rin a free pass as well. And I admit, that would probably be more of a footnote if it weren't for how the episode progressed, which is to say, poor sweet Rei. You want to talk about real friendship? Here's a guy who has his priorities straight. Despite leaving his previous sport, feeling like he was letting the team down, and thinking that the team was ignoring him because all they talk about is Rin, he still offers his spot in the relay because he knows what it would mean to them. And honestly, that was also Rin's moment to prove that he'd learned something, that he understood now that his friends would be there for him no matter what, that nothing was over. He could've let the new team have their moment in the sun. But nope. Rin gets what he wants because he's the angst baby who gets no repercussions.

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Can you feel~ the gay~ tonight~

Okay, I'm done complaining about Rin now, I swear. I am happy that he finally worked out his problems with Haru and the rest of the group (the SUDDENLY CHERRY BLOSSOMS scene had me in stitches though), and I'm glad that they won the race as The Best Team Ever even though they were disqualified. I just wish that it hadn't come at the expense of Rei's dream or at least had the other characters recognize more what a selfless action that was.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 12 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 13

My mixed feelings on this episode aside, I enjoyed the heck out of this series. That probably goes without saying at this point, and I always expected that I would like it, yet I didn't expect that I would like it this much. I went from mostly just marveling at the animation and not shipping anything to being emotionally invested in how this would all play out (not to mention my new obsession with Nagisa/Rei). Yes, it got pretty silly at points with the fanservice bent, and at times it got a little too heavy-handed with the drama, but I have to hand it to KyoAni for adding a bit more weight to the plotline when they could've just made it a piece of disposable fluff and called it a day. For that reason, I also don't think that the K-ON comparisons are completely accurate, since unless I really wasn't paying attention, I don't remember this level of drama in that show.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 14 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 15

There's also a lot to be said about the characterization in this show as well. If I hadn't grown to like the characters as much as I did, then it's likely that the more dramatic parts would've put me off the show entirely. Even with my love/hate relationship towards Rin's character, I wouldn't rant if I didn't care. Apathy towards a piece of entertainment is worse than disliking something about it, since that usually means that the work has failed to draw you in at all. That definitely wasn't the case here, since as you can see in my rant above, I'm holding Rin to the same standards as I would a real person. These kids are real to me. Or maybe that just means I'm crazy.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 16 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 17

Anyway, while my favorite KyoAni show is still Hyouka, Free! will now occupy a special place in my fangirl heart. Haters gonna hate, since going by the projected sales, I doubt that the rest of the industry will ignore this section of the fandom as much as it has in the past from now on. It was exciting to watch something directed at my gender that was well put together for once. That said, I'm not expecting a ton of copycat shows either, since this was another installment of what KyoAni is good at: genuinely interesting club stories with good characters. Hopefully this will remind the people who greenlight "a club about nothing" shows that they're much more engaging when the club acts like...well, a club!

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Episode 12 Screenshot 18
And since I don't know how to end this post, have some dorks in the shower.
I'll see you next summer for sure!

Images from


  1. And thus the collective anguished cries and screams of despair of millions of fangirls worldwide were heard as Free!’s final endcard flashed across both TV and PC screen alike.

    {{{exactly as Monobear and Junko had planned, the 1st step in initiating the World's most Despair-Inducing Incident, upupupupu~}}}

    This show's definitely a textbook case of 'don't judge a book by its cover', being actually more deep and entertaining than it first made itself out to be. (Yes, I'm a straight male, and I enjoyed this show.) The fact that it can appeal to both genders is definitely a testament to the writing.

    Maybe the upcoming Rio/Tokyo Olympics could inspire Kyoani writers for a Season 2 plotline…φ(・ω・`)

    And now even Gou knows Amakata's modelling secret!
    {{{you were doing ero things in there with the magazine weren’t you Coach Sasabe…This will be the perfect catalyst to start a new Super Duper Despair at Iwatobi High School,upupupupu~}}}
    ED. Just started watching Danganronpa, my attempt at some humour while everyone still remembers it :)

  2. Also, the guy who voices Rin has very good range in his voice acting, especially if he’s capable of voicing both an emotionally tormented high-school athlete in Free! and a manic, genocidal red-haired alien in Gatchaman Crowds.

  3. PS. A little guide I made some weeks ago;

    The facial expressions of Free!:

    Haruka : Usually ( -_- ) , when water/pool mentioned becomes ─=≡Σ((( つ•̀ω•́)つ

    Makoto : (^_^)

    Nagisa : (^ω^) with a hint of ( `ω´ )

    Rei: Usually -o-o- but can also become (╯°□°)╯なぜ━━━━━━!!!!!

    Rin: (▼へ▼)

    Gou: キタ━━━\(゜∀゜)/━━━!!!!! when muscles are displayed

  4. PPPS.
    There's been quite a lot of aplology/kowtow to Rei-themed Pixiv artwork ever since ep 12.
    My favourite:
    When kowtowing isn't enough to express your apologies, then plank!!

  5. I really liked this ending, with Rei being the most unselfish hero of all time and repairing Rin's relationship with the others and all. I was of course also very sad to see Rei excluded in the race, but his action's outside the pool made him shine brighter than all the rest of them together. (And yeah, Rin got real pathetic there for a moment. Sheesh. Drama Queen No.1).
    The scene in the end credits where we get to see the Iwatobi-guys and Rin joking around in a classroom was what finally made the ending a great one for me. In that moment we get to see them all getting along and being silly, Iwatobi are about to have another training session together with Rin, Nitori (and the rest of their team), we see Gou scold Rin like a true sister, and it all seems so normal, relaxed and great. And with that I'm really looking forward to next summer, when we can see all these great characters again without the whole "Rin drama".

    I'm gonna miss your reviews... Any chance you'll be reviewing Kuroko no basket season 2 that starts on october 5th? ;)

  6. Just a lurker for your reviews, and I just have to agree with your assessment of Rin. This episode would have been so much better and more poignant if Rin had showed true character development and had turned down Rei's offer to cheer for Iwatobi on the sidelines. That would have shown selflessness, it would have shown what he's learned about being friends even despite opposing teams, it would have shown a growing, changing Rin.

    But what we got was Rin throwing a selfish hissy fit like he's done in 99% of the series and...getting his way. There's no acknowledgement that this was a bad thing, there's no acknowledgement that Rin just literally threw all of Iwatobi's hard work out the window just to satisfy his own angst, nothing! Rin just gets what he wants, end of story, no real character development. And then there's the fact that Haru sees him throwing a fit and just...immediately regresses. It's like everything he learned about being in a team and all the things his friends mean to him flew out the window because Oh No, Rin Is Sad and Not Swimming, I Can't Swim With Him, Must Have Breakdown. That wasn't episode 11 Haru, that was more like episode -1- Haru.

    I loved this series, but to be honest I really didn't like how this finale played out. A lot of people just give Rin a blank check to do whatever the hell he wants, as if "oh he's so tortured and sad, poor baby, leave him alone!" excuses his behavior. It doesn't. And they also miss that most of Rin's angst he did to his own damn self. He took his failures in Australia personally and wrongly blamed his old relay team, and thus hurting Haru and causing Haru to quit swimming. He's the one that was a dick to everyone and thus got excluded from the team, so his poor feelings of loneliness and jealousy were also all his fault. He took everything too personally and hurt himself and a bunch of people, and I just can't find it in myself to excuse him for it because it's all his own fault and he would have been so much happier as a person if he'd just learned to grow up a little and handle his problems more maturely. I liked his character, and there was such a promising moment that episode 11 set up for him to realize how selfish he's been and how it hurt everyone...and nope. In the finale we asspat Rin and it's all okay! I agree with your characterization point - these boys are practically real, it's why I was so invested in seeing Rin learn and grow, and why I'm genuinely upset that he didn't, at least not as much as he could have.

    Well, despite being really frustrated with this finale, I still love the series and will support it. Definitely my favorite KyoAni title besides Hyouka, and I hope we get that teased second season. I need more ambiguously-homosexual swimming boys!

  7. I found it hilarious that the entire conflict between Rin and Haruka, and by extension of that, the conflict in the entire series boiled down to Rin being a little baby. I guess I expected a better explanation of why he'd turn from the happy team oriented preteen to a angsty mopping teenager. This and many other writing choices made the show too sanitized for the drama that was supposed to be happening. KyoAni obviously wants to stick to the mundane but wondrous atmosphere in of its works but some credible conflict should have existed.

    They only hinted at this, but Rin should have hated Haruka because he could imagine Haruka succeeding at becoming an Olympic swimmer whereas he's hit his limit. That's a pretty common theme in sports shows that they kind of halfassed in Free. If they had further explored the conflict between natural talent (Haruka) and hard work(Rin), I would have enjoyed the show more. "Ping Pong" for example, in both the manga and the movie adaption executes this theme very well.

  8. Great to hear that you agree! Maybe more guys will give it a try in the future?

    And that would be a great thing to address in Season 2. Perfect timing!

    And I don't mind, I think your Dangan Ronpa references are funny!

  9. Yes, his voice actor is amazing. He did a fantastic job in both roles.

  10. I've seen a lot of kowtowing fanart since the final episode, but not that one! Lol, Nagisa has the right idea!

  11. I was really proud of Rei, and I liked the joking-around bit too, but I still wish the episode had played out differently. It was still incredibly selfish on Rin's part, and the fact that he went through with it without a second thought made me really upset. I'm looking forward to a future season that doesn't revolve around Rin's angst.

    I don't know what I'll be covering just yet since school just started up again for me. It'll depend on how my schedule works out. But when I make a decision, you'll know right away!

  12. Sounds like we're in agreement! Since Rin refused to mature a bit, it dragged back the development of the other characters who cared about him, especially Haru, as you mentioned. That aspect really upset me, since to me it looked like Rin was taking advantage of the fact that Haru cared about him, whether he was conscious of it or not. I really hate it when shows hit a magic character development reset button for the sake of drama, since given what we've covered in the last few episodes, Haru at the very least should be past this. That doesn't mean that he shouldn't care (that moment when Rin acted like he was injured, for instance), but once he realized that Rin was just throwing a fit because he wanted to backpedal on what he said before, they should've dropped it. That's just my opinion though.

    But yes, I will also still support this show, since it was still a lot of fun to watch, and I want to give KyoAni every reason to make more!

  13. I also was expecting a lot more out of the rivalry and Rin's reason for hating Haruka. For a bit, I thought that finding out what happened to him in Australia would shed some light on it, but when they revealed that, it just made it all the more shallow. There was definitely an opportunity to push the talent vs. hard work angle, since they'd set the groundwork for that from the first episode (Haru saying that when you're twenty years old, you're ordinary), but they did nothing with it. I still love the show, but I agree that it would've been much better if this central conflict was developed better.

  14. Sorry .- i know this is a bit late, but I hope you don't mind me commenting :-) I just want to add, that to me the big turning point in this episode (and in the series actually) wasn't really Rin's breakdown (and subsequent rise) but Haruka's.

    I guess an ending where Rin wasn't in the final race could have worked, but it would not have underlined these two things:

    1) Following other peoples rules is not the essential thing, Being disqualified is ok if you enjoy yourself. They went out to the race knowing they would be disqualified, and still found it worth swimming.

    2)Haruka wanted to swim with Rin. Yes, he also wanted to swim with the
    rest of the team, but most of all he wanted to swim with Rin, because he misses him. This is rather huge: A guy who is known for his indifference admits he misses someone, actively seeks him out and not only that, but he also helps Rin without being asked to do it.

    Rin didn't get to be in the relay because he threw a fit, but because Haruka FINALLY broke down and acknowledged his own feelings. That he loved swimming with Rin and that he really liked Rin both in the past and in the present.

    Rei didn't step down because of Rin saying that he wanted to swim with the team. He stepped down because of Haruka saying that HE wanted to swim with Rin. After years of (seemingly) indifference and stoic behaviour Haruka finally starts to interact with others and to take responsibillity towards the people he likes. This happens gradually throughout the series (Haruka interacting more and more with other people) but the biggest breakthrough happens in the final episode where he actively confronts Rin and forces him to notjust run away the same way Haruka himself has been doing for years.

  15. I don't mind late comments at all! I'm sorry that I'm responding late myself... ;^^

    I do agree on your point about not needing to follow anyone's rules (they had a great time and still won, screw the rules), but my problem with this episode is that Rei's feelings seemed to be swept under the rug in favor or Rin's self-generated conflict. I also agree with your points on Haruka's realization and that Rei stepped aside because he saw how much it meant to Haru, but it still resulted from Rin's fit. As I pointed out in this post, Rin makes a big show of how upset he is, and I have a hard time believing that he didn't know on some level how this would affect Haru, although he hadn't shown much concern for Haru's feelings in the past anyway (see: "I'll never swim with you again.")

    But anyway, what Haru and Rin really wanted was to swim together again, amd after they have their cherry tree heart-to-heart, Rin and Haru both know that they can swim together whenever they want. It did not need to happen right that second. Rei was being a bro by offering his spot, and through his character arc, we know that he's really concerned with how the team views him and worried about their relationship with Rin, even confronting him at one point. In a weird way, they're actually really similar character-arc wise, since all they want is validation. Rin had already gotten what he really wanted before the race, so that was his moment to show that he'd grown and give Rei his chance to get his validation as being part of the team. And that didn't happen. So what I'm actually upset about isn't Rin throwing a fit but the fact that there was a great opportunity to wrap up two character arcs beautifully, but the writers didn't take it.

    I hope that makes sense, and sorry that it's long! It's been a while since this show finished and I still have strong feelings about it... What does this say about me...