Series 2, Episodes 1-4 (Streaming on Crunchyroll)
“It’s not the winning that counts, nor the taking part. It’s making fun of the little fat kid who always comes in last.” – Matthew Hansen
It has been commented on in some quarters that this anime season is a good one for fujoshi (and fudanshi!). You have the cross-dressing Love Stage!!, the much more adult sci-fi yaoi series DRAMAtical Murder, and then you have this – the return of a series that has been described as the gayest show in the world not to feature anyone who is actually gay (except in the minds of everyone watching it). They may not be sexually attracted, but when you a bunch of well-toned guys, hot and wet, all with girls’ names, your mind tends to go astray.
This second season of Free! continues to see the swim club of Iwatobi High School trying to establish itself in both their school and their friendly rivals at Samezuka Academy. Haruka “Haru” Nanase (who only swims free), outgoing captain of the club Makoto Tachibana (backstroke), energetic penguin-lover Nagisa Hazuki (breaststroke), and the beauty-obsessed Rei Ryugazaki (butterfly), are hoping to get more members into the Iwatobi Swim Club, with the help of their manager Gou Matsuoka. Although her muscle fetish often seems to get the better of her.
Meanwhile, at Samezuka Academy, Haru’s old multi-talented friend and Gou’s older brother Rin Matsuoka has new problems to deal with. The captain of the team, Seijuro, leaves the academy, so Rin has to take up the reins and form a new relay team. Aside from Aiichiro Nitori, who completely idolises Sousuke, two new students make an appearance who seem like good candidates. One is Sousuke Yamazaki, a childhood pal of Rin’s who seems rather stern and appears to have a few issues with Haru. The other is Seijuro’s younger brother Momotaro, who at first is not interested in joining the club, but decides to when he encounters Gou and falls in love with her.
So far this season is proving to be as enjoyable as the first. The characters are what give Free! its appeal. Let’s face it, it isn’t the sport. We all know that the swimming and the competitiveness between the two clubs takes second place when it is up against wanting to watch boys getting their kit off. The character we already know and love are wonderful, and newbies Sousuke and Momotaro have also been good fun. Hopefully, as the series goes on we will see more things develop, especially the tension between Haru and Sousuke.
Admittedly there is one problem with Momotaro, which is his love of Gou. By which I mean that some fans may well be annoyed that one of the characters in Free! seems to be heterosexual. You get the feeling that in the mind’s eyes of all the fans, they are all praying that Momotaro turns out to be bisexual.
In terms of the soundtrack, I prefer the end theme, “Future Fish” sung by the main cast, over the opening theme, “Dried Up Youthful Fame” from Oldcodex. This leads us to the closing animation of this season. Last time there was a mixture of strange dancing and Arab traders looking for an oasis. This time we see the five main guys in various occupations: Rin as a cop, Makoto a fireman, Nagisa an astronaut, Rei as a scientist and Haru in that most obvious of jobs – merman. This leads to one of the most widely circulated images in anime circles recently: Rin thrusting his hips (and thus groin) while dressed in a policeman’s uniform. All over the world fujoshi are thinking: “Please Rin, handcuff Haru to a bed and get it on with him!”
Free! is a series full of fun, drama, humour, enjoyable characters and untoward thoughts of its viewers. If you watching Free! for the swimming and sporting element however, you’re probably better off watching the Commonwealth Games.