This is the first sport’s and school club anime I have ever watched. This is also the first anime I have seen that was targeted at fangirls and was not yaoi or shounen ai.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club starts with four friends (Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin) who used to swim together in tournaments. Years pass by and everyone parts ways while Rin moves to Australia. When Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa reunite years later in high school, Nagisa gets the idea to clean and fix the run down swimming pool at their school and try to make a new swimming club.
When an older Rin (who goes to a different High School) returns to Japan and meets his former buddies, he is mad that Haruka has stopped swimming competitively. Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin soon enter in swimming competitions against Rin, ultimately bonding with each other and finding out the true reason for Rin’s distant behavior.
Like most sport’s anime, Free! does explain to the viewers, through the characters, different styles of swimming. Haruka is EXTREMELY excited to go swimming in the water. With his excitement for water in general, I would not be surprised if water was not the only thing being filled in the run down swimming pool. When Summer comes around again, I’m sure some people would love to try the freestyle, butterfly, or backstroke.
Free has some funny moments. I enjoyed the moments when the Iwatobi Swim Club was teaching their new member Rei how to swim because he joined the swim club without knowing how to swim. Rei is a wonderfully exaggerated version of the nerd archetype and watching him follow Rin during a festival had me laughing up a storm. The characters in Free! are not three dimensional but, as the anime goes on, characters’ personalities become fleshed out. I was surprised when I found why Rin was such an ass toward the end of Free! and I started to like him.
As far as the fanservice goes, Free! is not that bad compared to the ongoing rise of fanservice in general for anime these days. None of the male characters walk around completely nude. In fact, most of Free!’s fanservice involves physically fit male characters swimming shirtless with various camera angles. Because, you know, most males swim shirtless. Any moment when of the characters are nude, the view is from a far distance.
One thing I found fascinating with Free is that the fanservice is only targeted at fangirls and thus, the female characters Miho and Gou are never seen in a swimsuit. Miho is just the homeroom teacher and faculty advisor, while Gou is the swim club manager and the group’s friend; not a love interest.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club is getting a second season in the Summer due to the anime’s massive popularity. I will be happy to review the second season. For anyone who still wants more Free!, I suggest watching the Free! parody 50% off on Youtube.