Last week, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club left off on the cusp of an intense race between rivals-once-friends Haruka and Rin. On top of finding out who won, I had a few questions going into episode 2: are we going to find out the reason behind Rin’s personality change? Where is the glasses character from the opening? Will anyone get arrested for indecent muscle exposure? Let’s jump right into this pool full of mysteries.
This episode picks up right where episode 1 left off- Rin and Haruka are preparing to have an intense swim race, complete with a bit of banter and… dubstep music, for some reason (it actually sets the mood better than you’d think.) But once the race really gets going the scene cuts to the OP video- and when we come back, it’s the day after the race. Our three boys Haruka, Makoto, and Hazuki are in trouble for once again trespassing at a pool they have no reason being at.
The boys have a conversation afterwards with a girl at their school named Gou Matsuoka- Rin’s little sister. She reveals that Rin’s personality change is just as much a mystery to her as it is to the rest of them. She was hoping that getting Rin together with his old friends would do something to help; and that’s when Hazuki has an idea. If they form a swim team for their school, then they would be able to see Rin at tournaments! Makoto seems worried that Haru’s disregard for swimming competitively will be a problem, but-
With that decided, all that’s left is to find a faculty adviser. The boys go straight to their teacher, Miho Amakata, who stepped in (although unsuccessfully) both times the boys were getting in trouble over a pool, and who is rumored to have had a job that somehow involved swimsuits before she became a teacher. Although she isn’t willing to discuss the nature of her “swimsuit job,” Amakata-sensei agrees to become their adviser and help them make their club official.
The next step is to get the school’s dilapidated pool ready for use again, a process that is shown via an entertaining musical montage. And although the boys try to recruit new members to get to their minimum requirement of four (including a familiar-looking glasses character), they all say no. Gou is the one who eventually decides to join, completing the team. It’s during a conversation with Makoto that she finds out her brother actually won the late-night swimming race against Haruka; but while Haruka seemed exhilarated by the race, Rin only seemed frustrated. On top of that, Gou found out during a visit to her brother’s school that he isn’t actually on their swim team. Rin has even more mysteries surrounding him, and none of them are being solved.
Except one. When Makoto visits the old swim club as it’s torn down, he meets their old swim coach outside. Now a pizza deliveryman, Coach Sasabe is at the school to reminisce. He also has some interesting information about a race between Haru and Rin that happened when the boys were still in middle school. Rin came back from his swim school overseas to test his skills against Haru, and Haru still beat him in a race by a large margin. Devastated by the loss, Rin left without saying a word.
So now we known why Rin has a rival-complex against Haru: despite moving to another country to study and hone his skills, uprooting his entire life, he still came up short compared to Haru. Apparently it was something he never recovered from, and something Haru still harbors a lot of guilt over.
The episode ends with the new Iwatobi High School
Host Club Swim Club celebrating their formation and the newly renovated swimming pool.
Believe it or not, the fanservice was actually lighter in this episode than in episode 1. As I mentioned in my last review though, it isn’t the fanservice that seems to be holding this show up. I’m glad that an episode like this came up so early and proved that right.
Episode 2 also impressed me with its introduction of two really likeable female characters: Amakata-sensei and Gou. There’s a trap that a lot of shows catering to female audiences seem to fall into where supporting female characters are either really annoying or conniving. Not Free! though. Amakata-sensei is a sometimes ditzy but determined teacher who seems like she has a few secrets (one word: swimsuits), and Gou is a headstrong, kind girl who seems to want the best for not only the main cast, but her brother as well.
Also, she says what most every female audience member is probably thinking on more than one occasion. I don’t blame her even a little bit.
The humor in this episode was really good too. I like that the gags in Free! are subtle and never feel out of place. Highlights of this episode include Haru trying to go swimming in an aquarium in the middle of a hardware store and Hazuki’s idea to try and recruit new members by offering up photos of Amakata-sensei in her swimsuit (which she staunchly refuses to do). Also, the quick flash of “mysterious glasses character from the OP” was a nice touch. He says he can’t join the Swim Club because he’s already on the track team. I wonder what will change his mind?
One thing I really like to see in anime series are episodes that cover a lot of ground- not too much, but just enough to keep multiple threads of plot moving along at once. Free! handled this balance nicely in episode 2. Not only did we have the formation of the Swim Club, but we also got more of Haru and Rin’s backstory; not to mention the introduction of quite a few secondary characters. I’d like to see Coach Sasabe come back eventually.
Despite being known mostly for its fanservice, I’m happy to see that Free! isn’t leaning too heavily on well-sculpted abs to carry the show (though those abs probably could do that if they needed to). It continues to be a lighthearted, fun series with a cast of characters that is both expanding and continuing to be interesting. Episode 2 did a good job of showing that Free! has more to offer outside of really well-animated muscles, and I’m looking forward to episode 3.
If you’re a Crunchyroll member, you can watch Episode 2 right now over here.