Free! Iwatobi Swim Club – Episode 3

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

There’s definitely one thing on everyone’s minds this week: our mysterious glasses character, Rei Ryugazaki. He’s in the opening and ending credits, he’s been featured in the promotional videos- but he said in no uncertain terms last week that he was not interested in swimming! What sort of crazy talk is that?

Plot Summary:

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

After ending the last episode swimming in the newly renovated outdoor pool, it looks like Haruka has a cold this week. Although he’s sure he’s only sneezing because someone must be talking about him (an old Japanese myth- or is it?), the rest of the crew decides that it’s just too early to be swimming outdoors. Looks like they’ll just have to train on land for a while.

But more important is the fact that Rin has joined his school’s swim team, meaning that the group is bound to see him at tournaments just like they had planned. There’s just one minor snag: they’re still short one swimmer. Gou, who joined the club last week, is only on board as their manager.

So let’s check out the facts. The club can’t compete without four people. We have one glasses-clad boy who is wandering around campus claiming he doesn’t want to swim. You know what that sounds like? A challenge. And Hazuki is more than ready to take it on.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

He and Gou both have their eye on the stoic, analytical Rei Ryugazaki, a boy who turned down Hazuki’s recruitment attempts last week. Hazuki has determined that it’s Rei’s fate to join the swim team because, just like the rest of the boys, Rei has been graced with a traditionally girly name. Gou’s reasons aren’t much better, what with her appreciation of Rei’s arm muscles; but together, they are sure that Rei has to be the one to sign up and complete their roster.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

And time is running out for them to find their fourth team member. In order to train in an indoor pool, the swim team must be able to pay a gym membership fee. But in order to do that, they need to get the school to provide them the funds. For a brand-new club with no accomplishments under their belts, this is nearly impossible; and they can’t compete without four swimmers.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

In the meantime, Gou has worked out a deal with the swim coach from Rin’s team: the Iwatobi club can come train in their pool. However, they still need a full team. In other words, the club can’t move forward without Rei. Unfortunately, Rei isn’t even slightly interested. Despite Hazuki’s best efforts he is turned down time and time again. Rei is only interested in participating in beautiful sports that he can conquer through analytical thinking and careful planning; swimming, to him, is an unseemly sport that he wants nothing to do with.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

But when Rei has a rude awakening as to the limited extent of his physical skills during a track club meeting, he finally gives an inch. He’ll attend the swim club as a provisional member for the swim practice at Rin’s school on one condition: he doesn’t have to swim.

That declaration is torn down quickly by the other school’s swim coach. A swimmer in his gym without a swimsuit on? Nonsense. Rei is made to change into something more… appropriate.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

And he does try to dive in and give it his best shot. There’s just one little detail that he forgot to mention to the rest of the boys: he can’t swim. At all.

After having to be rescued from the pool, Rei is brooding and rightfully embarrassed. The sight of Haruka jumping into the pool catches his attention though. All eyes in the room- including Rin’s, who is watching the proceedings from a distance- are on Haru’s beautiful form. Rei has an epiphany: swimming can indeed be a beautiful sport, and there’s more to being a skilled sportsman than just running the numbers.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

At at the end of the epiode, Rei approaches the swim team with his declaration: he’s decided he will join after all, to learn how to swim like Haruka.

Thoughts:

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

Rei can’t swim.

Rei can’t swim.

This was definitely the highlight of the episode. I think most fans were expecting Rei to have his swimming talents stowed away in hiding somewhere, just waiting for a chance to shine. I definitely wasn’t expecting him to nearly drown the first time we see him in a pool. What a great twist though!

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

We get a good balance of characters showing their strengths in this episode. Hazuki especially shines as not just a cute face, but as an extremely driven person who gets things done. Just like getting everyone to clean the pool in the last episode, he again helps pull things together for the club. And we actually see a little more life in our usually stony-faced protagonist Haruka. When he realizes his ability to swim depends on their recruitment tactics, even he makes a major effort. It’s too bad that a free keychain of their bird-like mascot won’t convince anyone.

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

The rivalry between Haru and Rin isn’t in the forefront of this episode, but the thread hasn’t been dropped completely. We’re seeing both parties deal with things on their own terms, and it seems that the tension is being built up for a future encounter.

And last but not least, it bears repeating: every episode has been funny, and this one was no exception. You could say the dramatic tension was down in this episode, but the fast pace of events keeps it from being boring; and rather than just having a few funny scenes interspersed between action, this episode really just lets the humor permeate it all the way through.

The Verdict:

Free! Episode 3 | Saru Anime

This was a good character-building episode. We see a little more life out of Haru, we get to see more of Hazuki’s people skills at work, and Rei is actually given a good start with his motivation for joining the swimming club. He’s having to question is propensity to over-analyze sports and just develop natural skill. For a first appearance, that’s pretty good.

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