It’s the second to last episode and things are starting to heat up between our newest swimmer and the club’s friend-turned-rival. Rei is demanding answers, but it isn’t clear if he’ll get any out of Rin. What will be the result of this clash of wills?
There’s no fluff in the conversation between Rei and Rin. Rei gets straight to the point with his questions: why did you sign up for the relay, and what is Haruka to you? The one-sided account of the falling out between Rin and Haruka doesn’t seem to have been enough to appease Rei’s curiosity. He wants to know what happened from Rin’s perspective, and he breaks down everything that he has seen and heard about the situation logically and factually. Some of his observations are so spot-on that Rin is obviously hit hard by hearing them out loud, and the situation very nearly devolves into a physical fight as both their frustrations threaten to boil over. Thankfully, they part ways before things get too intense.
Meanwhile, the Iwatobi team’s practice is ending, and everyone but Nagisa is wondering if Rei is feeling sick. Coach Sasabe gives them money to go buy Rei a get-well gift, and they swing by Rei’s apartment to deliver it.
It turns out that Nagisa didn’t keep it a secret that Rei likely skipped practice to confront Rin after all, and Haruka asks Rei if that’s indeed where he went, forcing him to fess up. It’s not a problem, though. Rei insists that he’s done worrying about Rin, and the rest of the team affirms that they are glad to hear Rei is at ease with the situation. They discuss how Rei is an important part of the team, which really seems to mean a lot to him.
Rin, however, is still dealing badly with the fallout of his and Rei’s conversation. His fixation on Haru’s team is distancing him further from his own, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Samezuka swim coach. Rin’s performance is also starting to suffer.
The time for practice has come and gone though, and it’s suddenly time for the next big swim tournament. Everyone heads out to their respective hotels and prepares in their own way for the competition the next day. Late that night, Rei receives a text message from none other than Rin. It requests a meeting, and the two come face to face once again. Although Rei is content now with what he knows, Rin still insists on answering one of Rei’s questions: what happened to him overseas?
It turns out that Haruka beating Rin in their middle school race was not why he stopped swimming. He tried to be competitive in Australia, but without the Iwatobi team, Rin just couldn’t do well. Experiencing that last relay with Haru, Makoto and Nagisa made it impossible for him to reach the same heights solo or with another team. But when he returned to Japan for high school and faced Haru again in episode 1, that rekindled his drive and his ability.
The episode seems to be over after this revelation, but post-credits there is one more scene. Rin has returned to his team’s hotel, and their coach pulls him aside to let him know that Rin has been cut from the relay team. His flagging performance and lack of focus are too much of a liability. He’s left stunned by the revelation, and then the episode is truly over.
That opening scene was really intense! Rin we know has a volatile personality, but this is the first time we see Rei get this worked up and angry. But Rin also shows a rare amount of vulnerability in this scene. I love how they have brought these two together and made it a point to show us that they both want the same thing: to participate in a relay again with the Iwatobi team. Their feelings in that respect are really very similar, and Rin was finally forced to face some tough questions about his own motives because of Rei.
Likewise, Rei gets to put his feeling of being left out away for good in this episode, or so it seems. Rather than being the fifth wheel in the drama surrounding Rin, he finally starts to feel at ease and included. The scene where everyone gets to see his room was a great setup for that.
And finally, there’s something that I’d been noticing as the series progressed that really became obvious in this episode: Haruka is smiling a lot more than he used to. It’s a great, subtle visual cue that really shows us how much he’s changed over the course of the series since episode 1. He’s conversing with the cast more often too and opening up to them, which led to some really heartwarming scenes in this episode between him and the rest of the team.
There was a lot of emotional payoff in this episode resulting from plot-related buildup throughout the entire series. Rei’s issues got some resolution, we’re seeing Haru open up more and more, and things are both clearer and more difficult for Rin to deal with. I’m really hating that there is only one episode left of this series.
You can watch this episode of Free! Iwatobi Swim Club over at Crunchyroll right now with an anime membership; the rest of the series is available for everyone.