Free! – the Ultimate Stroke

In 2013, a recent and likable TV collection from Kyoto Animation captured the hearts of many viewers world wide, bringing us the story of a bunch of highschool boys who love swimming and are decided to revive their faculty swimming membership. Free! Iwatobi Swim Membership launched us to Haru, Makoto, Nagisa, Rei – and Rin. It was engrossing: amusing, dramatic, affecting – and, above all, it created plausible and endearing characters. The collection was so standard that it impressed two extra TV collection and a number of other movies, following the boys as they grew older, however concentrating most of all on Haruka Nanase, the blue-eyed, mackerel-eating freestyle prodigy.

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Production Committee

Quantity 1 

Now KyoAni have introduced out Free! – the Ultimate Stroke – Volumes 1 & 2, two movies that observe Haru and a number of other of his contemporaries into the powerful world of aggressive world-class swimming, beginning out with the Sydney Video games. Right here, he’s pitted towards the formidable world champion, Albert Volandel, within the 100 metres freestyle and is aware of himself to be dealing with a battle like no different in his life. His feisty good friend Rin Matsuoka can be competing in butterfly, as is Ikuya Kirishima who swam a medley with Haru in center faculty.

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Production Committee

Up till now, Haru has been sustaining his dream with an innate perception in his personal love of swimming (love is possibly the improper phrase, swimming is his cause for current). However when Albert quietly throws him the query, “What are you swimming for?” he finds himself at a loss as to the way to reply. The place risky Rin is greater than able to expressing his emotions aloud and doesn’t hesitate to take action, Haru remains to be the quiet one, maintaining all the things bottled up deep inside. However, all through Quantity 1, there are telling moments after we’re social gathering to Haru’s ideas and one thing that was as soon as stated to him that retains haunting him: “When you’re over twenty, you’re simply an atypical particular person.” (In Japan, younger folks come of age at twenty and are formally thought of adults from then on.) As a result of Haru finds it not possible to share his ideas and worries, this results in yet one more uncooked and painful conflict with Rin.

Quantity 2

Haru’s burning want to search out the reply – his reply – to Albert’s query drives him to retreat from his associates, plunging right into a relentless and punishing coaching regime together with his coach Ryuji to arrange himself for the subsequent main world-class competitors. And stoically selecting this lonely path begins to take its toll. He’s been single-mindedly pursuing his dream for therefore lengthy – but might or not it’s that his physique will not be able to sustaining him, regardless of how onerous he trains? Will he even have the ability to compete towards Albert, not to mention discover a solution to his query?

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Production Committee

Free! – the Ultimate Stroke – ought to delight Free! followers because it generously contains all of the characters we’ve come to know (and in some circumstances love) over the past years. Its director, Eisaku Kawanami, can be liable for the screenplay and collection composition and has directed nearly all the opposite Free! titles. The studio understands its viewers properly, offering a tense and nail-biting build-up to the Sydney Video games in Quantity 1, but sprinkling it with loads of glimpses of all the opposite characters who’re watching again at house in Japan, from the present swim golf equipment at each Haru and Rins’ faculties to their associates and rivals who didn’t make the reduce this time. So in the event you’re a fan of Rin’s good friend, Sousuke, or Momo, who desperately fancies Rin’s sister Gou however hasn’t ever fairly received round to telling her – to not point out authentic Iwatobi members Makoto, Nagisa and Rei, you received’t be dissatisfied. And their story threads are neatly woven into the principle narrative, giving the impression that their lives are ongoing – and that we’re not simply being proven the odd little compulsory glimpse to tick bins. Quantity 2 takes this additional, constructing the strain via the interactions between the unique Iwatobi workforce members and their pleasant rivals from Samezuka Academy as their mutual concern for Haru grows. Nonetheless, at instances, the will to fulfill the followers of all the numerous characters inevitably slows down the motion.

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Production Committee

In the case of animation, the way in which the swimmers transfer via the water is as convincing and visually pleasing as earlier than; this, in any case, was one of many promoting factors of the unique collection and it appears to be like nice right here. The distinctive and engaging character designs by the late Futoshi Nishiya nonetheless stand out. The characters are additionally beautifully animated, with as a lot consideration given to fleeting facial expressions (as one would anticipate from KyoAni) which enrich their interactions as to their fluid actions within the water. The music by Tatsuya Katou, who has composed for all of the Free! collection and movies, is particularly efficient when underscoring a few of the water-based scenes however – once more, all credit score to the director and workforce – there are some equally efficient and dramatic moments on the pool or in competitors by which all that may be heard is the lapping of the water and the cruel gasping for breath of the hard-pressed opponents. It’s uncommon to have the ability to reward anime creators for understanding when not to make use of music to reinforce the dramatic affect and that is a type of events.

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Production Committee

The unique voice actors do justice to characters that they’ve now been enjoying a very long time and have come to know properly. It appears unfair to select anybody actor out of the workforce, however Mamoru Miyano is superb as ever as risky Rin, Tatsuhisa Suzuki nonetheless charms as reliable Makoto and Nobunaga Shimazaki simply ‘is’ Haru, imbuing him with the suitable otherworldly aura. It’s value mentioning that the enigmatic violet-eyed Albert (performed by Jeff Manning) speaks in English all through. The US subtitle translation is by the ever-reliable Katrina Leonoudakis.

Again in Season 1, a lot was fabricated from Rin’s sister Gou’s appreciation of the spectacular musculature that male swimmers develop and the character designers and animators went out of their approach to ship this to all of the viewers who share Gou’s appreciation. Is it fan service? In all probability, nevertheless it’s onerous to take part in aggressive swimming and never develop the required muscle mass, so it’s additionally a practical depiction.

However what’s there to draw viewers coming to those movies with out having watched the sooner collection? There’s no getting away from the truth that they could possibly be confused, given the big variety of aspect characters and flashbacks (even I used to be at first, because it’s been some time!). It’s not one of the best place to start out, to be trustworthy.

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Production Committee

Nonetheless, Free! followers are in for a deal with with this last pair of movies that basically do justice to a beloved group of characters and ship a few of the most practical depictions of a sport (swimming) to be seen in an anime. I’m certain that fellow aficionados may also discover it troublesome to look at a few of the extra tense and emotional scenes with out wiping away a tear or two (I definitely needed to attain for the tissues) and it’s good – for as soon as – with an anime to know that the characters haven’t been left within the lurch and not using a satisfying decision to their story arcs. An additional fan deal with with the credit to Quantity 2 is a stunning sequence of authentic artwork stills set to what’s stated to be OLDCODEX’s final music earlier than disbanding, “This Fading Blue” (they’ve offered all of the Free! collection OPs and theme songs for all of the movies). Again in 2013, I couldn’t have imagined having the ability to watch Free! movies in my native cinema within the UK, so thanks are as a consequence of Anime Ltd for making this attainable – and right here’s hoping there is perhaps a field set earlier than too lengthy?

© 2021 Ohji Kouji/Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi Fan ClubFS Manufacturing Committee

Take a look at Anime Ltd’s Free! – the Final Stroke – site to guide tickets for the screenings on August thirty first 2022.

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Anime Zone
Anime Zone
Anime is an art form that uses imagination and creativity to tell stories. It's a form of entertainment that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. I love writing about anime because it gives me the opportunity to share my love for the genre with other fans.