The Summer 2013 Anime Preview Guide
Bamboo Dong

Jul 9th 2013

Bamboo Dong is a managing editor at ANN, and writes the two review columns Shelf Life and The Stream. She enjoys cooking and eating, and likes anything with four legs.


WATAMOTE!

Rating:
5

WATAMOTE is, without a doubt, my current favorite series of the season. It's painfully truthful and heartbreakingly relatable, and watching main protagonist Tomoko is like staring in a mirror. Everything she thinks and says is shockingly true to life, and for anyone who's ever been insecure or felt lonely and unpopular, she is the personification of your feelings. She goes through the stages that every un-cool kid goes through—she goes through apathy (“karaoke sounds dumb anyway!”), she goes through denial (“I have lots of friends!”), she goes through jealousy (“all these dumb popular girls are sluts anyway!” [with the male version being, “all these jocks are douchebags anyway!”])… but most endearingly of all, she goes through hope. No matter how many times she cycles through all the other negative emotions, she still believes that someday, she'll be able to carry normal conversations with people other than her brother, and she believes that someday, she'll be cool. Of course, for all of us who've ever felt the pangs of insecurity, we understand that “cool” is just a buzzword for belonging—having friends who care about you, and maybe even a significant other who enjoys being with you.

The first episode paints a tragic picture and hits a little close to home, but it's also blisteringly funny. In one of her fits of self-improvement, Tomoko Googles ways to make herself popular. The result is a mish-mash of fashion tips and the ever-loathed duckface (you know, that thing that club girls do when they pout their lips at the camera and look like imbeciles). Only when Tomoko does it, she looks like a dried-up, terrifying hag. It's absolutely hilarious, but simultaneously sad, and you can't help but want to gather her up in your arms and give her the world's biggest bear hug.

I'm not quite sure what this show will ultimately be about; perhaps it will just be about Tomoko's attempts to socialize, or finally have a conversation with a boy. Maybe she'll eventually find a like-minded soul and flourish; maybe she'll never change at all. What I do know is that I already feel like I'm Tomoko's best friend, and I will root for her no matter where the story ends up. She's absolutely endearing, and I have a hunch that many, many viewers will find her story to be a familiar one.

WATAMOTE is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Stella Girls' Academy

Rating:
3.5

Young Yura Yamato is excited for her first day at a posh new boarding school. As she dozes on the ride there, she imagines an idyllic, fluffy pink fairytale world filled with puffy dresses and horse-drawn carriages. When she finally gets to the school, she's amazed by its flowery hedges, reflection pool, and its Pepto Bismol pink walls. It is, in short, the ultimate girly fantasy.

What she's quickly inducted to is anything but. When she gets to her new room, she discovers a large lump under her pillow, and discovers that it's a hand gun. Assuming it's some kind of prop, she roots around her shared room some more, finding a trove of action movies. This leads to one of the episode's greatest scenes, when her roommate comes home to see Yura decked out in a bullet belt, playing “Rambo.” The roommate, it turns out, is one of the few members of the C3 club, an after-school club devoted to airsoft. Self-proclaimed “weirdos,” they are desperate to find some new recruits for their club, and are excited to learn that this new Rambo-playing gal might be a fit for their club. Luring her in with cake and tea, they quickly toss her into a simulated Rambo airsoft game, where one girl gets to play Rambo, while the others play peace officers tasked with taking her down.

Back in college, I played a fair amount of airsoft with my friends. There were two places we used as a primary battlegrounds—an old abandoned hotel downtown, and the basement of the engineering building. To this day, one of my fondest memories of college involves playing Capture the Flag with airsoft guns, arming everyone with crappy pistols and a pair of safety glasses. I understand the appeal well— it's fun, it's exciting, it's cheaper than paintball, and it hurts a hell of a lot less, too. Plus, it's a lot less effort than tag.

Watching Stella Girls' Academy, I envied the girls. They had a better arsenal of airsoft guns than we ever had, allowing them to play more variegated games, and they had a better battleground. We used shady, condemned buildings and the cover of night; they had a nice, lush forest that was barricaded from outsiders. What I appreciated the most though, was that these gun-toting, action movie-loving girls were nothing like the fairytale princesses that Yura envisioned, even though they also treated themselves with “feminine” treats like cakes and tea. (There's another great scene that I loved where they left a slice of cake in the hallway. Yura spies it and innocently wonders, “did someone leave their cake here?”) By their own admission, they're “weird.” After all, they're girls. They should be all about cakes and poofy white dresses and horse-drawn carriages, and yet here is this collection of girls who like action movies and running around in the mud. It's exciting and daring, and I think it's a great juxtaposition against the traditional, ultra-feminine backdrop of an all-girls' school.

It's worth pointing out, by the way, that there's not a single drop of sexual fanservice in this show. Whether or not one would count girls holding replica guns as fanservice is up for debate—after all, the Stella Girls' Academy manga was published in a seinen anthology. And, we can't pretend that “girls with guns” isn't a thing. But there are no panty shots or bouncing breasts, no lingering thigh shots or girls blushing coyly at the camera, no slow-motion shots of them polishing their rifles or shiny limbs—all of which would be easy enough to do, and which would absolutely drastically change this show into something much more fetishized. As it is, I think the show is a lot of fun, and I appreciate that the gals are able to have non-traditional hobbies without being forced to shove guns between their tits.

Stella Girls' Academy is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist

Rating:
2.5

The "realist" in Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist here refers to William Twining, a high school-aged boy who also happens to be from one of England's oldest and most respected families. He's smart and he takes pride in being of high birth, though his world is shattered when he returns home from school one day and learns that his uncle has bankrupted the family. Desperate for money to pay his school tuition, he asks his trusty butler Kevin to accompany him on a search around his family's estate, hoping to uncover some hidden treasure. What he does find is a locked door, and inside, a magic circle drawn on the ground.

Now, the realist in me tells me that it's silly to just leave a magic circle laying around, especially one that's so poorly secured by just a mere door, but as William enters the room, he accidentally drips blood onto the circle. Before he realizes it, he's summoned a man who calls himself Dantalion, the Grand Duke of Hell. Exasperated with his claims, William says he doesn't believe in magic and all that hoodoo, and has Dantalion carted away as a trespasser. Soon after, he learns that he's supposedly the descendent of King Solomon, which makes him eligible to be an Elector for Hell, allowing him to help decide who gets to be Lucifer's substitute. He's dragged into a magical realm, is greeted by a goat-headed butler, and even witnesses a demon fight.

Oh, but at the end of the show, Dantalion shows up as a transfer student at William's school, because those schoolyard slash fics aren't going to write themselves!

While this whole, “regular normal everyday boy meets a demon / learns he's the descendent of [some demon thing] / blah blah demon lord” business isn't new, the series does offer a fun reprieve from cliché in the form of William's steadfast claim to be a realist. His irritation at having Dantalion pop up out of nowhere made me laugh, as well as his refusal to be surprised by any of the magic. I could see this becoming a little tiresome after a while, but for right now, it's an amusing twist on an old gimmick.

Unfortunately, that's one of the only fresh things about Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist. Were it just called Makai Ouji: Realist, perhaps the series would be a little more interesting, but the “Devils” part of the title just feels clichéd. We've seen all manners and forms of demons and devils over the years, and with the lone exception of William's reaction to them, they don't really surprise in this series. The devil fight isn't particularly noteworthy or spectacular, and not even this magic demon realm that the series has created is that flashy or eye-opening. This show certainly has room to grow, but I'm not exactly dazzled by the first episode.

Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Fantasista Doll

Rating:
1.5

After I watched the first episode of Fantasista Doll, I immediately started Googling “Fantasista Doll tcg” and “Fantasista Doll game.” I absolutely needed to know, because Fantasista Doll feels a whole lot like an anime that was created solely for the purpose of selling me a card game or some other gaming product. Everything from the card girls' expository, "You haven't equipped me with outfits yet!" or whatever, to the awkward explanation of card game rules feels like I am getting a prep course on a game that I am about to buy. I learned later that, as part of a multi-medium project, it's being released roughly alongside a handful of manga, and a cell phone game. The latter makes the entire atmosphere of the show make sense.

Knowing that the show seems to have been made just to sell a mobile game is a little exasperating, but it does make a whole lot of sense. It's written exactly like sales copy, which means character development and interesting dialogue are entirely sacrificed for, “look at what you can do with this deck!” and “these are the kinds of cards and outfits you could have if you had this game!” Unfortunately, because so much time is spent on explaining rules for this dumb game, there's no time left for anything else.

There's no time to really learn anything about main character Uzume, other than noting that she used to be a world-class Magic the Gathering player. And when a mysterious phone-like device is slipped into her school bag, we don't even get a plausible explanation as to why she hangs onto it, or why she isn't way more curious or concerned about its sudden appearance. It's just one contrivance after another, including a ridiculous scene where she's led to some dark hallway, and answers a questionnaire about herself... leading all to the appearance of Sasara, the first Fantasista Doll. Right, okay. It's revealed that the mystery phone (good thing she didn't turn it into lost and found I guess, right?) can be used to summon four more cards, all cute girls that can equip various cosplay outfits. I bet in the app, some of the best outfits are paid add-ons.

Even though Fantasista Doll stars a girl and five girl-card-avatar-fighter-things, it's not terribly different from all the other guy-fights-XYZ-in-an-arena-using-cards/monsters/avatars/apps/whatever shows out there. You know, the kinds of shows that were made to sell cards/monsters/avatars/apps/whatever. It's great to see a heroine, I guess, but that doesn't really excuse it from being generic, sales pitch, tournament-styled crap.

Fantasista Doll is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


The Eccentric Family

Rating:
3.5

P.A. Works has, over the years, really made a name for itself as a talented studio with a name for slice-of-life and fantastical fare. Their penchance for quiet mountain villages and wind-blown trees makes their works some of the most immediately recognizable, capturing a mood that's almost whimsical. Their latest work is The Eccentric Family, sets in modern Kyoto. However, the Kyoto that we know isn't exactly the Kyoto that exists—living alongside humans are also tanuki, that roam the ground, and tengu, which fly through the skies.

This series centers around a young male tanuki named Yasaburo, whose primary goal in life is to live it to its full extent. For him, that means using his transformative powers to their utmost potential, and taking on the form of a cute high school girl. He hasn't quite mastered all of it yet though-- he still ambles like a guy, and when he sits, his legs flop open in the most unladylike manner. While he's quite proud of his ability to take on this form, the other members of his family aren't quite so happy. Amongst his tanuki brethren is his former Master, who tasks him with delivering a love letter to a female tengu he once knew. Although she's changed considerably over the years, perhaps for the worst, she still agrees to go visit the master.

Like many of P.A. Works' other offerings, The Eccentric Family is visually beautiful, and impossibly quaint. The character designs are a little funky—everyone has big, droopy ears reminiscent of Detective Conan, and everyone's feet are bizarrely small—but the carefully drawn backdrops and cherubic characters give the series a sense of playfulness. It's not immediately clear what the series will ultimately be about, but there's enough there that viewers might easily be intrigued. The Eccentric Family is a bit on the slow side, but I think Yasaburo is an absolute delight, and I'd like to see more of him.

The Eccentric Family is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


KINMOZA!

Rating:
4

The first episode of KINMOZA! already has one of my favorite scenes so far this season. In the scene, two girls—one Japanese, one British—are saying their goodbyes, having just spent a week together for an international homestay. As the car pulls away, they wave to each other tearfully, shouting, “Hello! Hello! Hello!” and “Konnichiwa! Konnichiwa!” And in that moment, I could've sworn someone was cutting onions outside my bedroom window. It was the perfect moment, expertly crafted, expertly staged. Neither of these girls speak the language of the other—Japanese gal Shinobu knows the words, “Hello!” and “Guts punch!” while English girl Alice has only recently learned, “Konnichiwa” and “Arigato”—but the emotions in their voices while they yell, “Hello!!!” to each other is unmistakable. In that brief exchange, a million more words are said, and it could've well served as the ending for a short film.

Flash forward a few years and Shinobu gets a piece of air mail written entirely in English that she can't quite understand. Setting it aside for the time being, she's surprised when Alice strolls into her classroom as a new transfer student, having spent the past few years studying Japanese. Perhaps shenanigans will ensue from here on, but we'll have to wait for further episodes to be sure.

With so many years of anime-viewing under my belt, I feel this series could go in several directions from here. It could continue the beautiful and heartwarming friendship story from the opening act, or it could devolve into wacky schoolgirl antics. Personally I'm hoping for the former, but I've seen enough of the latter to not hold my breath until a few episodes have passed by. And who knows, maybe even if it becomes the latter, it could be so well-written that I won't have time to be disappointed.

Even if the series slips off the rails that it built in the opening act, and even if it turns into a more generic sort of schoolgirl comedy fluff (pardon my pessimism, folks!), I still think that absolutely everyone should watch the first episode. Regardless of how amazing or not-so-amazing the rest of the series turns out, the first episode is an absolute wonder, and while the large bulk of the homestay is condensed into a montage, the parting scene alone is worth a standalone viewing.

KINMOZA! is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Genshiken Second Season

Rating:
4.5

I confess, I had an enormous grin on my face the entire time I was watching the first episode of Genshiken season two. I was wary of the show's revival, since the original series was and remains one of my favorites, but it is funny and refreshing and absolutely a gem amongst gems. This new season of Genshiken has been updated to show the new face of otaku, and it includes otaku men, otaku women, fujoshi, and cross-dressers. And, it's one of the rare shows that actually treats cross-dressing with an appropriate level of gravitas without pandering. There's a sense of realism, too—despite most of the club's acceptance of new character Kenjiro Hato's desire to dress as a woman within the confines of the club (the heartwarming subtext here being that one could seek solace in a group of individuals accustomed to being on the fringe of society), it's not instantaneous roses and candy. One of the show's new characters is vehemently against the notion of cross-dressing and asks Kenjiro why he can't just stop. The look on his face speaks volumes and lack of answer speaks volumes. That the club spends time trying to come up with a solution as to where Hato can change in peace speaks to a level of maturity and progressivism that this new Genshiken embodies. The series has always been ahead of its time, but now its arms feel even wider, and even more welcoming.

Even the opening theme is indicative of Genshiken's embrace of a new paradigm in fandom. The opening shot is a mound of BL comics, and while there is plenty of heated debate in the anime community regarding the hypersexualization of the gay community, the mere inclusion of fujoshi in this new Genshiken signals a sub-community that has become too visible to ignore. Notably, at one point, one of the characters wryly comments that otaku women and fujoshi are not the same, and shouldn't be lumped together. After all, otaku come in all shapes and sizes, interests and passions, and we could all stand to try and understand a little more the different members of our dysfunctional family.

Although all of the previous members of Genshiken make appearances in this first episode, the only remaining club members who are prominent installments in this season are now-president Chika Ogiue (a defector from the manga club) and cosplay enthusiast (and fourth club president) Kanako Ohno, whose shyness has relaxed away to a much more confident and open demeanor. Added to the mix is new member Rika Yoshitake, an energetic fujoshi who is shameless in her outspoken love for BL; Merei Yajima, a heavyset gal who is a little more muted about her anime tastes, and fudanshi cross-dresser Kenjiro. Existing (but new to us) members include the American anime enthusiast Sue Hopkins and resident weirdo Manabu Kuchiki.

Genshiken has always excelled at its subtle lampooning of otaku culture and otaku media, and this season is no different. There's a cute scene when Sue, who's in cosplay and is sitting on the floor, is complaining that the floor is cold. Ohno smiles and exclaims, “At least I let you wear panties and stockings, which the character doesn't!” which is a cheeky reminder of the sometimes silly over-the-top and impractical get-ups that female characters wear in anime.

Even though I've only seen one episode, I can already tell that Genshiken is going to be one of my favorites this season. I am definitely ready to see what else the writers have in store for us.

Genshiken season two is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion

Rating:
2

Akari is a plucky little gal who just love, love, loooooooves tarot cards. She spends all of her free time researching them, and even works as a fortune teller, winning the adoring smiles of her classmates and all who gaze warmly upon her lobster claw-shaped hair. Alas, she hasn't had a good life—the tarot cards are all she has left of her deceased mother. Despite that, she's as genki as can be, and is beloved by everyone—except her jealous and bizarrely hateful cousin. But no matter, she gets stabbed to death midway through the episode, right after tentacles wrap their way around young Akari's pre-nubile limbs, causing her to drool and cry like the heroine(?) of a well-thumbed doujin.

Gee, I guess her cousin must really hate her. Enough to turn into an evil plant monster or something. I don't really know what happened. Either her cousin was possessed by an evil tarot card, or her cousin's jealousy turned into a monster that also happened to be a tarot card, or she was so mad she turned into a tarot monster? Luckily, Akari can harness the power of tarot(!) to vanquish her foes, including another evil tarot monster that tries to burn down the mansion where the rest of her fortune telling posse lives. We learn that she's but one of many magical tarot girls who can summon powers through these cards, although to what end, we've not yet learned.

Day Break Illusion is reminiscent of Puella Magi Madoka Magica in its inclusion of tweens dealing with dark things, although I feel it's trying a bit too hard. Whereas Madoka Magica was groundbreaking in the way it shattered genre norms, Day Break Illusion feels like it's trying to be a copycat. Instead of examining and deconstructing a well-established genre, it's simply taking genre staples—cute girls, magic—and slathering it with a layer of blood and tragedy. You want cute magical girls with heavy responsibility? Here you go. Also her mom's dead and she stabbed her cousin. Boom.

Admittedly, I'm leaving a wide margin of possibility that I'm simply being too cynical. Maybe Day Break Illusion actually does have something new up its sleeve, other than trying to horn in on Madoka Magica's cult popularity. If that's the case, I will gladly eat my words, but right now, the story feels generic, and the drama feels forced.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen

Rating:
1.5

Living dolls feature predominantly in my nightmares, so I've always approached anything in the Rozen Maiden franchise with an edge of terror. They're especially creepy in the anime because, no matter how cute you think they are, they suddenly become a whole lot less cute when they fly around trying to kill each other with giant scissors and razor-sharp raven feathers.

Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen is a reboot of sorts of the original Rozen Maiden series. The episode opens with a tuxedo'd rabbit happily typing away a letter on an old-timey typewriter. Then we meet Jun Sakurada, a normal everyday kid who happens to get a suitcase with a doll in it. The enclosed letter asks if he's going to wind the doll up or not, and he does. What follows is a whirlwind of exposition and introductions, explaining (briefly) that there are seven dolls, each of whom have 1/7th of a shard of life spirit (or whatever). If one of them gets all seven pieces of this "Rosa Mystica," they become Alice, the ultimate girl that their creepy creator Rozen always wanted. Though, why he didn't just create Alice in the first place is never explained, but maybe he really likes the idea of dolls fighting to the death.

What makes this first episode feel really stilted is that it tries to cram a lot of what happened in the first two series into this one episode. We meet Shinku (Doll #5), who immediately fights Suigintou (Doll #1); then we meet Suiseiseki, see the demise of Hinaichigo (Doll #6) via weird-floaty-non-entity-flower-explosion Doll #7, witness the end of Souseiseki (Doll #4), and... presumably there are two more, but hell, that's too much to keep track of in one episode. I mean, I've seen both Rozen Maiden seasons, which is to say that if this is your first exposure to the franchise, it is a rough landing. From the promos, I've read they're trying to do this weird parallel-universe thing with this series, therefore not making it a true reboot, but hell if I know where they're going with this. It's possible that Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen is just suffering from Fate/Zero-itis, where the first episode is a monster dump of exposition, but this first introduction is enough to turn away plenty of new viewers. It's hastily written, the character introductions are half-assed, and—if this is to be the salt in the wound—it's just not as pretty as the first two seasons.

This first episode doesn't have me excited at all for the remainder of the series, but it has the potential to completely turn things around come next week. Fingers crossed, I guess.

Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Servant x Service

Rating:
2.5

Meet the characters of Servant x Service, everyday office workers who get their first taste of civil service when they start their jobs in a government office building somewhere in Hokkaido. They work in the health and welfare division, but spend most of their workday directing people to other counters, making sure people have their paperwork filled out correctly, and getting yelled at. Their jobs seem mundane, but somebody has to do it. For viewers, watching this show is an experience not unlike going to the DMV, but with more entertaining people to watch during your wait in line.

Of the employees that have been introduced so far, the one that's gotten the most screen time so far is the eager, go-get-'em Lucy. Her main reason for working in civil service is revenge—her parents gave her a first name that consists of several monikers and a handful of commas, and she's angry at the negligent employee that signed off on the paperwork. However, she learns even during her first day that toiling away in a government post isn't so bad—even though the employees get scolded a lot, at the end of the day, their hard work is appreciated by the citizens that trudge through the doors. It's enough to make you wonder if the Japanese government sponsored this project, in a vain attempt to get more people to become civil servants.

Servant x Service is pleasant to watch, but it's not exactly riveting. Most of us already spend most of our lives at work— watching other people do their jobs isn't quite the escape from reality that most of us need at the end of the day. The difference between these set of characters and, say, the personalities from The Office is that at the end of the day, the characters from The Office are infinitely more entertaining. They do crazy things, say stupid stuff, pull pranks on each other, and have engaging lives. While Servant x Service only has one episode under its belt, its cast of characters hasn't exactly pulled me in yet. Lucy's whole shtick is that she has a crazy first name. That's not a personality trait— that's a gimmick. Likewise, while it's humorous that the playboy slacker is actually a genius at customer service, it's hard to see where else they could possibly take that joke.

I like the idea of an adult workplace comedy, especially one that's centered on something so seemingly mundane as working in a government office. So far, though, the characters haven't proven to be that interesting, and while the writing has made an effort to be funny, the jokes feel a little forced. Hopefully this will pick up as the writers fall into their groove.

Servant x Service is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Chronicles of the Going Home Club

Rating:
3

Filled with one-off elephant seal gags and video game references, Chronicles of the Going Home Club is this season's first "cute girls being weird" show. It introduces freshman Natsuki, who at the invitation of another freshman Karin, discovers that the "Going Home Club" is actually a real thing... and they don't do much at all. With the exception of totally ordinary club president Sakura, everyone else in the club is extraordinary--Botan is the bear-fighting heir to an ancient martial arts technique, while Claire is the sweet but spoiled daughter of the powerful Kokonoe conglomerate. When she learns that ice cream is sold in containers, it blows her mind.

For the most part, while Chronicles of the Going Home Club has moments of absolute hilarity, the jokes are buffered by a lot of down time. Because of limited resources (I can only imagine), the gags are stretched out, but time-wise and also animation-wise. Jokes are carefully planted every few minutes, ensuring that you're never quite bored enough to switch the episode off, but never really building up enough momentum to make the show feel like it's flying by. This is exacerbated by the incredibly limited animation, which is understandable in a gag comedy, but can get a little tedious at times. Pans take an eternity and the episode is chock full of them. Meanwhile, the only characters who are allowed to move are the ones who are talking at that time— the girls often woodenly freeze on screen, while one person's mouth is allowed dialogue flaps.

Credit must be given where it's due, though— this episode does a great job of turning this into a successful gag, wisecracking that rich girl Claire is so well-off that she even gets more frames of animation. After an extended scene that blows their semi-fictional budget, the scene has no choice but to transition to storyboards and line art. It's a hilarious joke with great timing, especially since by then, everyone watching has surely noticed the carefully rationed animation.

Chronicles of the Going Home Club isn't always exciting, but when it does dole out its punchlines, they almost always hit. My socks weren't knocked off by this first episode, but I laughed enough to want to keep watching more.

Chronicles of the Going Home Club is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club

Rating:
3

Ladies, your time has come. It's now your turn to sit down with a bowl of popcorn, turn on the tube, and ogle to all your heart's content. Want so stare at some rippling abs? Go for it. Want to gawk at some serious V-line? Do it. Because here is a fanservice show made for you, so now boys and girls can both have their cake and eat it too. So eat all the cake you want.

While you're eating your cake, let's talk about how absolutely, positively ridiculous this show is. Main character Nanase is this brooding, dark-haired high school boy who is deeply infatuated with swimming. He's so obsessed with the mere idea of swimming that he even bathes in his knee-length, performance-wear racing suit, plunging his face under the surface of the water as if to let life itself wash over his darkly handsome face. (Eerily, he has the exact same face in his flashback to childhood. In fact, all of his childhood swim buddies look exactly the same in kid-form as they do in teenage-form, which is made all the more terrifying when paired with little boy voices, effervescently voiced by peppy female seiyuu.) When his friend comes over to see why he's late for school, he stands up and lets the camera pan over his ridiculously detailed body, lingering just long enough in the appropriate places. The water drips from his body and sprays from his hair like a million fan girls crying.

Sadly, his high school doesn't have a swim club. Wouldn't you know, though, Nanase is always ready for a dip in the school. Literally, he is never not wearing his swim suit, even under his school uniform, which makes it convenient when out childhood buddy Rin comes back into his life to challenge him to a race. Without batting an eye, Nanase strips down to his suit, confident in his doujinshi qualifications. His two childhood swim buddies-now-bros-forever, the mild Makoto and the ultra-kawaii-mega-hyper-That-Guy Nagisa, would be surprised at the sudden appearance of this strangely hostile friend-from-the-past, were they not so busy thinking about peeling off Nanase's last layer of clothing.

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is pure cheesecake fanservice, disguised as a sports show. I'm sure the boys will eventually participate in some races, but I bet I can guess where the cameras will be when they take their marks. Spoiler, their butts. It's pretty silly so far, but it seems like a goofy ol' time, so I'll be looking forward to seeing where Kyoto Animation takes this show this season.

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club is available streaming on Crunchyroll.com.



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