Free! Eternal Summer
by Lauren Orsini,
So I'm wondering, what does everyone think of the New Haru? Because at this point, it's pretty obvious that we're not going to get the Old Haru back. The events of Free! Eternal Summer have transformed Haru's default emotional state, and his sulky new persona is interfering with his previous dynamic with every other character in the show.
Old Haru's silence was Zenlike. It was easy to assume that behind his serene blue gaze, he only had thoughts for water, mackerel suppers, and how to get more time in the pool. New Haru's quietude is downright uneasy, like the eye of a storm. We can no longer predict who he'll explode at next, or when.
“In any case, anxiety and conflict are just part of being a teenager,” Ama-chan-sensei summarized apprehensively, regarding Haru's actions. Even the adults don't know how to react to Haru as he is now.
More than anything, this episode showed us that not even Haru's support group can reach him anymore. The pacing was slow and tense as each of Haru's friends attempted in their own way to penetrate his perennial bad mood. Haru's misery has had a butterfly effect, agitating everyone else in turn as far away from him as Samezuka Academy. (Although, as usual, the lightest moments in the show were provided by Samezuka's happy-go-lucky Momotaro.)
As each character in turn attempts to confront Haru, the storytelling of this episode was less satisfying than usual. It had a circular effect as we continued to observe Haru's moody isolation through every character's eyes. Haru is a Main Character and we know he'll get over it, so why does this episode have to drag it on so long?
When we do get an outburst from Haru, his feelings are the same as those every teenager has experienced since the concept of the teenager was invented. He's afraid of change, of losing his friends, of growing up. And as we get closer to the end of the season, Haru has been getting progressively uncomfortable. It's easy to relate to Haru because we all have to deal with changes in our lives, but it's also a very predictable storyline because things are definitely 100% going to change, whether Haru likes it or not. I'm just wondering how Haru will come out on the tail end of things; will he go back to the way he was in episode one, or will his emotional trauma permanently impact his psyche?
After the bomb Makoto drops right before the credits (have I mentioned that “Future Fish” is becoming increasingly inappropriate as an ED?), and the one Rin drops immediately afterward, it becomes apparent that this episode was indeed supposed to be a buffer between two intensely emotional ones. If only we could fast-forward to next week!
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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