Free! Eternal Summer
by Lauren Orsini,
In the wake of last week's teaser, this was possibly the most hyped-up episode in Free! Eternal Summer history. It's only natural that fans would be curious about the mysterious years Rin spent in Australia. Now that preview has made good, as he and Haru spend one delicious fan-servicey episode on a visit to his old haunts.
It's a reminder that Free! hasn't forgotten its roots. Even after this season's turn for the melodramatic, this anime only needs one episode to remind fans that the directors know perfectly well why people watch it.
Indeed, some of this episode's plot points read like fanfiction, from the unlikely circumstances that led to Rin and Haru sharing a bed, to Rin's host mom's not-so-subtle wink in Haru's direction when she recounted Rin's constant chatter about his friend back home. Historically, this is as overt as KyoAni shows ever get; they know that half the enjoyment their viewers derive is from searching for hints that “confirm” their favorite couples. But if you prefer some of the other pairings, this week, you're out of luck. Haru and Rin spend the entire episode talking to either one another or new characters from Rin's former life in Australia.
In any anime, settings in English-speaking countries make for some exciting Engrish. What made this episode significant was that KyoAni hired native English speakers—complete with Down Under accents—to play the parts of the Australians. Rin's English is spoken by his usual voice actor and is the only voice with a strong Japanese accent, which makes sense for the story. Ordinarily poor English speech by supposed English natives takes me out of the moment (ahem, Kuroko's Basketball), and this was a welcome change. (Oh, and the Australian double of Ama-chan-sensei was a treat for fans of any nationality.)
None of the hallmarks that have convinced some fans to dub the show “Free! Eternal Suffering” were present today. Amid calming backdrops of the Sydney Opera House and big-nosed white people, Haru and Rin had the space they needed to consider—but not resolve—their futures. It's clear that Free! Eternal Summer will not be ending after 12 episodes. There will be at least one more, presumably taking place at nationals.
The plot is winding to an agreeably predictable conclusion in which Haru and his friends live happily ever after. There are no risky confessions or emotional outbursts today. Free! gave fans exactly what they wanted, and after a lot of bad news, it's like comfort food.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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