Free! Eternal Summer
Episode 13

by Lauren Orsini,

It's the last episode of the season, so the Iwatobi swim team went to nationals. But it wasn't until the end of the episode, long after the relay was over, that we found out whether they won or not. And really, who cares? I've already forgotten what they placed in the tournament, but I'll never forget the way Makoto looked at Haru, what Haru said to Rin, what Rin mumbled to Sousuke etc.

Indeed, the swimming competitions of Free! Eternal Summer are little more than background to the far more entertaining dramatics of High School Boy Emotional Theater. Nobody really cares if Haru wins the race. Everyone cares how Haru's win or loss will affect his life forever.

This was an extremely packed season finale, and it soon became clear that it's because this isn't just the end of Free! Eternal Summer, but the Free! anime in its entirety. In the first half of the episode, the boys reminisced about stuff that happened in Season 1 onward. It was as if the producers were trying to remind you just how long you've been following these characters' stories and daring you not to acknowledge how attached you've become.

The highlight of the episode was intended to be the relay at nationals, but it was portrayed with some frankly strange stylistic choices, as the boys narrated "seeing a sight they'd never seen before." During the Season 1 finale, all the relay participants experienced “a sight they'd never seen before,” AKA a blue sky and a temporal slowdown right there in the indoor pool arena. This turn of phrase was used to describe several similar sights during the episode 13 relay as well. How many times do you see "a sight you've never seen before" before it becomes a sight you have seen before? Also, what is the sight in question supposed to represent, exactly? Is it a group hallucination? It sure looks that way.

In the episode's conclusion, every single question you've ever had about the Free! universe was addressed, tied in a bow, and handed to you on a silver platter. Where do the third years go after high school? What happens to the second years? What do their families do? Does Makoto really go to college in Tokyo? Is Sousuke's shoulder going to get better? If anything, the show has overdelivered. Nobody can accuse Free! of not being thorough.

I watched the finale twice in order to absorb everything it threw at me. I'm still not sure if it's too much for one episode to handle. There's the nostalgia bomb, the resolution of previous conflicts, the male bonding, the tears, the TEARS, and the bright, beautiful future. It's quite a lot to pack into one conclusion, but would fans have been satisfied with any less? For two summers and one long, bitter winter in between, we've been following these boys' lives, and inventing bits of trivia to fill in the blanks. Free!'s audience is an extremely invested one.

The new onslaught of canon provided in the future montage will provide fuel for fan creations for months to come. All this new information will ensure that Free! Eternal Summer isn't going to disappear from viewers' psyches when the cold weather hits. Swimming season is over, but this emotional rollercoaster of a finish ensures that it won't be forgotten.

Rating: A

Free! Eternal Summer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.com.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.


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