Episode 2 takes us back in time, as we delve into the pasts of Ikuya, Haru, and the rest of the Pint-Sized Pool Posse! It was definitely a cute episode and I felt my cold heart melt a little whenever junior high Haru and Ikuya were on screen. This episode sheds a bit more light onto the histories of the characters, and I will admit, I am warming to the ‘new’ characters a bit more…
After spotting Ikuya at the Newcomer Tournament, Makoto and Haru take a trip down memory lane to their junior high years. After losing the medley relay, Haru, Makoto, Ikuya, and Asahi vow to win the tournament next year, embarking on a special training to prepare. During the training camp, Haru and Ikuya make a promise of their own…
Flashback: Most of this week’s episode consists of an extended flashback to the Junior High days of Haru, Makoto, Ikuya, and Asahi. For folks that skipped High☆Speed－Free! Starting Days, this is your chance to get a bit more insight into the ‘new’ characters and their relationship with the main pair.
Fourth Wall Breaking: This week we get another fourth wall breaking moment, this time courtesy of the Iwatobi High Swim Club. While discussing Haru, one of the new recruits references a recruitment video the team made last year. The video in question is none other than the Ending sequence from Season 1, you know the one… the Arabian Nights themed ending… apparently they even rented a camel named Chappy for the shoot…
Animation is Stunning: Kyoto Animation really outdid themselves this episode. Not that they don’t always manage to go above and beyond the call of duty with their anime, but, this week, I was in awe of just how stunning everything looked, particularly the night sky. Haru and Ikuya are looking up at this magnificent meteor shower and I kid you not the animation in that two-minute scene is by far the best I have seen in a long time. The night sky looks so vast and endless, you’d swear you were looking at the real sky and the characters… the details were just stunning.
Soundtrack/BGM: I usually don’t pay much attention to the background music in anime, but time and time again, I am always blown away by the Free soundtrack. I don’t know what it is, but each and every track stands out, not just setting the mood for the scenes, but making them much more enjoyable.
Themes & Trivia
Wishing on a Shooting Star: Haru and Ikuya make a wish on a shooting star. In fairytales, shooting stars are said to have ‘mystical’ powers that help grant wishes.
A journey begins with one step: Rei quotes the famous Chinese proverb, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ from Lao Zu. The quote means that any journey or task, regardless of its difficulty, has a starting point.
Fiery Redhead: Asahi is the hothead of the group, always ready to jump to the aid of a friend or butt heads with an equally hot-headed character.
Jack of All Trades: Ikuya competes in the Individual Medley, rather than participating with the normal four-man team. He performs all four swim techniques by himself and he does a damn good job at it too.
I will admit that I enjoyed this a bit more than last week’s episode because I am a sucker for childhood flashbacks… Ikuya was just so cute!!! *ahem* I actually was much more invested in the child versions of Haru, Makoto, Asahi, and Ikuya than I was with the adult versions of them, they just had more depth. *shrugs noncommittally* If I could just get a whole season of them as kids, I think I might actually like Free! a bit more, but alas, we have to spend time on unnecessary angst, brought on by a simple misunderstanding! 95% of the problems in Free! could be solved by the characters sitting down and having a conversation with one another…
I’m also not a huge fan of Hiyori, he serves no other purpose than to cockblock any attempt of a Haru/Ikuya reconciliation and it gets old really quick. He’s like a jealous boyfriend trying to keep his boo thang away from his ex! Is he afraid Ikuya is going to run off and get back together with Haru? Oh, my bad, I meant swim with Haru…
Dive into the Past
Contrary to my earlier comments, I did really like this episode. The flashbacks were cute and I appreciated the additional insight into the characters and their motivations this time around. The angsty, bit at the end between Haru and Ikuya played out like something out of a K-drama or a really cliche romance… But, fans of the franchise will no doubt love every minute of this week’s episode.
NEXT TIME: First Swim in Another Country