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Anime: Free!
Let me show you what makes you and I different!

Free! is an anime by Kyoto Animation that is a Sports Story surrounding the lives of High School swimmers. It premiered on July 3, 2013 and it is based on High Speed!, a novel by Kouji Ouji. The novel was originally entered into the 2nd Kyoto Animation Award contest and received an honorable mention. A commercial released before the series was officially announced gained a sizable fanbase on both Tumblr and Pixiv due to the shirtless Bishōnen featured. The show was quickly dubbed "Swimming Anime" before its actual name was revealed. It is co-produced by Animation DO (a subsidiary of Kyo Ani), and is directed by Hiroko Utsumi (marking her directorial debut) with script supervision by Masahiro Yokotani and character designs by Futoshi Nishiya.

When he was young, gifted freestyle swimmer Haruka Nanase competed in an elementary school relay team with his childhood friends Makoto Tachibana, Nagisa Hazuki and Rin Matsuoka. After winning a championship together they parted ways, with Rin leaving the country to follow his dream of reaching the Olympic level.

When Rin returns years later with a nasty new attitude and a major grudge against Haruka, his reappearance sets in motion a series of events that lead to the founding of the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club. Along with Makoto, Nagisa, rookie Rei Ryugazaki and manager Gou Matsuoka, Haruka reawakens his passion for competitive swimming in the hope of getting through to Rin.

The media distribution service Crunchyroll is streaming the series under the name Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club.

Click here to read the chapter summaries, and the (in progress) chapter translation of the light novel prequel, High Speed!


Tropes present in Free! include:

  • Adorkable: Rei is book smart and serious, but still does ridiculous things as if they were normal, like trying on silly patterned swimsuits with gusto, calling Rin "Rin-chan-san" note , and pretending to be a detective and making sound effects while spying on Rin.
  • Arc Words: "I'll show you a sight you've never seen before."
  • Art Evolution: There has been quite a shift from the original commercial to the actual series, mostly through a change of emphasis from softness to more of a sharp cleanliness. A larger change can be seen between the original concepts of the characters' designs; most notably, Rin had shorter, spiky hair and an accompanying Shounen look to him.
  • Beach Episode: Both inverted and deconstructed in episode five. The inversion comes in where it's only the guys dressed in swimsuits - though Gou is seen in one at one point, albeit still relatively covered up - but this is justified in that they're there to train. The deconstruction comes in at the end, when the weather turns sour...the minute Rei decides to have a sneaky practise swim at night.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A rather... Interesting one when the gang goes out shopping. Kou runs into Seijirou, who calls her "Gou-kun." Kou hating it when people mispronounce her name as Gou because it sounds more boyish was already an established Running Gag. Most people assumed the Bilingual Bonus to be how Gou-kun sounds especially masculine, because "kun" is an honorific you usually attach to the name of a boy. There's another meaning, though. Gokkun is a term used to refer to women drinking semen.
  • Birds of a Feather: Nagisa and Ama-chan-sensei mirror each others behaviour adorably-creepily well.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Just look at the page picture! Justified since it's mostly pool water.
  • Bishōnen: The entire main cast but they are much more muscular (due to their athletic activities) than your regular bishonen.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The explosion of popularity over the CM debut that featured nothing but pretty boys in water being pretty boys in water (and also participating in Female Gaze-indulging exercises) before the anime was officially announced is frequently cited as the reason for it being greenlit into a full animated series, true or not.note 
  • The Cast Show Off: Apart from singing the OP, "Rage On", Makoto's voice actor does his character songs as Makoto.
    • Applies to the main cast to some extent: the ED is sung by the boys's voice actors, and they all have their respective character songs too.
  • Cheerful Child: Rin, before he went off to Australia.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Used a lot in this anime, most of the time to symbolize Rin and Haru's relationship. When they were kids, Rin declared to Haru he was going to show Haru a sight he had never seen before while they were standing under a cherry blossom tree. Though it was out of season, when he said that the tree was symbolically in full bloom.
    • In the last episode, Haru finds a cherry blossom tree that looks like the one in their elementary school. Later, when Rin is missing, Haru is the only one to realize that Rin probably went to see the tree also. After their fight, Haru repeats the words Rin told him when they were children, "I'll show you a sight you've never seen before," and once again the tree appears to be in full bloom.
    • Rin tells Haru when they're children that he wants to swim in a pool full of cherry blossom petals. Unfortunately, he leaves Japan before the tree blossoms. In the current time, Haru is seen looking at some cherry blossom petals floating in the newly renovated Iwatobi pool.
    • One of the songs that plays during a Rin and Haru flashback is called Cherry Blossoms on the OST.
  • Childhood Friends: In elementary school Haruka belonged to the same swim team as Makoto, Nagisa and Rin, but once they won a tournament they'd strove toward improving for, they all went their separate ways (except for Haruka and Makoto)...until Rin came back to challenge Haruka many years later, anyway.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Haruka is blue, Makoto is green, Nagisa is yellow, Rei is purple, and Rin is red. However, in some material, like the promotional poster above, Haruka and Rei's colors are stylistically swapped.
  • Comically Serious: Haruka, Haruka, HARUKA. Rei as well.
  • CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Zigzagged in episode 6. On one hand, the head tilt/chin lift to open Makoto’s airway is animated realistically, and Haruka correctly moves the victim to safety, checks for responsiveness, and attempts to call for help. And it certainly wasn’t a Kiss of Life ploy on Makoto’s part. On the other hand, Haruka uses a Walking Assist on an unconscious victim note , and Makoto’s breathing is just about the last thing he checks. Then Haruka almost gives rescue breaths while Makoto is clearly still breathing. And it ends with no mention of Makoto going to the hospital although he nearly drowned.
  • Cry Cute: Rin, when he opens up to Haru and after they all swam in the relay together.
  • Curtains Match the Window: Rin and Gou.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Rin, as a child. He outgrows it as a teen because ALL his teeth become sharp and pointy.
    • In episode 4 his shark teeth were much less prominent for whatever reason, returning his cute fang status for the time being.
  • Darker and Edgier: Episodes 5 and 6. Five ends with Rei being out in the ocean and a storm picks up. Episode 6 has everyone safe and sound but still, nobody saw this coming unless you had read High Speed! or the episode summaries beforehand.
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Nagisa successfully pulls this off with Gou in regards to her name.
  • Empty Swimming Pool Dive: It almost happens in the first episode.
  • Engrish: Rin and Rei in the preview after Episode 10. Good lord. You would think that Rin would have better English after three years in Australia.
  • Excited Show Title!: Free!
  • Fanservice: Distinct in that it features eye candy for female viewers without it being a yaoi show.
  • Fan Disservice: Some fans (female and male alike) view the closeups of Rei's tiny yellow penguin speedo as this. Thankfully, he blames his inability to swim on it and goes out of his way to get a more...covered swimsuit later on.
  • Female Gaze: All over the place, this is probably the first non-yaoi anime series to employ this trope to such an extent.
  • Festival Episode: Episode 9 was this.
  • A Friend in Need: The Iwatobi team chooses to help Rin instead of taking a shot at nationals. What's more, it's Rei, the new guy who wasn't one of the Childhood Friends, who suggested the idea to give up his spot in the relay for Rin.
  • Gender-Blender Name: All of the main five swimmers, plus Rin's sister Gou (who prefers to go by "Kou" for that very reason). Lampshaded in the very first episode...and many more times after that.
    • Nagisa specifically tries to recruit Rei because he has a feminine name. Rei is not amused.
  • Gratuitous English: Look up the lyrics to the opening song "Rage On" by OLDCODEX. A lot of the English isn't grammatically correct and doesn't really make sense. The pronunciation isn't great, either. But the song is still awesome.
    • The two B-sides for the opening single are almost completely in English (that's just as poor as Rage On's).
    • "SPLASH FREE" also contains its fair share of engrish.
  • Happy Ending
  • Held Gaze: Good god yes. Happens nearly every time Makoto and Haru have a personal moment together.
  • High School: Two of them!
  • Imagine Spot: Makoto has a hilarious one when the question pops up whether or not Haru would be a fit captain for the about-to-be-founded swim club. The answer is a clear "No!"
  • In-Series Nickname/Affectionate Nickname: Haruka gets this from his old friends, simply called "Haru" by Makoto and "Haru-chan" by the one-year-younger Nagisa.
    • Makoto also goes by the name "Mako-chan", another token of Nagisa's affection. Contrary to Haruka, he doesn't seem to mind.
    • Amakata is nicknamed "Ama-chan" by, once again, Nagisa.
    • Makoto sometimes calls Haruka "Haru-chan", but Haruka doesn't particularly like it.
    Haruka: I told you to leave off the "-chan"!
    • Rei once called Haruka, "Haru-chan-san" because Nagisa kept referring the latter as "Haru-chan". Haruka was a little annoyed.
      • Seems to be a habit - in episode ten he calls Rin "Rin-chan-san".
    • From the High Speed! novel, Haru and Nagisa came up with the nickname "Rin Rin" for Rin in order to pester him.
      • Nagisa brings the nickname Rin Rin back in the last episode.
    • Also in the last episode, Rin finally stops referring to Nitori by his surname and starts calling him Ai, short for his full name, Aiichiro.
  • Japanese Honorifics: Nagisa is fond of adding -chan to the end of all his friends' names. He gets away with it (mostly) because he's The Cute One.
    • Nitori always refers to Rin as sempai. Even when Rin starts calling him by his first name without honourifics in the last episode, Nitori just upgrades from 'Matsuoka-sempai' to 'Rin-sempai'.
  • The Knights Who Say Squee: Having admired Haruka's swimming since they were kids, Nagisa enters the same high school as him so that he can be on the same team. (Not that Haruka's in the swim team, since the school doesn't have one to begin with.)
  • Logical Extreme: Takes the Homoerotic Subtext and Female Gaze common in many sports anime and brings them to the forefront.
  • Love at First Sight: It is implied that Mikoshiba, the captain of the swim team in Samezuka, falls in love with Gou at first sight when she came to look for Rin before he joined the swim team.
  • Melancholy Moon: After the first day of prefectural, Makoto looked to the moon worrying about Haruka. Haruka was gone swimming in the Iwatobi school pool reminiscing about his resolve for swimming and changed relationship with Rin.
  • Messy Hair/Unkempt Beauty: Nagisa, Rei, and Gou have this when they woke up from their individual beds in Episode 8.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Swimming.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Amakata's history with swimsuits is. Later, we find out she used to be a swimsuit model.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Samezuka looks intimidating but is one of the more friendly variety.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Nagisa wants to do this with Haruka, along with a whole mess of things Haruka doesn't want to bother with.
  • Reaction Shot: All over the place so much that you could make a Drinking Game out of it.
  • Reality Ensues: When Haruka encounters Rin in their old abandoned school, they immediately start gearing up for an epic swimming match. This is interrupted when they discover why their friends were trying to stop them: the pool that hasn't been used in years has no water in it. They narrowly avert Empty Swimming Pool Dive.
    • In episode 5, the group wanted to go to a deserted island to train, but they couldn't go right off the bat because of their lack of money. Even Ama-chan mentioned that clubs automatically having money to go places only happens in anime and manga.
    • The Iwatobi members only had a few weeks to train before their first tournament. None of them make it past their individual prelims.
    • In Episode 12, Rei gives his spot in the Butterfly leg of the relay to Rin. The Iwatobi team wins, but they're disqualified for putting another school's swimmer on their team.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Rin and Haruka. Rin's more fiery personality and red hair contrast Haruka's cool, quiet attitude and blue eyes.
    • Nagisa and Rei could also qualify, though Nagisa's more of a happy-go-lucky red oni to Rei's bookish blue oni.
    • The uniform colors of both swim teams complement this as well.
  • Red String of Fate: When the group notices that they've been in the same events with Rin even before they met, Ama-sensei mentions this. Gou asks if they call it that when it's between boys.
  • Refusal of the Call: Haruka doesn't originally seem too enthusiastic about creating a swim team.
    • Same goes for Rei. Justified, since he was already in track and field and doesn't know how to swim.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The Butterfly Swimsuit. Oh dear. That Rainbow Thing isn't all that...stylish either.
  • Running Gag: Haruka willing to swim in any body of water. Including a fish tank.
    • Gou correcting anyone (Nagisa is the biggest culprit thus far) to call her "Kou" instead. It doesn't work.
  • School Festival: A drama track shows that Samezuka has a maid cafe each year.
  • Series Mascot: Iwatobi-chan. The part-rock, part-bird creature with a Thousand-Yard Stare. It was somehow selected as Iwatobi Town's mascot from over 900 entries, and Nagisa enjoys sticking it on everything.
  • Serious Business: Swimming.
  • Sequel Hook: See you next summer!
  • Shirtless Scene: All the time. Justified, because they're swimmers.
  • Shower of Angst: Haru has one after losing to Rin.
  • Shown Their Work: The physical builds of the main characters are very accurate to swimmers in real life. As this article demonstrates.
    • In episode 4 Makoto gives a quick class about the types of strokes.
    • Everyone wears the swimsuit most suited to his style of swimming.
  • Shout-Out: Rei in his butterfly swimsuit made many Busou Renkin fans wonder if he was the Free! universe's version of Papillon Mask.
    • To Sky High in episode 9.
    • In the first special, the game Haruka and Makoto were playing is an underwater version of Animal Crossing.
  • Skinny Dipping: Nagisa jumps in naked in the first episode after breaking into Samezuka Academy's pool. Makoto is not amused.
  • Slice of Life
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Much of Rin's jerkassery and his obsession with beating Haruka stem from his self-loathing for not being able to improve his swimming in Australia, thus failing to live his father's dream. He gets better.
  • Spear Counterpart: Commonly seen as one to K-On! (replace the cute girls with Bishounen, the light music club with a swimming club, switch some Always Female tropes with their male equivalents and you've got very similar shows), but it also has parallels to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Just like Nanoha catered to the Periphery Demographic of adult men who watch Magical Girl shows for the Moe and Les Yay, Free! seems designed for fangirls who watch sports anime for the Ho Yay and hot guys.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Based on his appearance in the initial Kyoto Animation promo video, Haruka was assumed to be a tsundere and was referred to as 'Tsun-kun' before his name was revealed. In the anime, however, his cool demeanor fits the kuudere stereotype more closely, with his dere side most obvious when talking about his romantic encounter...with a waterfall.
  • Team Spirit: There's a whole lot of it.
  • This Is Reality: When they plan their beach training, the characters remark that this isn't an anime where clubs have unlimited funds. On another occasion, they remark that this isn't television.
  • Title Drop: Episode 1: Rin's Badass Boast is actually one of the original working project titles for the series. Later, Haruka drops the title when referring to his preference for freestyle.
    • Episode 3: Haruka tells Rei to use the English word "free" instead of the Japanese "jiyuu" meaning freedom.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Makoto
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Haruka starts to unleash one on Rei in episode 6, but Nagisa heads him off.
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