Why are they having Rei, the least experienced swimmer, swim Butterfly?
As far as I can see anywhere, he himself has chosen to learn this technique.
I meant the writers, not the Iwatobi team. But having seen the latest episode, I understand Rei's determination.
In one way it does make sense as the butterfly is known for being hard mostly because it requires good stamina, impeccable form and precise timing... and given how methodical Rei tends to think anyway it sort of works. You'll also notice that when he was swimming the other strokes his main issue was propelling forward and the butterfly is known for being able to get the most propulsion forward when mastered properly. The writers did do their homework even if they were rather fanciful about it.
Why didn't Rin join the Samezuka team immediately when he transferred there? Considering that he wants to be an Olympic swimmer (unless that's changed, too), you would think that he would take as much practice and training as he could get.
He probably forfeited that dream when Haruka beat him, or else, didn't want to join unless Haru still beat him. It's shown in episode 2 that Rin is sort of bitterly depressed over losing even when he beat Haruka.
Why doe Rin keep saying that he only swims freestyle whenever the issue of the relay comes up? The relay is swum in freestyle in the first place, and even if they're talking about the Medley Relay, there's a freestyle leg. So him being a freestyle specialist is no barrier to him participating in the relay.
I think you mean Haruka. And I would assume that this will be revealed in later episodes, but my guess is that he preferred to swim alone, without a team ("free", as it were).
Because the whole point was that Haruka doesn't swim for competition, he swims because he likes to, so he swims "free". And joining the medley relay when they were kids was the only exception to that because, in the novels, Makoto asks Haruka to join the race since he would be afraid to swim otherwise (long story). Haruka never liked the idea of competitive swimming, but only did it for his best friend. So besides the one competitive swimming race he participated in when he was younger, he only swims freestyle simply because he feels free to swim whenever and however he feels like.
Don't forget that Nagisa being excited to be on the same team as Haru was what finally convinced him to join the relay. Haru was moved by Makoto's impassioned plea but he didn't say anything until later.
Is there a reason why so many of the boys names are feminine?
It also gives them a Commonality Connection, and serves the plot in that Nagisa became more set on recruiting Rei after seeing his given name on his locker.
I don't know how much of a can of worms the ending still is, but but after looking at the YMMV page, why are the different views on the last episode considered Values Dissonance between Japan and Westerners? Aren't the A Friend in Need / Greater Need Than Mine tropes culturally universal? And caring more about the team than one's own personal glory is a common aesop in sports stories in general.
I think the issue is harmony vs justice. To use an analogy: imagine you've been saving up for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You've worked hard for a long time, you've made sacrifices, but now you've got the cash and you're ready to go. However, right as you're about to walk out the door, your mother phones you in floods of tears. Her brother, who walked out on the family years ago, and whom you've never even met, is in hospital. He is in dire need of a life-saving, but extremely expensive operation. You're the only one with the money to provide for it. She begs you to make the sacrifice, fully aware that you will never have this opportunity again. Now, most would argue that handing over the money is the noble thing to do, perhaps even the right thing to do...but very few would argue that this is fair, that you should have to hand over your hard-earned reward to someone who doesn't really deserve it and has basically no connection to you. This is basically what happens to Rei. He was hijacked from the sport he was actually signed up for, he worked his tail off, fully aware that he was The Load, got up to racing fitness, showed devotion and respect to his current teammates (not the nostalgia-tinted versions of themselves that they're so hung up on), qualifies and...loses his spot to a guy who has refused any and all help offered, has sulked and snarled his way through most of the series, and who has now finally thrown all of his toys out of the pram. The message his teammates seem to be sending him is "you're only here to make up numbers - if we could replace you with Rin, we would." Remember, Rin not only took Rei's spot on the team — he cost them the whole competition.
But Rei suggested the switch himself, without anyone else asking him, and Haru asked him if it was really alright. If Rei was hijacked, he deliberately did it to himself. To make that analogy more accurate, your mother would be more hesitant after you offered your money and wouldn't have held it against you if hadn't offered. And promises to take you on the "once-in-a-lifetime" trip next year.
True enough — I'm just suggesting a reason for the sense of discontent (and remember, there's no guarantee that the team will get through the first round next year). As to it being of Rei's "own free will..." I suspect that anyone in his position would feel enormous pressure to be the one who "fixes" things. Would the rest of the team really have forgotten Rin and moved on if Rei hadn't made the sacrifice? Plus, it's a little jarring given that a couple of episodes ago, Rei who calls the rest of the team out on being so focused on the past that they forget the present, and yet he validates this way of thinking by prioritising the old friendship with Rin over the present friendship with Rei. For my part, I'm fond of both Rin and Rei...but I still found the finale was a case of the screaming child getting the cake over the well-behaved one. Rin's reaction at the very end was really heartwarming, but while he thanks Haru and apologises to his own team, we don't actually see him thanking Rei. I think if we did, the displeasure would be less vocal. The final shot of the relay, where Rei is looking down at the other four, doesn't help either. It doesn't look like a teammate looking over his equals — it looks like an outsider looking in. Perhaps that'll be a season 2 plot point?
As to the Values Dissonance...as far as I understand it (more knowledgeable tropers, please feel free to correct me), but in Japan, the major emphasis in social situations is on "keeping the peace" not "taking responsibility for your actions." I believe there are instances of people who were undeniably in the right being forced to apologise to an attacker just to maintain harmonious relations (especially if the screw-up is senior to / older than them). Rin screwed up...but he never had to face any consequences that he didn't inflict on himself, because other people made major allowances and sacrifices for him. Most Western audiences would probably have expected some sort of comeuppance.
Responsibility also is important in Japan ("I expect you to take...") so I don't think that's it either. Those consequences that were inflicted on himself were the story punishing Rin. Should he have faced consequences that he didn't inflict on himself, like some sort of hamfisted Laser-Guided Karma that wouldn't do any better at showing him that he was on the wrong path?. His friends just don't want to see him suffer any more, they know his suffering is what's making him a Jerkass and if they ease his suffering it'll all get better. If it was about harmony, that could have been achieved by just forgetting about Rin eventually. By episode 12, Rin would more than likely have disappeared again if the group didn't chase him down. It sounds it more comes down to if you're a more compassionate person (to a fault or not, you decide), which isn't exclusive to any culture.
Perhaps I worded that badly — what I should have said was that demanding that other people to take responsibility for their actions, especially if they are senior to you, is seen as a more extreme course of action — if people can simply "smooth things over," that seems to be the most agreeable path, since the other way leads to confrontation of some sort.