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Anime / Free!

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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 (the Osaka subsidiary of KyoAni), and is directed by Hiroko Utsumi (marking her directorial debut) with Masahiro Yokotani serving as series composer, and Futoshi Nishiya as character designer and chief animation director.

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 (they've also sub-licensed the show to Discotek Media for a DVD release, but this seemed to change, due to Crunchyroll announcing at Anime Expo 2016 that they are doing their own Blu-ray and DVD releases), while Funimation has licensed the second season Eternal Summer. An English-dubbed version for the second season being done by FUNimation has been announced, and an English-dubbed version for the first season began streaming on Crunchyroll starting in December 2015 (Discotek's DVD release remains sub-only, while Crunchyroll announced at Anime Expo 2016 that they are bringing the dubbed version of Season 1 to Blu-ray and DVD themselves).


The series was successful enough to include sequels and movies, which include:

  • Free! (2013): Original TV series
  • Free! Eternal Summer (2014): 2nd TV series
  • High★Speed! - Free! Starting Days (2015): a film adaptation for High★Speed! 2, premiering in December 2015
  • Free! Timeless Medley (2017): recap movies focusing on the main plots of Eternal Summer from the perspectives of Haru and Makoto and Sousuke and Rin respectively, with new scenes and cameos from Asahi and Ikuya added to tie into Take Your Marks and Dive to the Future
  • Free! Take Your Marks (2017): the last part of the Timeless Medley trilogy containing an original movie in four parts that focuses on what happens to the cast after the events of Eternal Summer and Timeless Medley. Ikuya, Asahi, Natsuya, and Nao from High★Speed! make cameos as well.
  • Free! Dive to the Future (2018): 3rd TV series following Haru, Rin, and Makoto in their college years
  • Free! Road to the World (2019): Dive to the Future recap movie with new scenes, which was set to be released in summer 2019. Focus characters are Makoto, Rei, and Nagisa. Also celebrates the franchise's sixth anniversary.
  • Free! The Final Stroke (2021-22): The reported final installment, a movie duology meant to be released in 2020 but was postponed to releases in September 2021 and April 2022.

Tropes present in Free! include:

  • Adapted Out: Aki Yazaki, a female classmate in Haru and Makoto's class during elementary school and middle school, doesn't make it to any of the anime adaptations.
  • And the Adventure Continues: During the Continuity Cavalcade while Haru, Makoto and Rin have all gone to college, the swim teams still keep on existing as Rei and Nagisa instruct the new generation on Iwatobi's side and Aiichiro does the same with Momotarou on Samezuka's side. Also, Gou still manages the Iwatobi team with Miho.
  • Audio Play: While the series does have extra drama tracks featuring anecdotes, Dive to the Future is planned to release some that resolve the lingering threads of the third season.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: The first-season ED sequence of Free! gives us the Iwatobi guys plus Rin dressed in Arabian-styled outfits. Nagisa's in particular makes him look a lot like a Belly Dancer.
  • 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.
    • Apparently the one with the short red hair wasn't actually Rin but another character called Kaede. Rin is the one shown behind the other boys. Kaede was considered for the main group but was ultimately replaced with Rei. This link has some more info about it.
    • The animation in Dive to the Future is more detailed with regards to lighting and hair, and due to the aging of the established characters, a lot of them (aside from the reintroduced characters from Starting Days) look older and more mature. Nagisa and Aiichiro, both of whom are known for their more youthful appearances compared the rest of the cast, are most notably hit by this towards the end of the season.
  • 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 practice swim at night.
  • Big Storm Episode: The above-mentioned Beach Episode turns into one.
  • 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.
  • Bizarre Human Biology: Timeless Medley: Promises revealed that Rin inherited his shark teeth from his father. Pictures of both Matsuoka men when they were younger indicate that these teeth somehow grew in at puberty. Humans only have two sets of teeth.
  • Bookends: The ending of Eternal Summer has scenes from the original launch trailer for the anime that came out before it aired.
    • Also the last episode takes many cues from the first episode of Eternal Summer, all with a little twist - Makoto fetching Haru from the tub so they wont miss their flight from Tokyo to Iwatobi, the Good-bye tradition of Samezukas third years, now with Rin challenging his club, the pool with cherry blossoms, now prepared by Rin. And this time they actually get to swim in it. All in all it very nicely conveys the idea that some things, even with all the change are very probably eternal.
  • Call-Back:
    • The opening for Dive to the Future has Nagisa playing the scene where Rei sinks to the bottom of the pool while learning how to swim in the first season. It also has a shot of middle-school-aged Haruka, Makoto, Asahi, and Ikuya walking in different directions, which references the visual image for Starting Days.
      • Near the end of the opening, you see Makoto and Rin. The scenes playing behind them were new scenes included in Timeless Medley, where we get a glimpse of Haru and Makoto's childhood and Rin running away from Haru at the train tracks.
    • In Dive to the Future, Kisumi mentions that his senior is going to see the movie A Rat's Life 2. This references a drama CD track from the first season where Seijuurou and Nagisa mention going to see A Rat's Life.
    • The ending scene to the ending theme of Dive to the Future is the same as Eternal Summer's.
    • Every single opening sequence, including the movies, starts out with a hawk as an Animal Motif.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Sousuke's dream of becoming a professional swimmer was crushed due to his wrecked shoulder.
  • The Casey Effect: Averted. We only see the preliminary medley relay at the Nationals. It's not until the credits we see they placed 6th in the finals. Not that it really mattered.
  • 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 
    • Heck, when even the nerd and The Cutie are ripped, you know you're watching a great show.
  • The Cast Show Off:
    • Apart from singing the opening themes, Tatsuhisa Suzuki does his character songs as Makoto.
    • Applies to the main cast to some extent: All EDs are sung by the boys' voice actors, and they all have their respective character songs too. Rin has the most character songs, with a total of nine.
  • Censor Shadow: In the pilot, a rather obvious shadow covers a naked Nagisa's backside as he jumps into the pool to go Skinny Dipping. The water also conveniently becomes opaque around his... private areas after he's actually in the pool.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Happened severely in season 2 with the amount of comedy shrinking, as well as the fanservice. It takes a much sadder, dramatic tone in general too. This remained the norm in season 3.
  • Cheerful Child: Rin, before he went off to Australia.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Ryuji is the infamous PKH Azuma mentioned in Take Your Marks.
  • 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.
    • In the first episode of Eternal Summer, the Iwatobi team fills their pool with cherry blossoms, then abducts Rin to show him. They urge him to swim in it, but it starts raining.
    • In the finale of Eternal Summer, Rin surprises the Iwatobi team by filling the Samezuka pool full of cherry blossoms and everyone swims in it.
  • 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.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The crux of the second season, Eternal Summer.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: About every named character (and some unnamed ones) in the show comes back for Eternal Summer and Dive to the Future's finale and credits sequence respectively.
  • Continuity Snarl: Starting Days uses male voice actors for Haru and Rin. This is fine and dandy, but the flashback where Haru beats Rin in middle school and becomes the start of his Trauma Conga Line uses female voice actresses (which was created before Starting Days), and it's supposed to take place after Starting Days. The digest video for Dive to the Future ignores these inconsistencies.
  • 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.
    • Haru, hugging his teammates after the Nationals' relay. Everyone has cried, but Haru is the most fitting for this trope.
  • 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.
    • Most of the second season (past the first few episodes), but especially Episode 9.
  • Deuteragonist: Rin serves as this for the first two seasons, while Ikuya takes over for the third season.
  • Different in Every Episode: The Timeless Medley movies, in their original showings, had four of the characters provide an opening monologue and talk to each other before the movies proper started. Every week of the movies' running time had a different set of four.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: OLDCODEX, the band that does all of the Free! openings, has Suzuki Tatsuhisa (Makoto) as their frontman. As for endings, all of them are sung by the Style Five, which consists of the seiyuu of the five main boys of the first two seasons.
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Nagisa successfully pulls this off with Gou in regards to her name.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In Dive to the Future episode 0, Haruka briefly walks past Ryuji in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment.
  • 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.
    • The opening song as described by Gratuitous English further down.
    • In Season 2 episode 2, Sasabe holds a Splash Fest in his new swimming club but the poster says "SPRASHU FES". Even Rei points this out.
    • The Rei/Rin Engrish wars continue in the preview for Eternal Summer episode 8.
    • Rin's Engrish shows up yet again in Eternal Summer episode 12, and it stands out even more in comparison to the English spoken by the Australian characters, since they're voiced by actual Australians.
      • And once more in Dive to the Future scenes showing him with his new college swim club.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Rin, as stated by the Word of God here.note 
  • Excited Show Title!: Free!
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: The Little Mermaid features very hard into Ikuya and Hiyori's character arcs during Dive to the Future, and their different interpretations of it also factor into their outlook on life.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: Distinct in that it features eye candy for female viewers without it being a yaoi show.
  • Female Gaze: All over the place, this is probably the first non-yaoi anime series to employ this trope to such an extent.
    • Gou does this herself a few times when she starts admiring the boys' muscles.
  • 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.
    • Dive to the Future introduces an Iwatobi first year girl named Ayumu.
  • 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). "Now I Am" throws in some Gratuitous French as well.
      • The trend continues: one of the B-sides on the Anime edition of Dried Up Youthful Fame, Abendsonne, is actually entirely in English (and has a German title. Go figure).
    • "SPLASH FREE" also contains its fair share of Engrish. "FUTURE FISH" is no exception, either.
    • The season finale ending songs, "Ever Blue" and "Clear Blue Departure", keep up the tradition.
    • The "SPRASHU FES" poster is an In-Universe example.
  • Happy Ending: Season 1's ending.
  • Held Gaze: Good god yes. Happens nearly every time Makoto and Haru have a personal moment together.
    • Haru has his moments doing this with Rin, too.
  • 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.
  • 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. With Mikoshiba graduating in season 2, his brother Momotaro makes his appearance in Episode 2 and falls in love with Gou at first sight as well, even saying the same thing his brother said when he first saw her. Poor Rin.
  • 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: Nagisa, Rei, and Gou have this when they woke up from their individual beds in Episode 8.
  • Mood Whiplash: The endings of the later Eternal Summer episodes tend to go like this: angst, at least one character crying, HEY FUTURE FISH!!
  • Morning Routine: We get to see Rin's in episode 3 of Dive to the Future.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Makoto's mom and Gou and Rin's mom look like they can still be their children's siblings for women whose children are approaching their 20s.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Swimming.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: AKA the Iwatobi High School Swim Club. And Rin. Rin is the only member of the main cast that doesn't go to Iwatobi High School. Sure he was their classmate in middle school, but now he just sticks out like a sore thumb in promotional artwork with his Samezuka uniform [1] (cue thoughts of, "He doesn't even go here."). Fortunately, now that he's got his own entourage that follows him wherever, he looks like he's in a complete set.[2]
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Tends to happen whenever Rin, Gou, and either Mikoshiba brother are all involved.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Inverted as of Dive to the Future. The series started out set in real time, which was 2013. Dive to the Future aired in 2018 but is set approximately two years after the beginning, placing it around 2015.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Amakata's history with swimsuits is. Later, we find out she used to be a swimsuit model.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Haru just sitting on the sand fully-clothed while at the beach in Australia is how Rin notices how upset he is over his fight with Makoto.
  • One Degree of Separation: With so many characters, all of them are surprisingly connected together in some way, especially in Dive to the Future.
    • Haru and Makoto probably don't know that Asahi and Rei have met before in Starting Days.
    • High★Speed! 2 reveals that Asahi and Rin were friends when they were little but they don't remember each other.
    • Sosuke warns Rin about Ikuya in Timeless Medley, who also happens to be Haru and Makoto's friend in middle school.
    • Mikhail, Rin's coach in Dive to the Future, is Nitori's uncle.
    • Natsuya, Haruka and Makoto's swim club captain from middle school, hung out with Rin in Australia.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Between Momotarou wanting Rin's Lucky Meal toy and Rin believing Momo wants to marry Gou in the movie Take Your Marks!, which leads to a whole cavalcade of rumors and misunderstandings.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Samezuka looks intimidating but is one of the more friendly variety.
  • Pet the Dog: Haru's interactions with Makoto's brother and sister definitely count, especially the drama CD track where he plays house with them.
  • 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.
  • Real-Place Background: In episode 12 of Eternal Summer , Rin and Haru visit real life locations in Sydney, Australia including Hyde Park and Bondi Beach.
  • 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.
  • Reflective Eyes: Happens quite often, most frequently Rin being reflected in Haru's eyes. In fact the series likes to reflect just about everything in Haru's eyes, especially the sparkle of water.
  • 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.
    • The fact that everyone on the team has a "girly" name. Except Kou/Gou and later Ayumu, who have boyish names.
  • School Festival: A drama track shows that Samezuka has a maid cafe each year.
  • Sempai/Kohai: By Dive to the Future, all of the younger year characters (Nagisa, Rei, Gou, Aiichiro, and to some extent, Momo,) have become the new upperclassmen to some new students to the Swimming Club. Their dynamic and how they adjust to being the seniors looks to be a subplot while the college kids have their own dillemmas.
  • 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!
  • Sequel Series: The entire premise is one to the light novel that Makoto, Haru, Nagisa and Rin came from, High☆Speed!. The novel basically explains the backstory and relationships of the boys (sans Rei, but including Sousuke). The anime picks up after the events of the books, some odd years later.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: One particular scene has a scene with Haru slowly climbing out of the pool with a close up shot of his abs.
  • Shirtless Scene: All the time. Justified, because they're swimmers.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shower of Angst: Haru has one after losing to Rin. Rei, contemplating his position on the swim team and his inability to swim any stroke but butterfly in Eternal Summer episode 3.
    • Brief, but very important one in Eternal Summer Episode 9 with Sousuke when his shoulder hurt after practice in regionals.
  • Shown Their Work: The physical builds of the main characters are very accurate to swimmers in real life. As this article demonstrates.
    • Their builds are also well suited to the type of stroke they prefer and influence their handicaps.
    • In episode 4 Makoto gives a quick class about the types of strokes.
    • Everyone wears the swimsuit most suited to his style of swimming.
    • The Australian scenery in Episode 12. According to the staff of the actual hotel that was featured, Kyoani arrived and filmed with a camera crew. Fun Fact: Room 25 was indeed the room with the single bed that THAT particular scene was set in.
  • Skinny Dipping: Nagisa jumps in naked in the first episode after breaking into Samezuka Academy's pool. Makoto is not amused.
  • 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.
    • Sousuke is unfriendly (even threatening in Haru's case) toward everyone except Rin and eventually the rest of the relay team. Turns out he has a Career-Ending Injury that has eliminated any chance he once had to swim professionally, and he can only bring himself to put on a nice face for Rin.
  • 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.
  • Spoiler Opening: Any suspense over whether Rei would join the team or not in episode 3 was pretty much dissipated by the opening (and ending) animation, which shows him alongside the others.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: If you accept the theory that this photo shows the Iwatobi team's parents, then you can see that all of the boys resemble their mothers a lot. Even Rin and Gou take after their mothers.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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.
    • During the beginning of Season 2, the gang tries to market their club to the incoming freshmen, but they're not quite sure how to do it. Gou suggests (and implements) the swim team showing off their strokes and their " charm points" to get people interested. Which would be fine itself, but with the added bonus of stripping onstage to do the aforementioned actions. It only puts potential hopefuls off, and they turn their attention towards other clubs. In fact they only start getting results after Iwatobi's swim team wins nationals, showing that the team is capable and worth their time. You can't win everyone over with Fanservice.
    • For a more dramatic turn, Sousuke's shoulder injury only got worse and worse the more he pushed himself and worked harder at swimming. Even going to physical therapy didn't help much, because at that point his shoulder was beyond repair. It continued until he basically wrecked his shoulder and dashed any hope of making it back to professional swimming ever again.
  • Symbolic Blood: Played for Laughs in the OVA when Nagisa "kills" Rei in a gout of water, who even coughs up water despite having only been shot with a ''squirt'' gun.
  • Team Spirit: There's a whole lot of it.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Makoto's younger siblings, Ran and Ren.
  • There Is Only One Bed: In episode 12 of Eternal Summer, the room Rin and Haru book in Australia has only a one double bed, much to Rin's chagrin.
  • This Is Reality:
    • When they plan their beach training, the characters remark that this isn't an anime where clubs have unlimited funds.
    • When they're stranded on a deserted island at night, Nagisa says they should go fish-spearing and pick mushrooms. Rei retorts that this isn't a TV show.
  • 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
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Rei was seen getting nauseous from the seasickness. The next scene shows him wiping his mouth in the bathroom.
    • Episode 5 of Dive to the Future has him getting carsick and bending his head down at ending of the opening scene as a result of Amakata's questionable driving.
  • Waterfall Shower: Haru met his first love this way. The waterfall, not the naked woman.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Haruka starts to unleash one on Rei in episode 6, but Nagisa heads him off.
  • Wham Line: In episode 8 of season 2:
    Kisumi: Oh, then Sousuke's shoulder must have healed, huh?
  • Wham Episode: Eternal Summer! Episode 9, boy howdy.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: How Season 2/Eternal Summer ends.


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