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  • Accidental Innuendo: Rin makes a lot of these.
    • Much fun was had with "I'll show you a sight you've never seen before!".
    • Rin's suggestive face as he tells Rei that he better be ready to get bitten straddles the line between a taunt and a flirty comment.
      Rin: ...or I'll tear you apart from behind!
    • "You prefer the bottom too, don't you?" Accidental on Rin's part? Probably. Accidental on the writers' part? Unlikely.
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    • Rei is probably supposed to be training or swimming in the bridge of Coming Soooon!!, but without visuals it sounds like... something else.
  • Archive Panic: Watching all three movies (High Speed! Free! Starting Days, Free! Timeless Medley, and Free! Take Your Marks) is a prerequisite before watching the third season, Dive to the Future, as all movies set up plot points crucial to Dive to the Future. For people outside of Japan, this could be a lot of homework, especially since Funimation didn't license them until Dive to the Future was announced.
  • Author's Saving Throw: A lot of fans felt that the last episode of season 1 did Rei no justice when he gave up his part in the relay for Rin, and had to watch his team reuniting with their old teammate like an outsider. Came episode 3 of season 2, where Rei got A Day in the Limelight by having all of his teammates worried for him, having him being taught how to swim by Rin and Rin said that he owed him one. And then came the last episode of season 2, where along with Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa, Rei won the relay and they hugged each other in tears of happiness.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
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    • In season 1, Rin is either a damaged person who needs a big hug, or a selfish monster who should never be allowed near a pool. Rin became less controversial in Eternal Summer when he Took a Level in Kindness, but another split formed with the announcement that he would be voiced by Vic Mignogna in the English dub.
    • To a lesser degree, Nitori; while he has quite a few fans (and is even listed under Ensemble Dark Horse on this page), a decent section of the fandom finds him annoying. Eternal Summer also gave him a wider appeal, showing his growth as a swimmer and his entertaining interactions with Momotaro.
    • Sousuke runs into this problem as well. Overly protective as a result of a misunderstanding, or a bully who thinks he knows what's best for Rin better than Rin does?
    • By Dive to the Future, Ikuya and his companion Hiyori have taken the designated BBC spot in the fandom. Either they like Ikuya from his previous characterization in Free Starting Days carrying over but find Hiyori a pot stirrer when he constantly calls the main characters inferior to Ikuya, or they find Ikuya an inferior copy of Season 1 Rin who didn't need to be added at all.
      • Hate for Hiyori died down a bit when his reason for being obsessed with Ikuya was revealed: he once saved Ikuya from drowning and wants to stay close to him to protect him.
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  • Best Known for the Fanservice: What story? This is the show where hot guys swim a lot and show off their half-naked bodies! As the anime seems to have been deliberately intended as a female-directed equivalent to the all-prevalent moe fanservice anime, this was probably expected, and the producers and advertisers have certainly made the most of it.
  • Broken Base: In regards to the Season 1 ending. A lot of people see Rei's decision to give up his spot on the relay for Rin as an incredibly kind gesture and the perfect ending for his Character Development, since it's a sign of how much he has grown and how by putting the teams' needs over his own, he's given them a much bigger chance to win the Nationals. Others see it as completely derailing his Character Development, because this ending would be unfair after all the hard work he did, and it makes him seem like a permanent outsider.
    • The second season in general has caused a lot of divided opinions. There's a fairly equal split between those who consider Eternal Summer to be either badly written or simply dull compared to the first season and those who consider its differences to be an improvement from the first.
    • The season finale again, with some fans dissatisfied with Rin's role and influence on Haruka being downplayed as compared to season 1's ending, with Rin separating from his True Companions to go to Australia again, and with Haruka and Makoto attending schools in Tokyo, making their fight seem like needless melodrama. Others are upset that Sousuke is the only character who didn't seem to get a happy ending.
    • The dub either has fans up in arms, rolling on the floor in laughter, or somewhat pleased. The butchered pronunciation and the case of Samezuka Academy, which suffers from Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble, and turns into Sa-MAY-zooka have been especially noted, as well as the dub's overuse of "dude" and "man". On the other hand, many fans are very satisfied with some of their casting that includes J. Michael Tatum, Johnny Yong Bosch, Greg Ayres, Todd Haberkorn, and Vic Mignogna, and fans highlight Funimation competency when it comes to the voice directing and casting of an anime series with a Cast Full of Pretty Boys (although it should be noted that the script writing is still very polarizing).
    • The existence of Dive to the Future in general: some feel that Eternal Summer and/or Take Your Marks ended the series on a satisfying note and the third season is an overly crowded and unnecessary cash-grab. Others are excited about seeing the boys move on to college and live as adults.
  • Cargo Ship: Haruka X Water, Makoto X Shovel, Makoto X Water Bottle, Rin X Goggles, Nagisa X Hoodie, etc, etc.
  • Continuity Lock-Out: Dive to the Future requires you to have seen High Speed! Free! Starting Days, Free! Timeless Medley, and Free! Take Your Marks. The show does try to explain bigger plot references through Flash Backs, but it's not enough to genuinely grasp the emotional weight of some of the scenes, such as Asahi reuniting with Haru, Makoto, and Rei; Ryuji being PKH Azuma; and Rin meeting Natsuya after being warned about Ikuya.
  • Crack Pairing: Makoto x Shovel was the most popular crack ship prior to Episode 1.
  • Die for Our Ship: Thankfully defied in terms of straight pairings; when two female characters (Gou and Amakata) entered the fray, the fandom sought hard to defy this trope and determined on waiting before actually attacking them. Sadly, there has been some Het Is Ew even BEFORE the two girls appeared. But in a lighter note, fandom immediately started shooting it down. So it pops up every now and then, but unlike other fandoms where Yaoi-loving fangirls are pretty much expected to hate on every female character in sight, most fans of Free! tend to like the female characters and call other fans out on their immature behaviour.
    • Regarding Gou, it helps a lot that there's implications in the show that Seijuurou, a minor character who is the captain of Rin's swimming team, has a crush on her, and since he isn't generally paired with anyone else, even hardcore yaoi shippers tend to like Seijuurou/Gou, if only as a side pairing. And since Ama-chan is the boys' teacher, hardly anyone ships her with them anyway. And in the second season, Seijuuro's younger brother Momotarou has also developed a crush on Gou, so...
      • Gou is also occasionally shipped with her below-mentioned friend, the very minor character Chigusa Hanamura.
    • Most fans did their best to avoid this, but the ship war between Makoto/Haru shippers and Rin/Haru shippers began to heat up as the first season progressed. Even more so after episode 7, when Rin defeats Haruka in a Freestyle race and proclaims that he will never swim with Haruka again (plus some major Unsportsmanlike Gloating), which has the Makoto/Haruka shippers out for Rin's blood.
    • Some particularly insecure yaoi fangirls have targeted, of all people, Gou's friend Chigusa Hanamura. Her sin? Makoto once told her she looked cute. The rest of the fans have reacted... strongly.
    • Sousuke has received surprisingly minimal vitriol (for shipping reasons, anyway). His Ho Yay interactions with Rin are the only ones with any prominence in the show, and it's easy for RinHaru shippers to stick Sousuke firmly in the "best friend" role (the same role they assign to Makoto). MakoHaru shippers tend to be fairly tolerant of Sousuke, because either they hate Rin and Sousuke is completely irrelevant to their ships, or they don't mind SouRin because it's not RinHaru.
    • By season 3, Ikuya has stepped into the fray, with some fans wishing he'd just drown already due to his relationship with Haru being the main plot of DF. It doesn't help that Haru is described as being "like [Ikuya's] first love" in interviews, and that Hiyori constantly antagonizes Haru and crew for trying to reach out to him. Keep in mind that he never got this kind of vitriol when he was shown in Starting Days, where he mostly had screen time with his brother Natsuya.
  • Ear Worm: Pretty much most of the music released thus far, but especially the music from the original commercial.
    • The first ED, Splash Free, is just as catchy, if not even more so, than the original PV.
    • The second ED, Future Fish is pretty memorable too.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Gou is gaining quite a fanbase. Probably due to her being catapulted into the Audience Surrogate role for the consistently squeeing fangirls and boys.
    • Rei as well. He had a surprisingly large fanbase, despite not appearing in the anime for some time. Now that his introduction episode has outed him as an Adorkable Tsundere and part-time Butt-Monkey behind the Stoic Spectacles, he's only become even more popular. And, well...the speedo probably helped.
    • More-or-less Secondary Character (and captain of the Samezuka swim team) Mikoshiba Seijuuro is also getting quite more popular with each episode, and being the one characters to normally be shipped with Gou.
    • Aichirou Nitori has gained a following as well.
    • Nothing trumps Uozumi and Minami—if the names don't ring a bell, they're Samezuka's Those Two Guys in Eternal Summer. You'd be forgiven for not even knowing that they had names, but Tumblr fell in love with them instantly.
    • Kisumi is also incredibly popular despite only showing up briefly. It doesn't help that his name sounds like "kiss me" (cue fan art).
    • Ayumu instantly became the most popular of the Iwatobabies simply by being adorable.
    • Isuzu Mikoshiba was very well-received for finally being an actual female swimmer, not to mention a Gamer Chick who manages to have Les Yay with Gou in her short screen time.
    • Albert Wahlander, while only appears on the last 4 episodes of season three, quickly became memorable for being The Ace but very friendly and smiley, but most importantly, he shares Haru's love for mackerel. (Some even joked that he gets along with Haru so well because he's basically a blond and purple-eyed version of Makoto.)
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Fans of Free and fans of K-On!note  tend to hate each other's guts. Basically, both sides claim that their favored show is the best thing since sliced bread and the other is shallow pandering and/or personifies everything that is currently wrong with the anime industry. Bonus points if neither side realize that both shows are actually pretty much the exact same thing, except genderswapped.
    • And the Yu Gi Oh Zexal fandom, over a misunderstanding where Free! took one of their ship names.
    • One arose with Yuri!!! on Ice when it aired, due to both series being unexpected hits involving sports and having a lot of Ho Yay. If one series is brought up when discussing the other, expect there to be arguments over which show did what better.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot:
    • Unrequited love is an incredibly popular prompt in the fanfics regardless of the pairings, although to be fair, this is one of the most popular fanfic prompts in all fandoms, not just Free!!.
    • Thanks to the Future Fish ending, AU fanfics tend to have the boys in the jobs portrayed in that ending.
    • For Haru/Mako doujinshi (and just Haru/Mako, not Mako/Haru), there are a lot of doujins that have Makoto have sex with someone else or faceless mobs while thinking of Haruka, due to unrequited love or other reasons.
  • Fanfic Fuel: The ED of Eternal Summer, which shows the cast in different careers, has given rise to multiple alternate universe fanfics - some of them including various pairings the author enjoys.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Makoto/Haruka and Haruka/Rin by far have the biggest fan followings.
    • Rei/Nagisa is pretty much uncontested by everyone in the entire fandom.
    • For the het crowd, Gou/Seijuurou for the West, and Gou/Sosuke for Japan.
  • Fanon: After seeing this screenshot in Eternal Summer episode 13 many fans think that it shows the Iwatobi gang's parents. The couple in the upper left are Nagisa's parents, the couple in the bottom right are Rei's parents and the couple talking to Makoto's parents are Haruka's parents.
  • Franchise Original Sin: The most contentious points of the latter two seasons, that of forgotten promises with childhood friends that came back into the protagonists' lives, was done in the first season too— with Rin, who kind of kicked the trend off. Although in that season, fans were more accepting of it because the show portrayed how unhealthy Rin's obsession with his original goal was, and he got a healthy calling out on it by quite a few people. The third season on the other hand was much less well-received, as: it's not necessary to force Ikuya into an angst role, Hiyori is quite disliked for blaming everything on Haru, and the fans had already had enough of this plot type with Rin and Sousuke. Thankfully, the last four episodes managed to help gaining back the fans' interest.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With Attack on Titan, curiously enough. Probably has to do with the fact that both are the most anticipated/hyped/controversial show of their respective seasons. See also Memetic Mutation below.
    • Free! fans also seems to be in good terms with Haikyuu!! fans, as it's not uncommon for Free! fans to be fans of Haikyuu (and vice versa). It also doesn't help to note that both Free! and Haikyuu help contribute to the revived interest of sports anime in North America. note 
    • With Yuri!!! on Ice as well, despite the Fandom Rivalry above.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Hey, remember those drowning anime jokes from earlier? They became real in Episode 5.
  • Genius Bonus: The "See You Next Water Time" card at the end of Season 1 episode 11, showing Rin in front of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, could easily be construed as just a visual short hand for Australia, bordering on Eiffel Tower Effect. It turns out that is the actual view from the North Sydney Olympic Pool.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Makoto is well-liked by the English-speaking fandom as a whole, but seems especially popular on /a/.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Rei's hilariously overdramatic "death" in the OVA became this when just a few months later, Daisuke Hirakawa played another popular supporting Smart Guy who lays a trap of strings gets killed by a blond, but for real this time. The gush of water from his body even makes it look like the shot went right through him like The World's fist.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Mamoru Miyano (Rin's VA) recently revealed HE doesn't know how to swim.
    • It's already smirk-worthy when Rin accuses Nitori of being his stalker but when you remember that a year before Mamoru Miyano voiced K's Saruhiko Fushimi, a textbook example of a Stalker with a Crush, this gets an additional snicker and a fond "You hypocrite."
    • One fanfic written after the end of Season 1 correctly predicted a red-headed energetic newcomer to the Free! cast who was a relative to one of the canon characters. Even the character's motif animal, the sea otter, was predicted! Fun Fact 
    • Remember when fans speculated during the PV era that Rin would join the swim team to pick up chicks? Momotaro is essentially that prediction come to life.
    • The English dub has Todd Haberkorn and Vic Mignogna as Haruka and Rin respectfully, who they are known to be good friends and rivals in Real Life, actually voice the said characters who are actually rivals in the show.
    • Dub viewers shipping Nitori and Momo were hit by this when their English voice actors were cast as a canon gay couple in Yuri!!! on Ice.
    • In IDOLiSH7, Tsubasa Yonaga 's character is close friends with a blond named Nagi.
    • Ryo Hirohashi was cast as Ayumu, a Covert Pervert who will succeed Gou as club manager. This is not the first time she has voiced a purple-haired pervert, and said pervert is a huge fanboy of a character also voiced by Akeno Watanabe.
  • Ho Yay: Now, with a page of its own! Caution! Entries have unmarked spoilers.
  • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: Rin/Haru is also known as "Sharkbait".
  • Incest Yay Shipping: Before Dive to the Future, the majority of Japanese fans shipped Ikuya with Natsuya due to the former's attachment to the latter. Due to the ship's longevity, it is still the most popular shipping option with Ikuya.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Rin. He acts like a massive prick towards his old teammates, and is rather aloof towards his little sister, but his obsession with beating Haru, his grief over his father's death, and his moments that prove he's more a Jerk with a Heart of Gold make him quite sympathetic.
    • Sousuke as well, especially once it's revealed that he has a shoulder injury.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Can be argued for most of the main characters. Kisumi is now under this category too since he made his first appearance in the anime in episode 8 of the second season.
  • LGBT Fanbase: Did you honestly think a show like this was not going to have a horde of gay male fans? Makoto is particularly well liked.
  • Memetic Mutation: Now with a page of its own!
  • Moe:
    • Gou is quite adorable, especially when she gets excited.
    • Makoto and Nagisa also certainly qualify, as well as Rin's new teammate, Nitori Aiichirou.
    • All of the kids when they were younger.
    • The third season brings us Ayumu Kunikida, a small girl who instantly became an Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • Narm:
    • The opening to the third season is over-the-top with its angsty imagery and heavy metal music, complete with Haru going completely Super Saiyan in one scene.
    • Mikhail is revealed out of absolutely nowhere to somehow be Nitori's uncle. Contrived Coincidence doesn't even begin to describe it.
    • Albert Wahlånder seems to have been voiced by a text-to-speech program, his voice acting is so bland. Not at all suitable for the world champion of college swimming.
  • Narm Charm: This show takes swimming waayy to seriously, but that's kind of the point and the fans love it.
  • Never Live It Down: From the way it's talked about on the Internet, you could be forgiven for assuming the show is nothing but a plotless collection of scenes where guys take their shirts off.
  • Periphery Demographic:
    • Despite being an obviously female-oriented series, it has nonetheless its share of straight male fans. As said above, they tend to be drawn to the humor aspects.
    • And there's a large number of animation enthusiasts who watch it just how beautifully animated the water is.
    • There's also the LGBT Fanbase.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Though Sousuke is still somewhat of a Base-Breaking Character, The Reveal at the end of Episode 8 followed by his scenes in Episode 9 and Episode 10 caused a lot of fans who previously disliked Sousuke to change their minds and brought out a lot of sympathy for him.
    • Toono Hiyori is... not very popular, to put it lightly, due to his rather unlikeable behavior in the first 5 episodes by being a massive Jerkass to Haru and the others. The Reveal of his Dark and Troubled Past has helped in gaining him some sympathy, though. However, it should be noted that he is still a major Base-Breaking Character, as a lot of fans feel that his past doesn't justify the way he behaved before, not to mention that he never apologizes to Haru.
  • Seasonal Rot: General consensus is that Dive to the Future is inferior to the previous seasons, even among its defenders. The overly crowded cast with too much focus on controversial new characters is usually cited as the main reason.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: In the years since the show originally aired, what once was a series that helped revive interest in sports anime is now sometimes cited as a mediocre show with its main draw factor being cute boys with relationship subtext that goes nowhere. On the other hand, some fans don't mind this much, since those fans frame the show as a counterpoint to Moe and female fanservice shows, the writing for the show was fine (especially for season 1), and the subtext didn't have to be there if you weren't looking for it.
  • Sequel Displacement: There aren't a lot of people who actually knew that Free! was based off the High★Speed! series, rather than the other way around.
  • Ship Mates: Gou/Seijuuro is not only a cute pairing, but it takes Gou away from the slashable team guys without going the Het Is Ew and Die for Our Ship ways.
    • You can also see some Gou/Chigusa shipping around.
    • Makoto/Haruka fans who don't hate Rin tend to pair him with Nitori or Sousuke.
    • And Rei/Nagisa goes well with everything.
  • Shipping Goggles: Especially prevalent in the original PV, where fans were writing fanfiction based on less than ten seconds of interaction between the boys. Case in point.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night: The Free fic with the most kudos in Archive of Our Own is Sousuke/Makoto, and there are currently more Soumako fanfic than there are of Sourin. Before ES 14, Sousuke and Makoto had only ever interacted in High Speed 2, where Makoto was speaking for Haru.
    • They finally interact in season 3, having a phone conversation.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat:
    • Tensions between Rin/Haruka and Makoto/Haruka shippers had been brewing through Episodes 1-5, but after Episode 6 it seems the sparks of animosity have ignited between the two groups. It got worse in season 2.
    • Newish  character Sousuke inspired this in record time. He's got a childhood connection to Rin, meaning RinHaru shippers feel threatened by the potential existence of new ship SouRin. Some even pre-emptively accused MakoHaru shippers of Pairing the Spares so Rin won't be a threat to MakoHaru. Bear in mind that at the point in time these feelings erupted, this character had only been introduced in the promotional material for season 2. He didn't even have a canon color scheme yet.
    • Of course, this works both ways. Since Sousuke had only appeared in promotional material, they really had no way of knowing what he would be like in-story. Even so, people (mainly MakoHaru shippers) were eager to pair him off with Rin. The day Sousuke was announced (within the hour, in fact), quite a few MakoHaru fans on Twitter declared that Sousuke would destroy RinHaru and preemptively declared RinHaru as sunk.
  • Sophomore Slump: Inverted. The second season is generally considered the best entry in the franchise.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes:
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Free!'s original director, Hiroko Utsumi, left Kyoto Animation after Eternal Summer to work on Banana Fish, and she is succeeded by Eisaku Kawanami, who went onto direct Starting Days, Timeless Medley, Take Your Marks, and Dive to the Future. As Kawanami is a male director who doesn't have as much experience compared to Utsumi, his direction is criticized in the way he handled humor and fan service.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A lot of fans lament the fact that Dive to the Future took the Haru/Ikuya issue way too long, so much that it took 8 episodes out of the entire 12 and wasn't even very well-received as mentioned in Franchise Original Sin above, and the more interesting subplot with Albert and Kinjou was only briefly elaborated on in the very last episodes.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • A good part of the discussions over the end chalk up to the very Japanese mindset that goes by the "team above everything" mentality. For the Japanese, Rei's decision to let Rin have his spot for the relay was the most selfless and kind action he could ever pull, making him the hero of the day and possibly even more of a team member than before; for the Westerners, it's completely unfair as it's seen to stunt Rei's reason to even be there and it totally derails his character and motivation.
    • That said, the Season 1 finale had a huge whiplash in the Japanese fandom as well, and there were just as many Japanese fans as Western fans who were disappointed and thought that it was incredibly unfair toward Rei. Many of them were upset that we never saw any of the other characters appreciating Rei's sacrifice (not even a "thanks") and that this made Rei seem like he was ultimately just an outsider in the Rin drama. There are lots of "fix-it" fanart at pixiv of the other characters apologizing to Rei, and lots of fanfic where he angsts about how, after everything, the team still chose Rin over him.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Ayumu initially caused this when a magazine revealed the new Iwatobi first years in Dive to the Future. She has short hair, a young appearance, and her voice actress is no stranger to Cross-Dressing Voices, not to mention that names rarely indicate gender in this series.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: All over the original PV, especially the gorgeous water animation and highly attractive male anatomy.
    • The animation quality for Dive to the Future is a huge improvement over the already detailed and colorful Eternal Summer.
  • What an Idiot!: Yes, Rei, go ahead and swim. You're an inexperienced swimmer practicing at night, in open ocean water, while everyone else is sleeping. What could possibly go wrong? So much for being The Smart Guy.
    • For some, the mere fact that the team organized a swimming camp near the sea... with a guy who can barely swim among the assistants. It's often remarked in real life that you must never EVER try learning how to swim in open ocean.
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