The end of an era and one of my favorite serialized anime for some time. As I’m sure everyone no doubt knows, I was a competitive swimmer for about 11 years (I’m only 24!) so this show had a profound effect and a deep pull on me.
So let’s talk about the show. What is Free actually about? Getting the best time? Swimming with the people you love? It means something different to everyone I think, but Free’s most central conflict and main theme has always been between Haru and Rin. In good taste and keeping this theme in mind, the show closes on the same note – Rin against Haru, Haru against Rin, just as it always should have been. Haru realizes what stage it is he wants to stand on, although it takes going back to Australia with Rin in tow to figure things out!
I know the exact feeling he felt when he stood on the starting block, looking out at the pool. This is competition. This is where it will go down eventually, you think. It’s invigorating. You think of every moment, every small conversation, every heat of every event you’ve ever swum in that has led to this moment and you being here, as good as you are at whatever stroke you swim. There is nothing like it in the world and despite being retired for about 5 or 6 years, I can still feel it. I can still remember it. I know exactly what it is like.
When you graduate high school, you’re really saying goodbye to some of the best friends you’d have ever met. The ones that you’re really, really good friends with will continue to be your friends even after you’re gone (Nagisa, Rei, Makoto – you know they’ll keep in touch). Unsurprisingly, Free even touches upon this as the realization that their senpais will go on without them dawns on young Nagisa and Rei.
Life goes on, however. Haru and Rin ascend to the highest stage in swimming, Makoto ends up becoming a swimming teacher as he wanted, and the rest continue about their lives. I like to think they keep in touch.
Let me add as one final note – The way this show ended was perfect. Nothing could summarize how I feel about swimming than with the tension in the air as the referee tells you to take your mark on a high stakes event.
Oh, sorry, one last thing. This episode turned Melissa into a sobbing mess. Poor thing.