別れのバタフライ! – The Butterfly of Farewell!
Rei being suspected of leaving the Iwatobi swim club? What will become of the rest of the members? As it is, the club is already teetering along the edge of closure. With Rei gone, not only will the rest be unable to compete in the relay event, but surely they will also be forced to shut down due to a lack of members. Oh noes D:
Of course, being the tralala kind of anime that Free! is, there is no possible way that the writers would throw us into the deep end like that. While I am sure that everyone who watched this would have expected that Rei was certainly not going to abandon his teammates, it was fairly amusing watching their imaginations run wild with the unlikely hypotheses. After seeking Coach for advice, Gou for one was convinced that Rei was in love with the captain of the track team. Yes, I mentioned that Free! laid on the gay vibes.. and while that was such a wild pitch on Gou’s part, I can’t help but appreciate the overt, bordering-on-gaudy humour that Free! presents. Honestly, following this series with absolute zero expectations on the plot/storyline front makes for so much more enjoyable watching.
I wouldn’t exactly call this a filler episode, since Free! is pretty much a series borne from the amalgamation of delicious filler episodes. However, I do think that this episode took a slight step back, shinning the spotlight on Rei for just a little bit, and deservingly so. If we recall, Rei joined the swim team a little over a year ago after MUCH persuasion from Nagisa (well, that as well as the fact that he was spellbound by swishy’s beautiful swimming form). A year on, Rei is still a beginner compared to the likes of his teammates. Understandably, being at the disadvantage of being able to swim only butterfly would bring about certain inferiority issues. And in this episode, we saw Rei struggling to understand why it is that he still continues swimming. While Haru swims because he has a love for swimming that is so pure and unconditional, Rei can’t for the life of him answer the question. This evidently brought about a wave of identity-like crisis, as Rei struggled to figure out his calling, so to speak.
What was endearing, and also very obvious, was that Rei did not once think to give up but instead only sought to improve. And he did so by calling a favour from Rin for swim lessons. Of course, in exchange for some nutritious, home made butterfly-shaped cookies (which the unsuspecting Momotarou unwittingly assumed were from Gou lol). Rin, being the good sport that he now is, patiently coached Rei and towards the end of the episode, we see Rei actually having ‘mastered’ the rest of the swimming strokes. It is nice to see how both Rin and Rei went from petty rivals in the first season to being friends now. Clearly, Rei’s selfless act from season one had a massive impact on Rin and it is lovely seeing him humbled down and being so forgiving and accepting. Really, at the heart of it all, Free! is about the friendship and camaraderie between the various characters and this episode was an exemplary example of that.
One thing that was constantly on my mind has got to be the Love Stage! crossover. Love Stage!, also in the Summer 2014 lineup, is a shounen-ai comedy and is currently being covered by fellow writer Shion (whose lovely reviews can be found here). Akatsuki pointed out that Hirakawa Daisuke voices Rei in both shows, while Yonaga Tsubasa voices Nagisa in Free! and Izumi (who is also blonde) in Love Stage!. And every single time Yonaga says “Rei”, I think of his character in both shows. He sounds exactly the same and it is just quite funny hearing him in both shows and making that connection.
Back to Free!, now that Rei is able to swim styles other than the butterfly style, it will be interesting to see what other individual event he decides to enter in the upcoming competition. The same applies to the rest of the team of course. With the competition fast approaching, I for one can’t wait for some heart racing swimming action ^^
Muscle-scope. First sign of muscles: 3 minutes 22 seconds. First sign of stripping: unfortunately, not applicable once again.