Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club



thecrimsonclaw's avatar By on Jun 6, 2014

So I finally watched "Free! Iwatobi Swim Club" to see what all the fuss was about...

I'm sad to say it was for nothing, and the experience was exactly as I had anticipated when the series was first released last Summer: god awful. Why? Let's find out shall we?

The Story:

The Premise:

"Free!" is a 12 episode series loosely based off the Light Novel "High Speed" by Koji Oiji, and by "loosely" I mean the series has pretty much nothing from the novels other than character names and a bit of backstory, or so I've heard. After watching this garbage, I don't intend to ever read the source material, as it too, is probably garbage. The story follows four high school boys: Haruka, Nagisa, Makoto and Rei, as they attend high school and start up a swimming club. And... That's the story. That's it. Four guys. Start a swimming club. And swim. Sure, there's a big bad swimmer who shows up in the form of a rival named Rin, but we all saw that coming a mile away.

What's that? This sounds familiar? That's because this type of shit has been done over and over and over again in the anime medium for years. The only difference between this show and other shows like it is that it's about swimming. In fact, no. There is no difference. It's a show about random character tropes doing random crap with a tiny bit of swimming on the side. This is the same as every other Kyoto Animation anime I've ever seen. Random characters with bland personality traits and uninteresting development doing random tedious every day nonsense with the promise of something be it swimming, making music, or whatever crap they want to do. It just doesn't interest me. Speaking of the characters they suck but I'll get to that later.

But is it just the story itself that makes this anime so unbearable? Well... No. Not on it's own. What helps to make the story unbearable however is detailed below:

Ridiculous amounts of fan-service:

Unfortunately, due to the plot being garbage, "Free!" and it's writers decided that the only way to get people to remotely care about this show was to fill it with over the top and ridiculous amounts of fan-service. This show constantly relies on the pecs, abs and pretty much every detail of the "fit" male human body in order cash in on the drooling fangirls who would rather watch an anime for it's softcore hentai art, than for the actual fucking plot. This is a poor attempt to cover up the fact that this show is nothing more than a simple rehash of the same crap KyoAni does every time they produce a series. The only difference is that instead of it being about cutsie little girls, it's about muscley fan-servicey teenage guys, but the general story elements and structure remain the same as ever: boring, crap and poorly executed.

But hey, maybe I don't like the fan-service because I'm a straight guy who doesn't find hours of topless animated guys hot. Then again, maybe not, seeing as I find the majority of fan-service annoying as hell, regardless of whether it's guys or girls, because I watch anime for the plot and not for fan-service. But hey, I guess KyoAni realised that sex sells.


But let's pretend the fan-service doesn't exist for a moment, and let's go back to the actual story or lack thereof. One of my biggest issues of this anime is the pacing. Once I reached around 4 episodes in, nothing unexpected or shocking had happened. It certainly took it's time getting to the twists and important plot points, not that either of those things exist in the first place.

The problem is, nothing happens for ages, and when stuff does happen, it's boring. There's this constant promise of a swimming tournament, and this constant promise that all this shit is going to go down. The pacing is so awful, that by episode 6, they are a day away from the swimming tournament. It takes half a series for them to get to the major conflict, which is ridiculous. It's almost as though the anime is desperately trying to avoid conflict for ages, and pad the series with ridiculous school-life humour and overnight training sessions (which took two whole episodes in itself). Sure, there's a few moments, including one moment where *gasp* someone is in danger and might die! But the outcome of all these moments are predictable and unsurprising. Of course nobody is going to die. This isn't one of those animes that actually kills characters. Hell, if that happened, maybe I'd actually have felt sad. That would have been interesting.

And don't even get me started on the ridiculously cheesy, cliche and predictable as hell ending. I saw this ending coming a mile away before the series even finished airing. God.

There is nothing unique in the story that is told here. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. I spent too long on this. Moving on...


Now, here's where else this show fails: it's characters. The problem with the characters is that they are simply bland and uninteresting tropes that we've all seen before.

There's just nothing that great about them, and they are typical for a slice of life series, which I just find... boring... And even the unique personality traits of each character were stupid, unfunny and idiotic. When I watch a show, I want the characters to inspire me. I want characters who I can look up to and respect. But more than anything, I want characters who develop and who I can care about. I got none of that with this show. Let's detail some:

Haruka Nanase: This guy is of the stoic, and silent cliche that these animes love to churn out. He doesn't speak much because he's fucking mysterious and dreamy. No wait... It's because he's a trope and a cliche. Fuck. Anyway, Haruka has a secret love for water, and by love, I mean love. He's so obsessed with the mere concept of water that he practically gets a boner every time it's mentioned or brought up or within his sights. He wears his swimming gear under his regular clothes. He cooks in his swimming gear. But you know what? It's just not fucking funny. I didn't laugh. It's a stupid and uninteresting personality trait. Gaaaaaaaah. He's not a very good main character...

Makoto Tachibana: A fan favourite for some reason, Makoto is just there to heal everyones ill feelings and is solely there for girls who find the gentle and nice guy type of guy dreamy. He's pretty much a big girl. Even his name is girly. You could make him a female, and there would be no difference, other than he wouldn't have his big sexy muscles. He's a boring character, and another stereotype. His name is also very similar to another character who is exactly the same as he is. Go work it out.

Nagisa Hazuki: Nagisa fills the spot for the super crazy hyperactive little guy in the group who is younger than the rest of the cast. There's got to be one of them right? This is a slice of life show, where everything is copied and pasted from everything else. He even wears the typical clothing of this stereotype. He's typical, like the rest.

Rei Ryugazaki: Hey look, this guy wears glasses. Guess what that means? It means he's the intelligent one. Didn't see that one coming did you? He's also anti-social. I tell you, those glasses really are something in the slice of life world. He's basically another cut and paste. *yawn*

Rin Matsuoka: Finally we have Rin, the typical rival character who serves as the antagonist of the series. We all knew this was coming right? He used to be a member of the same swim club, but then something really bad happened and now he is Haruka's rival. Oh no, this is typical and boring and unsurprising.

The main problem I have with the cast is simply that they are an uncreative copy and paste of characters we've seen time and time again. To make matters worse, the show spends most of it's time shoving their pretty faces and topless bodies down your throat and into your eyes sockets that the characters themselves cease to develop, and never become interesting. Also, the characters could easily be gender swapped and nothing would be any different about them and their story at all. Seriously. Imagine it and tell me otherwise. That is how bland these characters are.

Art and Animation:

This show was animated by Kyoto Animation, who have high production values and are renowned for being good at what they do. What do I think? Well, it's certainly the shows strongest point, but it's not as god-like or perfect as everyone keeps bringing it out to be.

KyoAni's art style, while colourful and vibrant, lacks the detail of other studios I've seen. For example, CLAMP's art is endlessly superior to this show. Go watch the Tsubasa OVA's and tell me otherwise. A-1 Pictures did a better job on Sword Art Online's art, which came out a year before Free! did. Hell, the Tsubasa OVA's came out in 2007. That's over half a decade ago. Sure, they got the bodies of the swimming cast great, but that's because fan-service was the primary focus of this entire show. I am by no means calling the art "bad" but it's certainly overrated. But hey, it is nice to look at, and it's the shows highest point.

In terms of animation and movement, everything moves as it should move, frames are captured relatively well, and swimming scenes especially are done really well, I can't fault them much. Scenes outside of swimming are mediocre at best, and contain sub-par and static animation that isn't too revolutionary or interesting. And again, I will use the Tsubsa OVA's as an example, check the animation for the battle scenes in Tokyo Revelations. The animation and fluidity of the characters movements, attacks, effects, and everything is perfection and superior to this show. And again, this was in 2007. It's embarassing for a show from that long ago having better animation than something in 2013 where animation techniques and technology has improved significantly and substantially over the timespan of those 6 years. And yes, I know the Tsubasa OVA's are OVA's, but every TV anime, especially one by Kyoto Animation who are apparently the "God's of animation" *cough* Production I.G are better *cough* Attack on Titan came out at the same time and was done by them and was endlessly superior *cough* should be better than something almost a decade old.

Again, that's not to say the art and animation is bad. It's actually good, and does it's job, but it's not great and I've seen better in countless anime series. It's overhyped eyecandy, yet still nice to look at.

However, it doesn't help that most of the shows finest moments when it comes to art, are wasted on the main characters soaked and sweat covered bodies (ie- fan-service) rather than where it actually matters (ie - everything that isn't fan-service).

Also Rin stole Soul from Soul Eater's teeth. They're really taking the shark analogy with this guy to extremes. I never found that cool. It's gay.

And what's that? Bias? I have nothing of the sort in my review.


The music is... Okay? The tracks are somewhat catchy, but there's nothing ground-breaking or truly memorable, but I guess it does it's job (which like everything else in this show is simply being there because fan-service was the only thing they put time and focus into with this show).

The opening theme is alright, but I wasn't really inspired or moved by it, and began to skip the opening after three episodes (which I actually don't do that often with shows).

The ending theme was okay too, and was sang by the Japanese Voice Actors for the main cast, which is gimmicky and stupid and has been done by shows before. The video for the ending is also nothing short of innuendo and is ridiculous. I can't describe it beyond that, go watch that shit. It's stupid as fuck and immature as hell.

The voice acting is pretty decent, and I don't have much of a problem with it, but I watched it subbed because it wasn't available in my language (because they're too busy dubbing good anime to care about it) so I couldn't really tell how the acting really was. But it was fine.

Sound effects were fine. They did their job. Splashing, swimming and shit. Not a lot of variety, but they're there.

Closing Comments:

"Free! Iwatobi Swim Club" is like going on a date with that really attractive person with no personality. Sure it's nice to look at, but there's nothing interesting beyond that. The story is the same copied and pasted nonsense with seen over and over again, the characters are typical, boring and uninteresting masses of uncreativity, and the music is uninspiring and merely exists as a piece of the overall puzzle.

To sum up, this show is simply a huge amass of fan-service and nothing more, and it's sad to see what could have been a great show destroyed by the over the top fan-service, the poor script writing, and awful, almost non-existent character development. I'm sorry, but I like to watch shows where my characters develop and change entirely from how they were at the beginning of the show. I like to watch shows where I'm surprised by overarching plot twists and where unexpected things happen, where there's mystery and suspense and where I can't actually guess the entire fucking story 2 episodes in. 

"Free!" is exactly the show I expected it to be: an overhyped mess that fangirls hyped for over both the build up to it's release and the course of it's run and a title that will no doubt fade away into the depths of nothingness after it's done airing, which funnily enough has already shown signs of happening.

And yes there's a second season coming out. Yes, they're making a second season of this bullshit but not a second season of Attack on Titan.


I have no idea why. I also don't really care why, because like this, it will be shit.


And now, it's scoring time:

Story: 2/10

Premise 0/3 - Uninteresting, typical and the same crap we've seen a million times

Pacing 1/3 - Slow as hell, not much happens until the half way point. Lots of padding

Conclusion 1/4 - Cheesy, predictable and unoriginal. I seen it coming from the start 

Animation: 5/10

Artwork 2/3 - Lot's of colour and vibrancy, but lacks detail in some areas

Character Designs 1/3 - They all look the same only with slight differences

Animation 2/4 - Swimming scenes are done really well, outside of that animation is meh

Characters: 2/10

Personality 1/3 - Characters are bland and uninteresting, but they tried so they get a 1

Development 1/3 - Characters barely develop at all

Uniqueness 0/4 - None whatsoever. Typical stereotypes and tropes copied and pasted from other series of the same genre

Sound: 5/10

Voice Acting 3/4 - I can't really fault it because I speak english but it was good

Music 1/4 - I wasn't inspired or moved emotionally by it. It was just kind of there... 

Sound Effects 1/2 - Not a whole lot of variety, but they're there

Overall: 2/10

It's awful, awful, awful. Avoid it.

But hey, I enjoyed Sword Art Online, so my opinion probably doesn't matter to you people.

2/10 story
5/10 animation
5/10 sound
2/10 characters
2/10 overall
4nime4ddict's avatar By on Sep 20, 2014

This anime is great for various reasons, although by a lot of people it is referred to as 'fanservice' I actually think it has a good plot and even better characters. The story told is of a young boy name Haru, who has an exquisite passion for swimming and water. His friends and hisself begin a swim club, and enter in various contests. Along the way they meet an old teammate, and this opens a whole can of worms which is explored within the 12 episodes of this anime. 

The story, although very good at times, isn't perfect and it isn't the greatest. I enjoyed it a lot, however I feel like it was missing something. It is paced over 12 episodes and it does seem a bit rushed but it is still told very well. 

The animation scored ten simply because it is beautiful. As it is a water-based anime, the animation needed to be perfect for it to be pulled off well. And believe me they managed it. Every single drop of water is so flawlessly made, it just makes you more attached to the series. Also, for the ladies there is a LOT of eye candy, with perfectly sculpted muscles in every episode you won't be able to resist.

The sound was good but nothing amazing or memorable. The opening theme at first is quite dull and not exciting, but after two or three episodes it grows on you and can become quite catchy. The voices are so greatly chosen for each character. 

Characters are immense. They are gorgeous to look at and so great to listen to, however especially in Makoto's case their past is pushed to the side and it would be very enjoyable to learn more about each character. 

All in all, I loved this anime. I would recommend it to anyone who likes sports, comedy or just some slice of life.

8/10 story
10/10 animation
6/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
UnicornExecutions's avatar By on Sep 5, 2014

Yeah I watch sports  

Sorry but there is just no way I can not make fun of this 

it is utterly and completely a Fanservice for girls 

The plot is pretty lame

Why girls would watch 

  • FANSERVICE( guys in skin tight bathing suits)
  • pretty much a yaoi ( they pratically show no interest in girls)  

Side note: 

I saw a pic that actaully describes this anime( couldn't find it tho :*-(   ) 

Haru-h2o Sexual

Rin- Gay for Haru

Makota-Maybe staight but mostly likely gay for haru

Nagaisa- mostly likely Gay for Rei

Rei- Book sexual

Why guy would watch 

  • casue your sister or girlfriend forced you too
  • you like swimming 

Unicorn out~

3/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
5/10 characters
4/10 overall
pikazaki's avatar By on Jan 5, 2014

So from a guy's point of view:

I really liked this anime. It wasn't as gay as I thought it would be, in fact I don't really think it's gay at all. It centers on the brotherhood built through swimming and sports, inside and outside of the pool. There was barely if no profanity which was refreshing, but it still had clean comical moments. There were a lot of shirtless scenes with lots of ripped guys, and maybe it can be too much, but honestly it just made me want to workout more. It might be somewhat of a cliche anime, but it does pose important questions, as well as spark important questions. But again, I really did like this anime, there are some really great moments, and characters.


The story was pretty good, maybe it wasn't the best, but it was enough. It's pretty light hearted, teenage guy drama, trying to find purpose. And it all comes back to the friendships built through swimming. Former teammeates is grade school find each other back together in high school. Eventually it comes down to discovering the love of swimming with each other. Simple, but the journey is nice. I have to say though, it sort of flopped for me in the last minutes of the show, but keep in mind it is a 12 episode series so there is not nearly enough time to dive deeper into the story. Like I said earlier, it is friendship based, though I wouldn't say it's totally cliche. In fact it might be the depiction of the relationships many guys want with their friends, but may not be socially acceptable to say so. I know that's the case for me, and so guys might be turned off by Free! for that reason. I'm envious of those guys. There is pretty much no romance between anyone accept for a little flirting from a secondary character. Free! is so joyful and so supportive. You can feel the cheering and satisfaction. It's also funny! There's so much more to be discovered about Free! which I hope will be covered in season 2!


I'm not an expert on animation, but I thought it was really good. The swim scenes where very smooth, and the character interaction and faces were good too. Nothing more to say.


I am a music lover, and there are some very good tracks on here. In fact, the only reason I watched Free! was because of the song played in the finale. And the good tracks are arrangements of that song. There were a couple nice piano ballads. Again with the final few minutes, it could have definitely been more epic for my tastes, but overall the soundtrack was decent.


I loved the characters in this. They are all so likeable and unique. There is a character for everyone! One of the characters didn't even know how to swim, and I think that really opens it up to a wider audience, who might feel left out if they don't swim. The other characters have their own niches too. There's the quiet passionate guy, lost lonely guy, nice perfect guy, cute lively guy. I liked them all, seeing their bonds grow is so heartwarming. Okay, I just can't say enough how much I liked Free! Just give it a chance, it's only 12 episodes, you can finish in a day, like me. 

8.9/10 story
9.4/10 animation
9/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
9.3/10 overall
Moparty's avatar By on Sep 25, 2013

Review is solely opinion so please don't hate


Free! Iwatobi Swim Club introduces a new sports anime that involves three friends creating a swim club and then training for a competition. That is basically what the whole story is about. I love the fact that a swimming anime has been introduced but it isn't exactly what sports fans are looking for. The story is very bland and there really isn't much depth or profound thought put into this anime. It is also hard to even consider this a "sports" anime considering the fact that there is a lot of talking and training most of the time. The plot also seemed very choppy. It would take sharp turns into the competitions or training rather than easing its way in. Swimming is obviously a very short sport as well. Swimming usually takes less than five minutes so I would understand how it would be tough to represent this in an anime. This anime also focuses on fan-service most of the time. It's not a bad thing, but it can hinder the anime in many ways. The story seems too engulfed in fan service rather than actual story. There are some cliffhangers and some drama to notice, but you just end up hopping along with the anime regardless. The plot wasn't too disappointing, but you won't see anyone go...Dude Free! Iwatobi Swim Club has the best story. It really isn't anything special. It can be a lot of fun, but it feels like the writers had a hard time finding the right structure for the anime. It's like they tried to complement comedy, drama and sports into one but couldn't succeed as much as they had hoped. The story overall is a bit shaky.

Animation: 8

The animation is sweet on the eyes. Girls will have a blast watching this anime, and the extremely toned bodies of all the swimmers. However, guys will not care too much about the animation in that sense, but it will be easy on the eyes. The animation is smooth and crisp due to the advancement of technology nowadays, and you can't expect less from KyoAni. KyoAni has some of the best animations in animes to date. KyoAni animates really well, and their overall dominance in the animation industry is definitely represented in this anime. However, there are some images that seem a bit plain and dull when I look at them, but they don't affect the overall feel and animation too much. Overall, the animation is fantastic and whether or not you enjoy looking at boys' bodies, you will admire the animation in Free.

Sound: 7

The sound in Free is interesting but lazy at times. The opening and ending songs are a lot of fun and really set you into the mood and overall feel of the anime. The opening gives off a sense of urgency and excitement which leads you to continue to be intrigued. The ending is a lot of fun, leaving you content after every single episode, and keeping you curious about the episode to come. The OST however is noticed about half the time. I hardly recognize the soundtrack in the background of scenes unless it is the soundtack used for the pool clean up scene. I also noticed that the Tatsuya Katou used basically the same song that was in Mirai Nikki to be present in Free. The song in Free is just slightly altered. Mirai Nikki OST 9 Track 11. The track isn't bad whatsoever but because of the fact that it was slightly altered, I found this to be extremely lazy. 

Characters: 7

The characters are very interesting, and they are some of the most likable characters in the anime world. The fact that all of the characters have girl names sets the playful mood of the overall anime. The characters are what make this anime so much fun to watch, but there were some issues in the dialogue at times. Some of the narrative came to be a bit cliche or corny. I constantly felt like some of the lines in this anime could have been worded in a better way to be honest. However, this is the only flaw I had with the Characters. All of the characters will keep you fully engaged in this anime, and the characters will constantly make you laugh and smile as you keep strolling through this anime. 

Overall: 6.75

6.75 isn't really a bad score. At least I don't consider it to be. I found this anime to be a lot of fun, but there could have been more added to it. The average anime watcher will have a lot of fun with this and girls will always have a blast with this anime. Guys on the other hand, it depends on your tastes and interests. This anime is mostly girl targeted, but many guys may enjoy it as well. I for one enjoyed it. It isn't anything spectacular but at the end of the day it will leave you pleased and content. 

5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
7/10 characters
6.8/10 overall