While starting college and figuring out what they want for their future, Haru and Makoto run into the unexpected—their old teammates from elementary school. Still hurt from their team suddenly dissolving, Ikuya is out to prove he’s better than Haru. But he’s not the only threat that lies in the waters of competition!
Story (8/10) Our protagonist has now started studying at the university. We get to follow him and several other characters with their respective problems. I’d say the main focus is identity - who you are as a person and what you want to be. We get to see characters like Makoto trying to find his own path in life and Sousuke, who is concerned about a surgery that may or may not be the end of his career as a swimmer. Rei, Nagisa and Gou are studying their final year at Iwatobi. We get to see them with new recruits for the swim team. These are only some of the sub-plots in this season. “If these are the sub-plots, then what’s the main plot?” you ask? To be frank, they should’ve just named it “Free! Two Lovers’ Promise” because about 65% of this season focuses on Haru and Ikuya’s romance friendship. Although I’m overjoyed to see so much of Ikuya and seeing him (and Haru) develop as a character, it doesn’t give much time for the other characters and events. In the end, episode 11 and 12 feel a bit rushed, which is why I’m giving the story 8/10. The way the guys are trying to find their own identities and lifetime goals is not only inspiring but also touching. Characters (7/10) I’m very proud of Haru this season. Everyone who has watched the previous seasons or at least Starting Days are well aware of Haru only swimming free and nothing else. In episode 7 and 8, we get to see Haru practice for- and participate in the individual medley just to keep his promise to Ikuya. Although Haru goes back to his ‘I only swim free’ way shortly afterwards, the fact that he stopped swimming only free for a moment shows how far Haru is willing to go for the people he cares about. Makoto and Rei share a similar dilemma. Neither of them knows what they want to do with their lives. With some help from Nao, Makoto realizes what he wants to do in the future. Rei on the other hands never got this realization. He does think about his future, but never mentions his options. As for Nagisa, we don’t get to hear much from him at all, which is a bit disappointing. His ‘major’ development was in the first season and his character has been a bit flat since then. Yes, he has become a better swimmer and has a charming personality, but he hasn’t changed much, has he? Does he still want to become an astronaut or an adventurer? Rin is doing fine. He’s still aiming to become the number one swimmer in the world. Sousuke has an interesting scenario. His doctor suggests a surgery if he wants to continue swimming. The problem is that this surgery may or may not end his career. The problem is that we don’t get to see much about this. Natsuya also gets some development. In the beginning of this season, he swims and participates in races just to get money. He uses the money to travel to another country in the world, races, wins money and then the cycle just repeats. As the story goes on, he eventually stops swimming just for the money and starts taking swimming seriously again. Even Nitori - the only character who I couldn’t stand in the first two seasons - was okay in Dive to the Future. He didn’t do anything outstanding, but he didn’t annoy me either. I’m also happy to see how much Ikuya has grown since childhood. Especially his swimming. Now for the newer characters. First we have Ikuya’s “best friend” - Hiyori (Seems a bit one-sided from Hiyori’s part). He and Nitori are the only two characters in Free! that I dislike. Like I said earlier, Nitori was much more bearable in this season. Hiyori wasn’t. In my opinion, Hiyori is a selfish, illogical, rude and manipulative control freak. He’s far too judgmental towards Haru and the others despite never meeting them, he makes decisions for Ikuya without Ikuya’s consent and goes out of his way to prevent Haru from talking to Ikuya. “Maybe he just doesn’t want Ikuya to get hurt again” Nope. After his race against Makoto, Hiyori clearly states that the reason why he won’t let Haru and the others approach Ikuya is because they’re too weak, not because he wants to protect Ikuya from getting hurt again. He also seems to be rather delusional as he considers himself as the little mermaid who saves the prince (Ikuya) from “sinking” (depression). Where did he get that idea from? According to Ikuya, he has been feeling like this for years. Hell, Hiyori (unintentionally) made Ikuya’s depression even worse. He also never apologizes to neither Haru nor Ikuya for his behavior. Hiyori's entire purpose in this season is to be a pain in the ass. That’s literally it. Then we have Haru’s new “challengers” - the world record holder in freestyle Albert Wåhlander and the mysterious swimming prodigy Kaede Kinjou. The anime makes such a big deal about them (Especially Albert), but we never get to find out much about these two except that Albert has a coach named Ralph (Or is it Ralf?) and is a world record holder from Sweden. But Kaede? Nothing. Then only time we see him in action is in the very last episode where he participates in a race. This category gets only 7/10. Hiyori single-handedly removed one point, one point off from the lack of development for Rei, Nagisa and Gou and lastly, one point off for showing close to nothing about Albert and Kaede. Designs and animation (10/10) As expected from Free!, it has beautiful animation. And somehow, the anime managed to make the guys even better looking. Am I the only one who thought Nagisa looked a bit more…mature this season? He used to look younger and rather child-like compared to the other guys. Now he’s starting to look like a man. They grow up so fast… I didn’t see any (major) flaws with the animation and the character designs look good. Even the clothes the characters wear for the ending look good. The hat Nagisa is wearing gets a bonus point. Therefore, I’m giving this category a solid 10/10. Voice acting and music (10/10) The ‘older’ voice actors were good, as always while the ‘new’ actors also did pretty well. Kudos to the voice actors of Ikuya, Albert and Hiyori. Despite despising Hiyori, I think Ryouhei did a good job with portraying the character and making him sound like a real piece of shit. Especially the first five episodes. After hearing Rin’s broken english despite living in Australia for years, I’m surprised Albert spoke perfect english. No stereotypical Nordic accent, no awkwardness. And if he has always lived in Sweden, I’ll be even more surprised. The opening theme Heading to Over and ending theme Gold Evolution were both catchy and suited the anime. Though, I wish they could’ve “tossed the rock a bit further” with the opening theme as it resembles the opening themes of the previous seasons - Rage On and Dried Up Youthful Fame - a bit too much. Still, I must admit that I never skipped the opening or the ending of Dive to the Future. Actually, I listen to their full versions often. Once again, I’m giving out a full score. 10/10 for the voice actors’ performances and the kick-ass music. Ending (7/10) As I’ve already stated, this season focuses a lot on the bond between Haru and Ikuya for the first 8 episodes. After episode 8, they’re rarely seen together, let alone talk to each other. Why would the staff put so much time and effort into their relationship and then just be like “Their drama is over now, so let’s completely move on and make them interact as little as possible because Ikuya is completely irrelevant now”. Of course, I didn’t want Ikuya to get all of Haru’s interactions, as characters like Makoto and Rin are also important. However, I think it was rather disappointing and lame how they almost completely ignored Ikuya for the remaining episodes when they made a such big deal about him (and Haru) earlier. Most of his appearances in episodes 9-12 are just cameos with the only exception being his race in the individual medley. He doesn’t say much. He’s just standing there to show that he still exists. I’m also a bit disappointed that the only three characters succeeded with their races. The others failed and the final race was left on a cliffhanger. To be frank, if it hadn’t been for the character development of Haru, the Kirishima brothers and Makoto, I would’ve given this category a lower score. Most of the other characters’ developments stand still during the season. The only (other) characters who came close to a good development but tripped right before the finish line were Hiyori and Sousuke. Either a new movie or season was confirmed at the end of episode 12. Hopefully, the newer characters (Hiyori, Iwatobi rookie-trio, Albert and Kaede) will get their proper developments. Episode 11 and 12 felt a bit rushed. It was almost as if the staff was trying to test themselves regarding how many things they can make happen in just one episode. Because of this, it made episode 12 lack charm. Yes, there were meaningful moments. However, those moments were a bit less effective than intended, which is the result of what happens when you try to make too many things happen in a 20-minute episode. For that, Dive to the Future gets only a 7 for its ending. Summary (42/50 - Great) Although a few things about this season left me a bit disappointed, it was overall a good season and I’m glad I watched it. I don’t know whether their next project is a fourth season or a movie. Regardless, the bar has been set pretty high since I’m expecting the next movie/season to provide with everything Dive to the Future lacked: Goals in life for Rei, Nagisa and Gou A continuation of Hiyori’s character development Character developments for Albert and Kaede Haru interacting with his parents And most importantly - More of Steve the Cat And that’s my review of the third season of Free!. I’ll be looking forward to the next project. Just two years left…
Having been a huge fan of the first two seasons of Free!, I was pretty excited when I found out there was a new season. However, my excitement quickly turned to more of a "meh." as I watched more and more. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. It wrapped up a lot of loose ends and ended a lot of ongoing dramas/tensions which was very nice and is the only thing keeping this season from being a 5/10. This season simply didn't have the intense emotional PUNCH that the other seasons had. At the end of seasons 1 and 2, I was overwhelmed with emotions: I was happy for the characters for moving forward and achieving their goals, I was sad that the team got split apart, etc. Long story short, I cried at least once in both seasons. I didn't shed a single tear this season. Ordinarily I wouldn't rate an anime based on its cry factor, but Free! is famous for its emotional character development and endings. I watch Free! for a strong bond with the characters that hits me hard at the end, and I just didn't feel that in this season.
This season was very different from the last two. A bunch of new characters and a different plot but the basics stayed the same. All of them loved to swim and honestly there is nothing bad I could possibly say about this anime. It's so wholesome and nice and I'm already missing the characters.
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