A Kyoto Animation show that I absolutely love?! I know what you’re thinking, you’re shocked, you’re surprised, you’re wondering how Mitch Jay fell in love with a KyoAni show but Free! did it. I love sports anime and it’s undeniable that KyoAni create some beautiful looking shows, and Free! has been their best show yet.
For whatever reason, the first season of Free! has yet to see an official home release in the UK (it is on Crunchyroll though), but Anime Limited managed to license the second season for release which I’ll be looking at in this Eternal Summer review. I watched the first season and absolutely loved it and feel that it’s the best KyoAni show I’ve seen, and the second season is a great sequel that I know I’ll be watching again someday. I loved this show so much that it’s given me the motivation to try out some KyoAni shows that I didn’t quite like, and I feel like things might be different this time around – whatever Free! has done, it’s made me much warmer to KyoAni and that can only be a good thing, and it’s something I’m very much looking forward to exploring further.
I’d argue that this is one of Anime Limited’s best licenses and a lot of that is due to the story and characters. Free! season one saw the group come together as the Iwatobi’s only members of the swimming club, and they have their sights set on big things. Season two goes further into this as Haruka, a fantastic free-style swimmer, is headhunted by others who want him on their team and as someone who’s usually quite reserved, it’s interesting to see how he handles with this new stress and pressure because he swims purely because he loves swimming and is already happy with what he’s achieved with his friends.
Haruka isn’t the only one facing problems as the other team members face their own personal battles too such as Nagisa’s parents wanting him to quit swimming to focus on his school work, Rei struggling to learn new swimming techniques as someone new to swimming and Matoko’s newfound love for coaching children on how to swim. Then you’ve got Rin and the reappearance of his old friend Sousuke who compete against Iwatobi as part of another school, and Iwatobi’s manager and friend, and Rin’s sister, Gou with her overpowering love for muscles and toned bodies. It’s well-paced, funny and a little tear-jerking, but overall it’s a heartwarming show that I really miss now it’s over.
It’s undeniable that KyoAni create some of the most beautiful visuals across anime and Free! is no different – the tone and movement of the water is perfect, and it definitely makes me want to throw on a pair of super tight speedo’s and take to the local swimming pool! This is a perfect Summer anime with its bright colours, emphasis on water, sunlight and sport and KyoAni’s masterful animation and whilst Summer has now been and gone, it never feels too far away with shows like Free! so if you’re not a cold person (although the colder months are clearly the best) then Free! is a show that’ll take you back to that warm Summer breeze. Other than the gorgeous environments, the characters are well-designed and well-animated, and packed with detail that consistently astounds me.
I tried watching the Japanese version but something about it doesn’t appeal to me – it isn’t bad by any means, I just think the English Dub is spot on and Nagisa’s Japanese voice can be a little grating. The English Dub has some outstanding voice talent including Johnny Yong Bosch as Makoto, J Michael Tatum as Rei, Vic Mignogna as Rin, Todd Haberkorn as Haruka and Greg Ayres as Nagisa, making for an all-star cast who are perfect picks for their characters. Haruka sounds a little too raspy when angry, but otherwise I have no issues with the acting. The soundtrack is jammed with great tunes and the opening and ending themes are catchy – Future Fish grew on me quickly and it’s hard to get out of your head! The audio in Free! is impressive and whilst I may not always agree with KyoAni’s handling of characters or stories, their handling of visuals and audio is top notch.
Free! -Eternal Summer- may be the second season of the anime and the only season available to buy in the UK at the moment, but there’s nothing stopping you from watching the first season on Crunchyroll (where both subbed and dubbed versions are available) and then picking this up. It’s easily one of the shows I’ve enjoyed watching the most this year and I’m eager for another season although it may or may not happen. Regardless, I’m more than happy with how everything wraps up and I’m glad that Anime Limited licensed it after fans had been asking for it for so long.
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