Easy Breezy
Tachibana Makoto • 橘 真琴

Thoughts on the first season

While the first season is superior to the second season in regards to storytelling, it is not without a few flaws, the biggest being the season’s ending.

Hazuki Nagisa

The characters are diverse, memorable and are given the appropriate amount of attention—for the most part. My only concern in this aspect of the series is Nagisa. Similar to Makoto and Rei, I feel that he could’ve benefited greatly from a character arc of his own.

During the season, Makoto faces his fear of the ocean and, as a result, learns to open up to his teammates. Likewise, Rei grapples with his desire to swim versus his lack of skill as well as his feelings of exclusion from the group, due to his lack of knowledge regarding the team’s past with Rin. Compared to Makoto and Rei, Nagisa’s character falls flat. By the season finale, all one really knows of Nagisa is that he was in the relay along with Haru, Makoto and Rin as children, that he also wants to be friends with Rin again and that he was the one who wanted to start the swim club in the first place. In the grand scheme of things—Haruka and Rin’s frayed relationship, for the most part—Nagisa’s story may seem small. The same could really be said about Makoto, however, and seeing as how Makoto is allotted time for character development, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine or want the same for Nagisa.

While Nagisa is given more depth in the second season, his character arc would have made more sense presented during this season instead. This matter further discussed here.


When I watched Free! for the first time, the ending bothered me. After watching it again, I’ve come to terms as to why the writers may have made the decisions that they did. Regardless, even though the ending doesn’t bother me as much as it did before, it still leaves me unsatisfied.

For the most part, this is due to where the story and characters rest in the episode before the finale. In “Furious All-out!,” Haruka, Rei and Rin more or less arrive at a resolution to their respective struggles. On Haruka’s part, he becomes more open towards his friends, expressing his gratitude for their support. Meanwhile, Rei is concerned for his team and still possesses some insecurity regarding his place in it. The latter is remedied via support from his friends. The former, however, finds resolution in his interactions with Rin.

In the beginning of the episode, Rei confronts Rin regarding the latter’s estrangement from his old friends, concerned that the unresolved issues between them will have affect his team negatively.

Rin: In that case… What about you? You weren’t involved in any of this, so why are you giving me all this grief?! What do you want to do?!
Rei: I... I want us to become the best team at a tournament. I want to swim with them as a member of that team. That’s all I want. If you interfere, I will never forgive you.

Matsuoka Rin & Ryugazaki Rei
Free! Episode 11: Furious All-out!
The tension between Rei and Rin is resolved at the end of the episode. Furthermore, their conversation provides grounds for an answer to Rin’s own dilemma.
Rin: I never answered your question.
Rei: That’s no longer necessary.
Rin: No. I’ll give you my answer. I won’t feel like it’s over until I do. You wanted to know how I feel about Haru, right? It’s true that I was fixated on racing him. But it’s not Haru’s fault that I wanted to quit swimming. I was pretty shocked when I lost to him. But that wasn’t what did it. After moving to Australia, I trained every day and participated in tournaments. But I couldn’t swim the way I wanted to. The Olympics were completely out of reach. I felt more and more like I was being left behind. I could only wonder. Why was I struggling so much? Why? Ah… It was because I swam in a relay. I ruined myself. That was the conclusion I arrived at. After returning to Japan, I didn’t let any of them know. I didn’t talk to any of them. But when I swam with Haru that night, I had a breakthrough. I wanted to swim again. When I watched you guys swim at prefecturals, it reminded me of our relay [as children].

Matsuoka Rin & Ryugazaki Rei
Free! Episode 11: Furious All-out!
When Rei first meets Rin, the latter is reluctant or—perhaps—unable to voice his own thoughts on the rift between him and Haruka. In this moment, however, Rin is able to—for the first time—confide in someone: in Rei, a person he is not close with, a person who he has no past ties to. With Rei, he is able to confess the struggles he faced while training and studying in Australia, admitting that his frustrations towards swimming were not because of Haruka but because of the pressures he encountered abroad.

From this one conversation alone, one understands why Rin felt so discouraged towards swimming and why he became so competitive. Similarly, his aversion towards swimming in a relay can be connected to his father, who is mentioned in an episode prior to this one. A talented swimmer, Rin’s father also dreamed of becoming an Olympic swimmer—a dream that he never fulfilled before his untimely death. Because Rin’s father also swam in a relay, Rin connected his father’s experience to his own failures. After swimming with Haruka again, however, and watching Haruka and his team swim in a relay, it is clear he has regained his passion for the sport and his desires to be part of a team—to be with his friends.

Your name’s Ryugazaki? I'm going to swim in Samezuka’s relay. I’m going to show you how good I can be. So do the best you can with Haru and your other teammates. But that also means that you can’t embarrass your team. That’s all I have to say.

Matsuoka Rin
Free! Episode 11: Furious All-out!
The scene ends with Rin leaving first, resolved to swim in a relay with his team and wishing Rei and his team the best. On the other hand, Rei is strangely quiet. Why? Everything Rin confesses to Rei is something Rei needed to know. But not just Rei. Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Kou also need to know and, deep down, Rei understands this.
So, at this point, what logical ending would I like to see? Rin talking to people and swimming with his friends.

I would've liked to see Rin talking to his team captain, Seijuurou, his problems: why he’s been so distracted, that he wants to swim in the relay with his team. Rin reconciling with Haruka and his old friends, telling them about Australia and what he went through. Rin approaching Kou and giving his younger sister a big hug along and an apology.

I would've liked to see him and his team swim in a relay against Haruka and the others. I would’ve liked to see them support each other—some my-team-will-destroy-your-team banter, too!—despite being on different teams. I would've liked them to see the same sight they saw that day as children despite being one anothers' opponents. Because if Free! says anything to its audience, it is that who wins or loses isn’t important. What is important is that you’re with your friends.

Plus, it’d be a better segue into this line of dialogue that occurs in the final episode after the relay:

Yep, we may be on different teams, but we’re still teammates.

Hazuki Nagisa, Tachibana Makoto, Nanase Haruka
Free! Episode 12: Distant Free!

What actually happens? Practically none of the above and unnecessary drama with last minute angst in case you didn't get enough tears from the prior episodes and are thirsty for more.

In the end of “Furious All-out!"—after the series' ending musical sequence?!—Rin is informed by Seijuurou that he has been replaced and will not be swimming in the relay after all.