What Incredible Triceps.
I sort of love it.
Free!, or 'the swimming anime', as it's often called, is - you'll never guess - an anime about swimming! Although saying it's 'about swimming' is slightly misleading, because it's really about swimming as a vehicle for enormous amounts of male shirtlessness. Free! is about swimming in the way in which porn films are about unprofessional pizza delivery services. It features some of the most shameless fanservice you will ever, ever see.
I'm not actually watching Free! to ogle - they're all a bit muscly for my tastes - which raises the question... what am I watching it for? It's not as if there's a rich, layered plot that just happens to feature five hot guys who spend eighty per cent of every episode half-naked; the premise of this anime is literally 'HOT GUYS IN SKIMPY SWIMSUITS', the end. Every motion of Rei's arse is lovingly animated, sometimes in close-up. This is not a subtle show.
But somehow it really makes me smile. There's something so unabashed and joyous about it.
(I couldn't stop laughing during the fourth episode, which featured an extended montage of the guys trying on swimsuits whilst Kou sat off to the side, going starry-eyed over their *~AMAZING BICEPS~*.)
I glanced at the fanfiction.net section for Free! today, just to see what sorts of things people were writing for it, and the first thing I saw was a second-person fic pairing the reader up with Haru. Normally, such things would make me roll my eyes; this time, I just shrugged and thought, Well, that makes sense. Free! might as well erect a giant flashing sign saying IT'S OKAY TO FANTASISE ABOUT THESE BOYS; I can't make myself begrudge its watchers that freedom.
There is something about Free! that puzzles me, and that thing is Rin. Rin used to be friends with our heroes, and then he disappeared for a few years, and when he returned he was a mysterious brooding arsehole with an intense 'destined rival' dynamic with the main character. By 'intense', you may suspect I mean 'homoerotic'; you would, of course, be correct. On paper, he seems like he would be a fan favourite.
And yet it doesn't work. Rin is dull. And I don't understand why. How did Free! manage to screw up the 'brooding arsehole destined rival' character? What is it about Rin that causes him to fail in that regard? What is he missing? I cannot work it out. Is it just that he seems to have been constructed with the aim of creating a fan favourite? Fandom does like to be contrary, after all.
Still, we're only four episodes in, so maybe Rin will become more interesting. We'll see!