No one was surprised that Free! got a second season, but I was sure surprised to see a season called “Eternal Summer” start in the middle of winter.
It makes some sense—no one on the Iwatobi team was a third-year (and thus in danger of graduating), but their rivals at Samezuka had to say farewell to their captain and introduce a new one. Which, to absolutely no one’s surprise (except maybe his own), is Rin Matsuoka, the series’ antagonist from last season. The air seems to have cleared between Iwatobi and Samezukua since the final race last summer (even if I’m still bitter about Rin replacing Rei in the relay), as the Iwatobi team gets a friendly welcome from Samezuka the minute they walk through the door for a visit. Even the tension between Rin and Haru seems to have settled into more of an amiable rivalry than an uncomfortable, antagonistic competition. There’s lots of laughter, and even the charged looks at the start of races are offset by high-fives afterwards.
There are some nice bookmarks, as well: this season’s first episode starts out almost exactly the same as the first season’s first episode, and Haru remains just as water/swimming-obsessed as before. Plus, almost all of the ridiculousness from the first season returns—including Gou’s obsession with muscles, the various ridiculous swimsuits, and Haru wearing his jammers underneath his clothes.
With the main trio starting their third and final year, the obvious “what are you doing next?” question comes up; this, coupled with upcoming nationals, looks to be the main theme for the boys’ “eternal summer.” Well, that and dealing with the new character, Sousuke, who seems to have some history with the Iwatobi club and has just joined Samezuka alongside Rin.
The background music is still just as strange, with dubstep popping up at random. The openings and endings remain as angsty and ridiculous as their predecessors, but at least the animation is still gorgeously smooth. Strokes are perfect, and there’s a scene of Haru rotating his cupped hand to initiate pull-down that made me clutch my chest. Let’s be real—I’m here for the swimming animation; the absolute ridiculousness of the series is just a bonus.