This review took me quite some time to write as so many things were covered in this episode, my thoughts were jumbled. But here I am, ready to talk about it.
Let’s start by pointing out the clear attempt of the plot at trying to make us ship Haru and Ikuya for some reason. I knew there had to be some kind of friendship drama, what would be Free! otherwise, but the drama here is more reminiscent of two lovers who awkwardly broke up and are only now seeing each other again after years, reminding me a lot of Haru and Rin back in season 1. Haru felt guilty about not telling Ikuya he had quit swimming especially after promising to race him and also knowing how much Ikuya looks up to him, does that ring a bell? It’s again reminiscent of Rin, who also felt lost and hurt when Haru couldn’t decide on what to do with his life. What exactly is the plot doing? I’m not saying that as a bad thing, but it’s simply very similar to what we’ve already seen.
The next topic I want to discuss, is the seemingly jealous Hiyori. This guy did not want to let Haru and his friends meet with Ikuya, and did everything to stop them from meeting. But fate was not having it, she intervened, and although it was for a moment, Haru and Ikuya met alone, the latter was very cold to his former friend and did not even take Haru’s apology seriously and dismissed it, they were then interrupted by the pest Hiyori once more who straight up ended the conversation by taking Ikuya away. (he is just jealous Ikuya only has eyes for Haru. He can grab multiple seats)
Finally, it seems the plot is foreshadowing a development in Haru, because, as seen in the episode, Ikuya has mastered all of the main forms of swimming, Rin and Ikuya’s brother are going to train under the same coach, they’re most likely going to improve their swimming, and here is Haru, same old Haru with his same old talent. The saying “no amount of talent can trump hard work” comes into play here. The fact that Haru’s rivals are seemingly improving themselves so much, regardless of how good Haru is, he will be left behind if he doesn’t do anything about his talent. The foreshadowing I mentioned earlier refers to when an unknown man, most likely Ikuya’s swim team manager, asked Haru to think about swimming something other than Freestyle, naturally Haru quickly dismissed it as to him there is nothing but Freestyle. However, he either is going to have to perfect the freestyle in a way that outmatches anyone else’s despite their training, or broaden his abilities by incorporating other swimming methods. Whatever it is, Haru will eventually have to step up his game because his rivals aren’t playing around. That will be it for this episode, Thank you for reading.