Anime: Free! - Take Your Marks
Released By: Funimation Films
In Theatres: March 14, 2018
The insanely popular anime juggernaut Free! Eternal Summer by Kyoto Animation was revealed to anime lovers in 2013 and it became an overnight sensation. There had been several sports series already, but Free! Instantly captured the hearts of countless fangirls (and even fanboys) for the swimming series that brought a group of diverse semi-athletes together to challenge themselves, one another, and perceptions of fan service. What was labeled a “pretty boy” anime was licensed by Funimation, introducing this core cast of half dressed simmers that has since ignited a craze of cosplay, fan fiction, various seasons and now even a feature length film to remind us of its popularity that is very much alive and well.
The first two seasons of Free really established the characters as four distinct roles, some naive or some more serious, but all going through their own progression towards maturity. It begins in a high school setting, with the series lead Haru being the quiet swimmer whose life revolves around the sport. Wether he’s rivaling his old friend Rin or warming up to his potential love connection (and series MVP) Makoto, the one thing that we know is solid is his devotion to swimming. Makoto is still the soft spoken character who becomes a pillar of support for his friends, becoming a character that deserves the best - yet for the most part feels placed on the backburner by Haru. After graduating, the two became even closer and take their next steps in life together along with the confusion that many go through post-school - leading us to the new film Free! - Take Your Marks.
Take Your Marks stays true to the name, really finding the opportunity to setup the stage for what’s next. It feels like that prep-time in life (which can be related to the sport) where you are preparing yourself as much as possible. We have Haru struggling to find a place that could feel like home, Nagisa and Rei try to elevate themselves to a power position to keep the Iwatobi swim club active, and Makoto continues to be supportive but accidentally discovers a possible direction for his career. There additionally is focus on Rin who is preparing to move to Australia, giving more time to show his team/friends who want to solidify their bonds. Between the former Iwatobi team and Rin’s group, Take Your Marks make the effort to give us a little guidance on where our favorite anime swimmers are at this point in their life with nice nuances to suggest changes are coming soon.
For the most part, Free! Take Your Marks brings a new transition point for the anime. When we first came to know the series almost five years ago, it was known that this would be a high school swim team. After such success, the prequel films were made but it could still be said that they had stories to tell in a present/future setting. With a confirmed third season debuting this coming July, Take Your Marks makes much more sense as a film. It isn’t quite a complete story, but it is absolutely essential to aid viewers before the next installment in a few months. For those fans expecting it to be just like the anime, the spirit is still the same but it comes more from a real-life point of view with everyday difficulties or success for them - but also goes through the motions of growing up and how it can change your connection to people. For being such a fun, passionate sport series, it shows great strengths for trying different creative choices this far into the anime. After experiencing the anime series and now the film, I can tell that this franchise will soon dive into even more serious notions of adulthood and competitiveness by hinting that we will one day see some of the characters participate in an Olympic Games.
The animation from the Free! Franchise has always been one to appreciate. The visuals include bright brilliance, especially when including the many scenes that require fluidity of water and beauty of the surroundings (the cherry blossom pool scenes are magnificent.) We finally get to see different settings in this particular creation, giving Kyoto new attributes that are a taste at what the outside world of Free could look like soon enough. As of now, the movie is in its original Japanese audio with English subtitles, capturing the characters’ essence that we can expect from the high quality production of Free! For fans of the franchise, this is a great way to re-introduce yourself to the series, or even new fans who hope to discover a sports anime with signs of maturity. Free is, and continues to be an anime staple, not only for sports centered series but as evidence of how powerful fandoms can keep their favorite stories alive.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- Free is back with another reminder of why it’s such a success.
- Fans of the franchise will appreciate the notions of growth and change for their favorites, setting up another intriguing season in the summer.