Feature: A little too real (or why I’m putting Free on hold)

free promotional image 1

A little while back I started watching Free. It was an anime that I’d heard all the hype about and utterly and completely ignored. Good looking guys swimming. Whatever. Anyway, given over the last 12 months I finally started giving sports anime a go, and given I’ve found quite a few anime that didn’t normally fit into my preconceived notion of their genre, I finally decided to give Free a look. Unfortunately, I won’t be finishing Free this year so I won’t be reviewing it as a series, but I kind of felt I needed to explain why. So not so much a feature today as a brief explanation.

I’ve gotten to episode 6 and this is where I’m leaving this series for the time being. And it isn’t because it hasn’t been interesting or engaging. In fact, I’ve really loved the episodes I’ve watched. The characters are actually surprisingly interesting and have a lot more depth than I would have assumed from anything I’d seen prior to watching the series.

The story is pretty basic but it is the characters driving the show. It’s pretty to look at (and I’m not just talking about the guys) and the music is fantastically well suited to the show. All of this means that if you were sitting on the fence about watching Free, I’d recommend at least giving it a go. Maybe it won’t grab you but it certainly isn’t the vapid viewing experience I assumed I was getting into.

So why am I putting Free on hold?

My reason for putting this on hold is personal. I have issues with water and particularly with drowning. Normally, this doesn’t interfere with my viewing experience.


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Watch Another. Characters go to the beach and start messing around. It’s a horror anime and nobody died yet that episode. Of course this was going to end tragically. The biggest surprise in that sequence was that it wasn’t actually a drowning. That sort of anime doesn’t try to get you emotionally invested in the characters and the deaths are sensationalized to the point where you don’t really feel it as a death. No issues watching that.

Going into Free, particularly once I realised there was a character who couldn’t swim at first, I expected them to have a near drowning encounter. I kind of expected this to be quasi-dramatic and then maybe we’d get the start of a mouth to mouth sequence that would lead us into a typical anime moment of blushing or whatever. I expected that and I expected to be just fine with it when it happened.

Then they go to the ocean. Taking a character who has only just learned to swim into the ocean? Right. Now I’m concerned.

And then that character chooses to go in alone, at night.

While I like that anime can given an emotional response, anxiety is not the emotion I’m really looking for. I did get through the sequence and I did watch the next episode just to confirm that all the characters are in fact fine, but right now every time I think about finishing series I just kind of see him going under, the first rescuer freezing, the others coming in, and it all just is too much for me.

I’m going to give Free some credit for actually making me care about the characters and their situation enough that nearly drowning someone had that much impact on me. And I am going to go back and finish this eventually. But for now, I’m giving myself space from it so I’ll probably pick it up again next year sometime.

Not much of a feature, sorry, but I do have to ask: Were there any anime that hit too close for you?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

19 thoughts on “Feature: A little too real (or why I’m putting Free on hold)

  1. Ah, yeah, I’m a little TOO late here, haha.
    But, yeah, I completely understand why you’d stop an anime for that reason. More times than not I find myself relating to characters and caring for them so much that I actually worry about characters. It happens so much so, that it’s actually beginning to creep me out.
    I discontinued LIFE for pretty much the same reason, the only difference being I sort of had an idea of what I was getting into (I mean no one can be too sure with LIFE, but…) Seiyuu ka! had hit a little too close to heart than warranted, as did Your Lie in April.
    But I think, one of the other manga like LIFE, despite it being in a different genre all together is Sayonara Football. Honestly, it was a little too concerning about how I got into that manga so much I actually lost track of reality.
    I never actually thought I would begin to fear reading( one of my favourite pass time) manga and books….

    Thanks for sharing, and sorry again for taking a year to get to this, lol.

    1. No problem and thanks for the comment. Yeah, a year on and I haven’t gotten back to it so I think it is safe to say that I’ve just put this on permanent hold. Which is a shame, because while it wasn’t going to be a favourite ever show, it was actually better than I expected and I would have liked to stick it out.

      1. Oh, that’s sort of sad.
        I haven’t exactly tried Free yet, even though I say I’m a sports manga fan. Well, maybe it’s precisely BECAUSE of that, Free doesn’t have a manga after all!
        Still, if you do get back to it, hope you enjoy it!

  2. Erased triggered regrets for me when I saw how lonely Kayo was. I remembered some people like that back in high school as well as some of the friends I “shed” when I found new friends going to a new grade. I wonder how much I hurt old friends or how much I could have helped a lonely person if I just reached out to them. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  3. Hell Girl, episode 18, “Bound Girl”. I have season one on dvd, but I’ve only ever seen the episode once. I’ve never been able to watch it again. If you are an animal lover, you’ll get it.

    The entire rest of the series didn’t bother me, just that one episode.

    1. My answer’s the same. I love animals but have a soft spot for dogs in particular. It didn’t help that the dogs in the episode in question somewhat resembled my own. That was a depressing episode even by Hell Girl’s standards.

  4. Although it never stopped me finishing it, and actually made me appreciate the series more, Kiznaiver hit me so close to home that I actually freaked out for a while because of how much I saw my high school years as it went on.

    The main characters life, outside of experiments etc, was identical to my teenage years, right down to the personality and need to connect with others.

    The group of main characters who all became friends were completely identical to my real life group of friends from high school, right down to their personality traits and the drama and emotional conflicts they all went through was very reminiscent of our own drama and how our group fell apart towards the end of our school life.

    It’s not an exact replica for obvious reasons, but there are so many parallels between Kiznaiver and my teenage years that it actually freaks me out.

  5. Yikes. I can completely understand wanting to set the series aside for now. I can’t swim very well myself, so I don’t think I would ever go out into the ocean alone. Hopefully you will be able to get through the rest of it at some later time when you’re comfortable as I was looking forward to your review.

    Your comment section is going to sound like a broken record now, but I was also hit hard by Your Lie in April. Though I was quite the amateur when it comes to music (violin), Kousei’s self doubt and reluctance to express himself really resonated with me. While most viewers might have cheered him on to perform or profess his feelings, I felt just as afraid as he did when trying to approach these difficult tasks. It’s one of the many reasons that this anime was the first to move me emotionally and it took me a long time to feel normal afterward.

    1. It may be a broken record but it is clear why so many people hole Your Lie in April up as a great anime. The story itself is okay, but it is the emotional journey Kousei is on that really get’s to viewers.

  6. Wow, first off, my compliments for sharing such a personal and truly emotional post. I have not watched the series myself, but I can definitely understand how something like that can trigger such a response for you. In one way that is ofcourse great that a show can do that, but on the other hand if it hits too close to home, it might trigger a response that you would not normally want to see in a show that you watch for entertainment.
    A show that hit me on a personal level was Orange. I know you did not really like the show, and I ofcourse respect that. But for me it got me thinking back on some decisions I made and regret, especially in relationships and not having more courage in them. As I said in one of the answers in my Award post I can be a pretty shy guy and occasionally have a pretty low opinion of myself. I have definitely grown in that regard, but watching a show like Orange made me a bit melancholy and reflect back on the past.
    Anyway, as I said, thanks for sharing such a personal post: you have my respect 😀

    1. I can see how Orange would work like that. I’ve read some reviews from other bloggers who felt Orange made them think back or they could see some of themselves in one of the characters or another.
      I think that’s what is great about stories. People respond to them differently because of what they bring to the story rather than just what the story is about.

  7. I hae to agree with Your Lie in April – as a struggling musician, it hit home with me with all of the struggles you have trying to make it, the slumps you wind up always having, and how difficult it is to pick yourself back up again after hard times. This one will sound sooo weird, but Welcome to the NHK did it for me too, because at the time I was a major recluse and it definitely helped me get through some stuff.

  8. I’m sorry that Free triggered that kind of response. I’ve also heard that the Light Novel it’s based on is actually a lot darker than the anime depicts..and I’ve read some excerpts that have been translated and the story is intense for a group of kids that are in middle school! I’m actually a pretty die-hard free fan – and not because of “fan service”

    Hmm, in terms of the an anime that hit too close to home…I can’t recall one off the top of my head. But Your Lie in April definitely stands out. Kousei’s anxiety as a performer hit home as I’d been a part of band from middle school all the way through high school. Even getting into the Chamber ensemble caused anxiety because it just kept getting more and more difficult to play. I ended switching to another instrument so I could stay in chamber when it got too difficult

    1. Your Lie In April definitely reminded me why I hated performing when I was younger. It really nailed that feeling of absolute panic you sometimes feel when you are on the stage.

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