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

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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?


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Karandi James