High☆Speed!: Free! Starting Days [Movie Review]
ハイ☆スビード！Free! Starting Days
Aired: Dec 5, 2015
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genres: School,Slice of Life, Sports
To be totally honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the Free! franchise on Earth. I sure enjoy those hot looking water bishounens but that’s it. I’ve watched the two seasons of the anime but was put off a bit by the amount of drama happening. Season 2 for instance, had for me way too much drama that I could handle. So I was doubtful before starting this movie, will it have less drama than Eternal Summer? Was there some sort of story behind it or was it just a “fan service” product?
I’ve tried to make this review a non spoilery, so no worries if you haven’t watched the movie yet!
Well, nothing ground breaking but it was to be expected. If I had to sum the plot in a few words it would be: Haru is having social issues, gets involved into a swimming team and meets with a cast of too attractive for their age guys, he also thinks of Rin, a lot. There you go, that’s basically the plot of season 1 right?
To be more precise, Free!Starting Days shows the beginning of Haru and Makoto’s middle school days and their first participation in a relay team, other than the one they used to be in with Nagisa and Rin. More than that, this movie shows the changes that are happening in their daily life and especially in Haru’s one, since he is somehow forced to emancipate from his old friends. By being in a different class than Makoto and Rin being a different country, Haru can’t rely on other people anymore and has to find motivation on his own, a problematic thing for him since Haru is a bit… unnh… Un-motivated?
Anyway, he is recruited to be a part of the middle school swimming club by Natsuya Kirishima who’s a steaming hot third year.
And when I mean steaming hot, I really mean it….
Natsuya is such a “good” character ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
So Haru enters the club without any real motivation and is put in a relay team with Makoto, Ikuya and Asahi. However, Haru doesn’t want to be a part of the team, mostly because he misses his old team with Rin and Nagisa. More than that, all the kiddos in the swimming club can’t manage to do their transitions very well and have find a way to trust each other, to “connect” in order to perform well. How to do that? Well, they’ll have to solve their individual problems and learn how to work as a team.
Like the two seasons, Free!’s appeal, other than the shirtless hot guys, is the dura-dura-durama, and drama, there’s a lot. Drama about friendship, motivation, change, family conflicts and stuff, Free!Starting Days has a lot to offer. But the nice thing about it? It’s not over-used. Maybe it has to do with the movie being shorter than an actual season but to me, the drama wasn’t too heavy. Every character’s issues were shown and partially solved with the same amount of care and time. The movie doesn’t spend too much time on drama and heart breaking scenes and balances each one of them with some good comedy and thrilling races. You won’t soak your tissues nor shout in despair :” MAKE IT EEEEND! EEEND THEIR SUFFERING! AND MINE AS WELL” or ” OH COME ON! JUST KISS ALREADY!” like I did while watching Eternal Summer. Man, the drama was way too heavy.
As expected, the characters are pretty solid. Well, to me, Free! is more a slice of life anime than an actual sports anime, so I expected them to present us a solid cast and indeed, they did. There’s a huge cast of characters and the movie does a respectable job at developing them.
So of course we have Haru, who is in a period of change. He is in a different class than Makoto and not in the same school as Rin who left for Australia so you can say he’s pretty lost. But other than that, Haru doesn’t really change from the actual series, he’s still unwilling to do things and has troubles opening to other people. He doesn’t want to be in a team, he’s cold and sad about the lost of his
boyfriend number 1 Rin. So I guess he was always like that, nothing horrible happened to him and made him the way he is in the series. He’s just born dead inside or at least really lost in life.
Makoto’s case was more interesting. In the movie, Makoto is confused about his motivations. Does he really like swimming or is he just in the club because Haru is there? To me the movie focused more on Makoto than Haru, which is a good thing since I’ve always thought I’d like to see more of Makoto, and to see him being something else than Haru’s supportive
There’s also some cameos: Nagisa for instance, who is even more shota than before, being cute, running and shouting everywhere. Rei appears or a bit too, but his presence isn’t that relevant. There’s also the appearance of Shigino Kisumi: A guy who apparently was in Free!Eternal Summer but to be honest, I had completely forgotten his existence.
AND HOW WAS I ABLE TO FORGET HIS EXISTENCE?!
I DON’T KNOW!
IT’S NOT A CHARACTER THAT YOU CAN FORGET EASILY!
SEE WHAT I MEAN?!
Anyway, he’s in the Basketball Club, and sadly his character isn’t very developed. It’s quite a shame because I really like this kid, he’s so adorable as a kid and freaking hot in the series…
Finally, there’s also Sousuke who is pissed off by things, like usual. However, we are getting some actual backstory with his appearance which is a nice thing, since that makes him more than a cameo just for the fans.
Now the movie introduced two new kids that are a part of the relay team as well and whom I find more interesting than Haru or Makoto: Ikuya and Asahi.
Shiina Asahi appears like a comic relief first and a guy really motivated about things. But he can’t swim free for shit. Which actually makes him a really self-conscious guy who has trouble dealing with pressure and feels frustrated by his failures.
Then there’s Ikuya who has some sort of brother complex and who’s afraid of being left alone. In other words, he’s a sweet little bun and needs to be protected at all costs.
Finally, there’s also the appearance of the two Senpais of the club: Natsuya and Nao, whom presence are not as important as the rest of the cast but who are pleasing and interesting characters. Natsuya, [other than being hot as hell] is Ikuya’s brother and is concerned about him and worried about the growing distance between the two of them. And there’s Nao the adviser of the group, helping some characters to solve their problems.
I can’t really say much about all the characters since that would be some spoileeeeers.
What I liked the most was the use of all that drama to develop the characters, a thing that, normally should be obvious but that is not always the case. Here, all that drama wasn’t for nothing but served a purpose: developing the characters. The protagonists have a problem, shit happens, shit gets solved, they move on and grow stronger. Simple, quick, effective, this is like it should be.
Well, That’s Kyoto Animation. Do I need to say anything more? It’s beautiful, it’s just wow… the backgrounds are wow and the characters are …. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah… just too pretty for their own good. I mean it… In the main series the guys were like 16 or so and that was a bit red flaggish but now they are 12… I don’t want to end up in jail you know. Especially since that pink hair guy is so freaking cute… dear lord… Kyoto Animation’s power is frightening. We are all going to end up in jail, I swear. Even Natsuya, he’s a third year so that makes him 15 right? 15?! That is NOT the body of a 15 years old guy! Well, it’s not like I usually hang around swimming pools looking at 15’old guys’ bodies but I guess it’s not what it should looks like right? Humm… I’m confused.
The seiyuus are doing a amazing job at at voicing their respective characters. The music blends very well with each sequence, relaxing at times, thrilling during the races and sometimes even oppressing during the drama parts.
Now for the flaws:
Well, it remains basically the same thing as the series. The formula hasn’t changed a bit and I guess while it could please the long time fans, casual watchers like me can feel a bit left off. In other words, it’s nothing brand new, it’s not going to change your world and the way you live your life but it remains solid for what it is. I’ve also mentioned the series having a nice character development and this is where I nuance my point. The character development is nice but it’s nothing extraordinary, really. Everything remains quite predictable so you probably won’t stand at the edge of your sit wondering what’s going to happen next. However it is to be expected, as far as I know Free! doesn’t seek to become some sort of holy masterpiece, which is going to revolutionize the world.
Overall Score: 7/10
Which means it’s a good watch. Nothing memorable on my side, but those two hours did not go to waste.
High☆Speed!: Free! Starting Days is, I think, mostly directed to long time fans of the series but not only. Everyone can watch this movie and understand it, since the “plot” isn’t really complicated. However, I think only fans of the series will be able to catch all the references and meaning of some actions which predict what’s going to happen in the anime series. Since I’m not a big “fan” of free! I feel like I missed some stuff, especially regarding Sousuke and Rin, but those references where not necessary to enjoy the movie.
Overall, Free!Starting Days is a nice summer movie, refreshing and fun, which will make you smile and laugh. Also if you’re a shipper, there’s some cool “oooh fufufufu”moments, as I like to call them. Well, that’s not my case but I have quite a perverted mind so I can see those “oooh fufufu” moments. However I don’t think it’s really bothering if you’re not into that, it’s not like they are jumping on each other, touching each other all over the place… It’s more like: you see it if you want to see it, you ship it if you want to ship it, it is all in your head.
Anyway, in my opinion, Free!Starting Days doesn’t seek to be anything more than a relaxing slice of life anime with cute guys and succeeds in that aspect, offering us a pleasant movie and a good prequel to the series.