Okay yeah, this seems like a bit of an odd choice, but I rather enjoyed Free!. It’s not that I liked watching muscular teenage boys bring their chiseled, glistening bodies together at least once an episode, though if I were into that (which I most assuredly am not), it would certainly be a huge point in the show’s favor (but it’s not because I’m not into that, shut up).
KyoAni has always embedded its male-male friendships with a distinct undercurrent of homoeroticism, so actually giving a reason for it by forcing shirtless males together means that it’s willing to cram as much goofy fanservice in as physically possible, without outright shoving the characters’ amazing abs into the audience’s face (I wouldn’t have liked that anyway).
I enjoy the lighthearted way with which the show carries itself. It really feels like everybody involved (particularly the gals) had a good time putting the show together, making it as much for themselves as they did for the viewers. Nothing better exemplifies Free!’s exemplary utilization of whimsy than Splash Free, which has wormed its way into being the most iconic ED of the year.
My favorite part of every episode of Free was the ending, and that isn’t anywhere near as snide as it sounds. I feel that I could just leave that embedded video and call it a day, since J-Pop set to studs alternately primping in flamboyant Middle Eastern garb and dancing in letterman jackets sells itself. Free! is a show that just wants to have fun, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its retelling of Haruka’s journey through the blistering Arabian desert, braving the elements while his friends upend pitchers of water onto their heads with rapturous joy. It’s by far one of the most perfect EDs ever conceived.