Following last episode’s reveal, we learn more about Sousuke’s shoulder injury, which has been prevailing him for a good two years now. After finally making the decision to stop swimming, Sousuke witnesses Rin’s relay at the regionals, giving him the new dream of at least wanting to swim with Rin one more time, even if it means wrecking his shoulder.
It seems like the good drama we experienced last episode was bound to continue, as we head out of stupid bullshit and into real life problems such as shoulder injuries which happen to completely ruin some dreams. This episode was dramatic, emotional, thrilling, and really awesome in Free! standards.
Sousuke’s shoulder injury brought in much more drama than expected. Unlike the usual, generic “Oh-noes-my-dream-is-over” dialogue between Rin and Sousuke, what we got was a mature overview on the issue from Sousuke: “what’s next?” Sousuke’s response was pretty much set in stone already when we learned about his injury, preventing most cheesy tears from falling down on the main victim’s face and moving on to the aftermath of a breakdown and the reaction of the people around him.
What really brought in the emotional part of the episode, however, was Rin’s reaction to it all. With the understanding that Rin considers Sousuke as a serious swimming rival, a long time friend and a partner, it’s easy to imagine how difficult it would be for him to accept that the person he cares for would suddenly be unable to follow his lifelong dream. The only part where things got a little too emotional for my non-shipping self was when tears started streaming down his face, which once again brought back the innuendoes in my mind and took out the serious tone which was all over the episode so far.
What followed next surprised me immensely with its quality and entertainment value. Ignoring the unrealistic aspects where Iwatobi High magically surpassed all other regional teams without a hitch while Samezuka High finished second despite having Sousuke literally stop swimming for a few seconds, the relay race showed absolutely awesome water animation, even better than the usual fluidity we get in this show, as well as some clear epic moments which made the episode a lot more thrilling than the others. After the sad moment with Sousuke, we got a huge contrast with the excitement of the relay, throwing our emotions from one side to another, and making the thrill ride even more fun.