Tuesday, 16 December 2014

イナズマイレブン / Inazuma Eleven: seasons IV & V

I’ve come to realize that whoever labelled these ‘seasons’ of Inazuma 11 was going purely by the different opening sequences, labelling a new season each time the song and animation changed. That isn’t what makes a new anime season, but never mind – I’ve started this way, so I might as well finish. On the other hand, it didn’t seem worth doing just ‘season IV’ when the next one was very much a continuation of the same arc, so I’ve combined four and five. The sixth and final ‘season’ is still the same arc, but as we finally saw the back of Kabeyama here, it seems a good breaking-off point.

After defeating the meteor-powered kids masquerading as aliens, and the new adorably-unitarded dark team made up of former Raimon Eleven members, only one challenge awaits the team: to be the best in the world.

Luckily, the ‘Football Frontier International’ tournament is in place for them to compete for just that title. This is the first of its kind, with the best youth footballers of the world competing to stand on the highest possible level (bar real aliens appearing). First, our beloved characters must compete for a place on the team, which is by no means assured. A mysterious new coach selects the team not just from Raimon members, but from their old rivals too, making for some tensions within the ranks – all of which are resolved with lots of delicious melodrama. There are some new characters too, most notably one yankii kid with a hilarious pompadour who can’t play football at all (but has a mysterious nullifying power) and the adorable Toramaru. Toramaru is a lot like Gon from HunterxHunter in looks and personality, with great skills and an adorable boy-crush on Goenji – and hasn’t been seen before simply because he’s an elementary school student!
Once the team is finalized, they have to qualify in the regional tournament. Here come some small surprises, most notably that Aphrodi, of ‘God Knows’ fame, is not Japanese, nor Greek...but Korean. Well, why not?
The real fun begins after qualification. Hilariously, this football competition is such a big deal that an entire island has been converted so that each team and its supporters can stay in an area that looks like their home country. So riding the bus around the island, one goes from areas reminiscent of Japan to Italy to Argentina to England.
The first rounds of the competition are dramatic. England are particularly amusing, their team ‘Knights of Queen’ having some amusing techniques involving Excalibur and suchlike. On the other hand, perhaps fittingly given our usual World Cup performance, they are the first losers of the tournament. Inazuma Eleven lose to Argentina because of Kageyama’s machinations, but scrape through qualification thanks to the points system and securing a draw with Italy – who the audience sympathizes with because they were manipulated by Kabeyama, yet also manage to finally bring out his humanity. Just in time for him to be arrested and face justice.
There’s lots of nice personal drama too. The new coach, just like the last one, makes mysterious decisions that the team only understand when they gain a deeper understanding. The new female manager has amnesia thanks to a tragic past that Endou’s strong heart can save her from. Adorable Tachimukai must overcome being imitative and make his own techniques, which Endou himself also has to think about since his techniques come from his grandfather’s notes. Italy have their own issues, not just with Kageyama but with their absent captain, though cute and highly skilled second-in-command Fideo can bring the team together. Then there’s the American team, where of course prior teammates Ichinose and Domon are good enough to have made the team and can clash with their old nakama. Kabeyama finally upgrades THE WALL to THE MOUNTAIIIIN. Then there are the former female Raimon members: it isn’t actually mentioned at any point, but only male team members can participate, so the girls come as...yup, supporters to cheer from the sidelines. Oh well. In fairness this kind of tournament would have been gender-segregated.

The other plot strands that will be going into the final ‘season’ are the fact that Endou’s famous grandfather is still alive, and already met Endou when he was driving around with tire in his truck (though Endou of course didn’t realize who he was talking to), and that the organizers of the tournament are clearly shady types who have an evil ulterior motive. And then sadly that will be it for this particular team.

But the Inazuma Eleven saga doesn’t end there. We’ll have a little timeskip and continue with Inazuma Eleven Go! and a whole new main cast. Will I keep watching? Damn straight I will. I love the brainless enjoyment of this daft little show. When I’m done with it I’ll probably have to go on to Youkai Watch for the same kind of enjoyment. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Une Vie de Chat / A Cat’s Life / A Cat in Paris

Une Vie de Chat is an Oscar-nominated French feature film. It was notable for being one of two foreign-language films nominated (alongside Chico and Rita) in the 2012 Academy Awards – which in my view was a very weak year for Best Animated Film. The main competitors were Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2, which while enjoyable were hardly typical Oscar candidates, and the winner was inexplicably Rango. Though I don’t know if they met the eligibility criteria (being released in US cinemas etc), I’d call Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha and Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild far more deserving of the gong than any of the nominated films. But hey, let us not forget who the Academy voters are.

In principle, Une Vie de Chat is the kind of film I should enjoy – though I’m confused by the French title, which doesn’t sound quite right to me (One Life of Cat? Not La Vie d’un Chat?). It uses story-book style visuals – a little ugly but distinctive and nostalgic – and tells a fun story. At night, a cat-burglar named Nico sneaks into museums and houses to steal jewels. He is accompanied on his nightly ventures by a rather ugly cat. But the cat does not belong to him. In fact, the cat’s owner is little Zoé, a sweet young girl who has been left dumb by the trauma of the murder of her father, a police officer. Zoé’s mother Jeanne is also a police officer, and hot on the trail of her husband’s killer – the dastardly gangster Victor Costa. When Zoé overhears her babysitter and Costa’s gang plotting to steal a priceless work of art, a deadly chase kicks off – and Zoé finds an unlikely ally in the thief Nico.

It’s a fun story and rolls along well. The only thing that I really felt was omitted was some recognition that while he was a thief with a heart of gold, Nico was still a criminal and no matter how much he helps a little girl and might just contribute to a happily-ever-after ending, he should have had to pay for his crimes. I also felt a little bad about how Jeanne seemed very quick to leave behind the memory of her late husband. But there’s a nice balance here between making the characters likeable and flawed. There’s actually something a bit more sinister about a gangster who’s a bit ridiculous than a cackling evil mastermind: it really does feel like there can be characters like Costa in the world, unhinged, petty and quick to violence whenever they look foolish.

But I have to say that I have problems with the ugliness of the film. There is charm to the story-book or comic strip designs. But everyone but Zoé is so hideous that over the term of a whole film it really starts to grate. I disliked the flickering colouring made to emulate on computer the style of hand-coloured animations like The Snowman – it looked affected and fake. This story is straightforward and offers very little that is unique to animation, so really needed beauty to distinguish it. While it had its own charm, I would not call that beauty. And that keeps me at an extra step of removal from this show. It looks like a 5-minute 70s animation spun out into a feature, and it does not benefit from it.

I like quite a lot about Une Vie de Chat. The tone, the concept, the setting. But I fell in love with nothing at all...and that is a real problem. Weirder, more experimental and far more beautiful animations like Le Jour des Corneilles have much more to offer. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

夏目友人帳肆 / Natsume Yuujinchou Shi / Natsume’s Book of Friends season 4 (plus OVA)

It’s been two and a half years since the end of Natsume Yuujinchou season 4, which is the longest gap yet between seasons, with only the OVA about a weird snowman creature at the beginning of this year since, but I’m still hoping there’ll be more made yet, because I very much enjoy this world, these characters and the bittersweet atmosphere throughout.

As I made clear in my reviews of other seasons, this is actually where I began watching. I simply assumed the action started in medias res and until the appearance of Natori – clearly known to Natsume but lacking a proper introduction – I didn’t even realize I hadn’t started at the beginning.

So yes, the first and the last Natsume Yuujinchou I saw was from this season, but I don’t regret that. I saw some of the best episodes early on, because this is a good series and I’m glad I got hooked. The extreme cuteness of the opening sequence helped, too – because it, like much of this season, is focused on finally fleshing out some of Natsume’s past.

There are plenty of smaller-scale episodes: one with a little furball resembling a tribble, one where Natsume gets shrunk and put in a jar so Nyanko-sensei has to go to school looking like him. Then there’s a slightly more serious couple of episodes where he has to impersonate a god and take part in a contest to prevent an environmental disaster.

But the heart and soul of this season are links to Natsume’s past. Links through old friends and old mementos, but chiefly a visit to his old home, where he once lived with his late parents. It’s very sweet, really – this somewhat damaged young man who now has good friends thinking back over his difficult past. He was always ostracised for his strange behaviour when he was forced to interact with invisible spirits in front of other people. He made the other kids in his foster homes ostracise him and would often disappear. His coming-of-age story is particularly significant not just because he found a loving home – which is touching enough – but because he’s also at an age where he can have a degree of independence. He may well still behave oddly at times, but he doesn’t need to be protected so much.  

While this is progress, it still feels like there’s a whole lot of real story yet to be revealed. I know there’s a manga to read, and one day I may go seek it out. But I’d like to see more animated. Brain’s Base got progressively...gentler with how they animate this show. Things looked more and more clean, smooth and delicate and that made things just a little prettier with each season.

We still have more to learn about Natsume’s parents, about the guild of exorcists who have taken an interest in him, and of course – though we may never get there – whether or not Natsume will keep his end of the bargain up when it comes to giving Madara the book when the time comes. It would be a very sad epilogue if the series ended there, and I don’t think it would need to, but it could certainly be very affecting done well.

I grew to very much like this anime over its four seasons. I sincerely hope I get to enjoy more. Especially of the lil’ fox boy! GODDAMN HE’S TOO CUTE.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

ナルト/ Naruto (manga)

It finally ended. After fifteen years, and overstaying its welcome by at least eight, one of the pillars of anime and manga of the last few decades has come to an end. Shounen Jump has lost one of its more recognisable figureheads, and I no longer feel compelled to complain every week about a new chapter of rushed plotting or emotion-free battles between giant blob-creatures.

As I mentioned in my review of the pre-timeskip anime seriesNaruto is deeply unfashionable. But I will defend it to the ground. Of its fifteen years, I’ve been following it for twelve-ish. Twelve years of my life with these characters, at least once a week, and most times two. That’s pretty remarkable. A large chunk of the crowd at any anime crowd will have been learning to spell ‘cat’ when I started to read Naruto. So my perspective is a little different from the average, I guess.

That, I think, is why I’m keen to defend it. Or at least, what it was. Post-timeskip, Naruto was largely an emotionally flat, highly contrived, rather ugly series of battles between uninteresting men with an inflated sense of self-importance. But it wasn’t like that to begin with. Which is why, once again, I think that in a few years’ time it will be rehabilitated and remembered fondly – just as happened with Dragonball. When I first joined the anime fandom, Dragonball was hated for GT and the prolonged screaming matches of Dragonball Z. Now it’s largely adored, primarily on the strength of the first series and the early parts of Dragonball Z. I expect the same will happen with Naruto when its best parts come into focus again.

Because I maintain that early Naruto was genuinely good. It was about ninja kids who were weak but ingenious, and who had people ready to push them, challenge them and if need be, protect them. Back then, it was largely a school drama.

Naruto himself was an intentionally annoying brat, while Sasuke was uppity and smug. Yet both were likeable and oddly cute. What made Naruto huge was the quick succession of two story arcs that blended cuteness and silliness with genuine emotionally heavy-hitting moments: first, the battle against Zabuza and Haku, which brilliantly had the enemies be sympathetic thanks to their deep bond and also immediately pitted the kids against someone genuinely dangerous. Naruto had a lot to prove and did it well – even if it had to rely on the cheesy ‘he didn’t really die!’ moment. Kishimoto proved this wasn’t just a one-off by following up with the chuunin exam arc – first, with the compelling character of Gaara, who was tortured, antisocial and merciless. The idea that this was a world of incredibly powerful warriors was cemented, and Orochimaru was a genuine threat in the background. While there was a certain laziness to then going into a tournament arc, as so many series do, Kishimoto did these battles better than most, with almost all of the fights between low-level opponents being won thanks to some genuinely clever little trick. Itachi was an enigma, part of an organization that seemed genuinely threatening and cool (back then), and the summons of the sannin seemed like absurdly powerful, more or less exclusive talents.

It all fell apart around then. Big summons led to bigger and bigger ones, and then the use of tailed beast powers, ending up with dull fights between big blobs. There was a time skip and the characters were no longer underdogs. The tricks were no longer clever because the stakes had to constantly be upped. Naruto couldn’t get away with being annoying because he was adorable any more, and Sasuke just became annoying. Akatsuki were revealed to be largely ridiculous and could mostly be defeated by being made to realize their evil actions were – gasp! – evil. Itachi was given redemption, but not before being made to look completely ridiculous in what should have been a series highlight. The final battle with a very old man and some almost random summoned goddess woman was entirely without tension and the last clash of all, prefigured for fifteen years, was rushed into very unconvincingly, over very quickly and entirely without emotional weight.

Like so many shounen titles – particulary Dragonball and Reborn – as well as a fair number of Western kids’ stories (like Harry Potter), the big problem with Naruto is that it started fun, jokey and cute, then tried to take itself too seriously. It lost the balance and became largely tedious, and unable to have much emotional impact.

Thus, which the classic ‘see-them-as-adults-with-their-kids’ ending of Digimon and yes, Harry Potter had some small smiles in it, mostly for minor characters, I can’t say I’m sad to see this era come to a close. But I remember that Naruto was once great, and that’s the main thing I’ll always take from it.  

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

黒執事・サーカスの書/ Kuroshitsuji: Saakasu no Sho / Black Butler: Book of Circus

Well, at the end of the second season of Kuroshitsuji, which I really didn’t like, I considered the anime finished. There were the strange OVAs, but they were mostly gag side-stories. How could the anime continue? It showed us the inevitable end of the pact between a boy and a demon, and that was the best thing about it.

Meanwhile, the manga continued and got rather better. What a shame, I said, that the anime writers went off on their dreadful tangent about Alois rather than following the manga to its best arc, that revolving around the Noah’s Ark Circus.

Well, the property is still a hot one after all these years. That combination of pretty man/grumpy child paedophilia is still irresistible to the fujoshi and there is after all plenty of manga material yet – though I have to say that apart from Lizzy kicking butt in it, I can’t remember much at all about the arc that follows this one. So A-1 Pictures decided to just shrug off continuity and backstory and plunge into an adaptation of the arc as a stand-alone piece. We can just say that it took place at some point before the end of season 2, right? Honestly, that was probably the best thing they could have done.

I don’t really like Kuroshitsuji, but this arc is as good as it gets. A strong premise, what is effectively Ciel’s backstory finally made plain, and then a morally ambiguous ending where there really aren’t any good guys – this works well. The lack of a strong villain – the antagonist essentially being a crazy, feeble old man – creates a hole filled by the notion that the bad guy is, in fact, Ciel himself. With his demon sidekick, of course.

The set-up is a clever one for the kind of dress-up escapades that this sort of fanbase loves. Ciel, still the ‘Queen’s watchdog’ (despite her having so many incredibly strong people around her who should be able to take care of any business), is sent to investigate the disappearances of children near a circus. To gather information, Ciel and Sebastian pose as performers and thanks to Sebastian’s skills, manage to be accepted. Ciel, meanwhile, is pretty useless, and is very cute taken down a notch or two, teased by the others and striking up a friendship with his kind-hearted roommate. Nicknamed ‘Black’ and ‘Smile’, they get to know the rest of the peculiar cast – including ringmaster Joker, cross-dressing tightrope walker Doll, anachronistically-named trapeze artists Peter and Wendy and my favourite, animal tamer Snake, who has named his numerous serpents after prominent Victorian and pre-Victorian writers: Bronte, Keats, Wordsworth and both Oscar and Wilde. Quite pleasingly, Snake is also not involved in the main conspiracy – and so can appear again later.

‘Black’ strikes up a rivalry with ‘Suit’, a shinigami named William T. Spears who has also infiltrated the circus – indicating to Ciel and co that they’re on the right track – and after a while they find the clues they need to uncover the truth: the circus folk, while good-hearted, are eternally indebted to a rich old man who saved them from street life. However, they do his bidding, kidnapping children for his entertainment. Driven mad by having seen Ciel as a child, as well as his father (whose form Sebastian adopted when he manifested), and realizing he will never be as beautiful as they are, this crazy old man has children put through such suffering their minds break, then has them perform deadly circus tricks, dying horribly while he laughs. Because of his obsession with Ciel, he has also exactly replicated the room where Ciel first made his pact: an old operating theatre-style ritual chamber, with an altar where he was to be sacrificed by mysterious shady occultists, that favourite of Victorian books about demons. Incensed, Godzilla stomps on Bambi, and Ciel is merciless – even with the surviving children, who he considers broken beyond repair.

Meanwhile, the circus members storm the Phantomhive manor, intending to threaten Ciel so he will be easily controlled. However, the staff members are finally able to show how truly formidable – and frightening – they are. This is one of the highlights of the series, and I’d probably rather watch an anime about the exploits of those three than one about Ciel. The shinigami show up to mop up the mess, though their presence is largely extraneous and rather sillier than the rest of the arc, especially with one of them wielding a lawnmower. But I can overlook that, and the comic relief just about works.

As a narrative arc, it has its faults – mainly with the antagonist not really having been much of a threat and very little being at stake to Ciel himself – but overall it’s excellent as part of a larger narrative. It gives Ciel a huge amount more depth, showing him being hapless, being vulnerable, being authoritative and being tyrannical. It shows his dark past and the dark present that has resulted. It fleshes out his staff’s stories and makes them more formidable. But most crucially, it sets up a group of enemies who are very likeable – while they do things they can’t be forgiven for, they have been conditioned from a very young age and have very little choice in their actions. 

The anime will continue – first of all with two OVAs entitled ‘Book of Murder’. If they maintain this quality, I might actually start to like Kuroshitsuji.

Friday, 31 October 2014

ハイキュー!! / Haikyuu!!

If I said another sports anime was my favourite recently, then that didn’t stand for long. Because I fell in love with Haikyuu!! at episode one and basically watched the whole 25-episode season in three days.

I noticed Haikyuu!! figurines all over the place on my most recent trip to Japan, and liking the designs – the main characters represented being Hinata and Kenma – but decided against buying any (or taking chances on the UFO machines for them) because (a) I didn’t know the characters and might have ended up hating them, and (b) slightly embarrassingly, I thought they were actually characters from Kuroko no Basuke.

Haikyuu!! does something rather special, sitting in the middle of the cutesy passionate-boys-bonding thing Inazuma Eleven makes so enjoyable and the rough, relatively gritty, boys-with-issues-finding-purpose-through-sport thing that you find in the likes of Rookies and Slam Dunk. It also has the best rivals-who-become-allies story since Hikaru no Go, with which this series shares much. Since HikaGo remains my favourite manga of all time, that’s high praise.

Haikyuu!! has a classic rival-story opening episode: at a school tournament, there is a gruff and moody elite player, who goes up against a good-hearted, naive go-getter type. They clash but the go-getter is actually a genius and very much impresses the elite. The genius cannot carry the whole team, though, so they lose, but the episode has a deep effect.

A year later, the boys begin high school and discover they are now in the same club. They are chalk and cheese, so are soon at one another’s throats, but it soon becomes clear that the shortcomings of each are balanced by the skills of the other, so they begin to develop a real bond. However, will this allow them to compete with much more established players?

This central relationship is brilliantly-done. Our main character, Hinata, is short for a volleyball player, even mistaken for an elementary school boy at one point, but can jump extremely well and idolizes another short player recognized as brilliant. The secondary character is the tall, extremely intense setter, Kageyama, who has undeniable skills but is seen as very arrogant and hard to get along with. He’s the kind of gruff character I usually dislike, but as he reveals more of his goofy side and is coaxed out of his shell by Hinata – as well as shown that his way of playing is terrible for a team game – he really grew on me, until eventually I came to realise I actually identified with him more than I have with any character since Tomoya in Clannad. That was deeply unexpected, as was how much I enjoyed seeing the interaction between these two. They’re very like Akira and Hikaru in HikaGo, and that’s certainly no bad thing. They spark off each other, and it’s brilliant to watch, and by the time they start to rely on one another it’s like they’re in a comedy routine together. Very sweet.

Very much helping this is the fact that the minor characters are extremely strong. They come from stock, but they are extraordinarily well-developed. The volleyball team also contains a typical yankee, an extremely tall surly bully type, a dependable captain who has an extremely scary side, a wild child even smaller than Hinata, a gentle giant who has great spiking strength but the heart of a coward and an older setter who may not be a genius but has a lot of clever ideas and is very relatable as the underdog.

I very much enjoyed the art style, which was pitched very well. Production I.G. have done a lot of very flashy productions, but this one is more modest, yet moves slickly and captures the manga’s aesthetic well. It is not cutesy or pretty-pretty, and it is not ugly and scratchy, but can pull off elements of both styles without them seeming incongruous. Thus, Hinata and the diminutive libero Nishinoya are very cute, but the yankee types like Tanaka can pull faces right out of Cromartie High School without it seeming bizarre. This allows for both broad and subtle character-based comedy and the some very sweet good-hearted childlike characters, which I very much enjoy seeing together.

The series is of course based on an ongoing manga, and ends at rather a heartbreaking moment, though that makes sense for leaving the audience thirsty for more. This isn’t a feelgood anime where the characters power up to win every match like Inazuma Eleven, but a fairly realistic take on an interesting sport where there aren’t any superpowers – only particular strengths and weaknesses, none of which are infallible.

It’s perhaps telling that not only did Haikyuu!! make me want to try out volleyball, it made me want to go and compete in the sports I’m good at again. I don’t think that I’ll have a hot-blooded rivalry blossoming, but the series captured something of the adrenaline rush of a close competition, and I consider that praiseworthy. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

フリー!エターナルサマー / Free! Eternal Summer

As predicted, there was a second season of Free!. Very probably there will be more, too. And I must say, I didn’t mind. This second season did a lot of things wrong, but a lot of things right as well.

The problem with Kyoto Anime follow-ups is that they often stagnate. The characters are established and liked by the fandom, so we get the likes of K-On!! Where cute girls do cute things. And this continues until the fans get bored and reject the show, which sours any early success.

This series looks badly like it is going in that direction. For the first half, not a lot of swimming happens, and there’s a whole lot of regurgitation. There’s another struggle to find new members (none arrive, at least for the main bulk of this season), worry about what the boys are eating, and a cultural festival where they have to run a foot race in their swim clothes. There are rather dull episodes about each of the characters, usually revolving around a misinterpretation where the others think something serious is going on, which turns out to be nothing. The best of these is when Makoto seems to come to realise that he’s not going to be able to keep up with the prodigies around him but would be better off thinking of becoming a teacher – being naturally good with kids and caring enough to check on their well-being outside his classes.

But what the series does well is to break out of this closed circle and look elsewhere for more interesting stories. The most obvious place to do this is with Rin’s swimming club. Rin himself is developed a lot here, and becomes far more likeable as his story is fleshed out, he begins acting less selfishly and actually does some very kind things for others. We also get new characters, lone wolf Sousuke, brooding and stirring up competition yet having a tragic fate (of course), and chirpy, naive comedy loudmouth Momotarou. Aiichirou also gets a lot more development, falling behind badly but working extremely hard to catch up and being vindicated – as well as being the straight man in a fun manzai comedy-like relationship with Momotarou.

There are really two emotional threads running through the season, which work quite well. One, presumably relating to the title, is the grim inevitability of happy times ending. The older characters are going to graduate, new relay teams are going to have to be formed, and kohais are going to have to accept that their sempais are going to leave their lives, or at least their daily lives. The second, closely related to this, is the coming-of-age of the characters and the need for them to find their true paths. Haru in particular is just uninterested in his future, or taking any responsibility, feeling that career paths inhibit his ability to be free. The high point of the season, perhaps of both seasons thus far, is Rin spontaneously taking him to Australia to show him the competitive swimming scene there, opening his eyes to the wider world. It’s a very sweet gesture and works well. Even with some rather awkward attempts to make Rin sound fluent in English.

Of course, the series is still aimed squarely at the fangirls, and in all honesty, the homoeroticism gets strained here. As I suggested in my review of the third season of Inazuma Eleven, these aren’t a bunch of young kids who might all be very confused about their sexuality and ignore it. 

They’re young men, and there’s a certain point where the obviously unusual intimacy between these guys simply wouldn’t go unspoken – even in Japan. The way these boys act, people would be making a whole lot of comments. The closest the series gets to addressing the possibility of homosexuality is when Rin gets angry that the hotel he’s booked for himself and Haru has a double bed. As a result, I found it all very contrived and unconvincing, especially since I continue to not actually ship any of the muscly men together at all (though Nagisa and Ai finally got some scenes interacting with one another, hoorah! If they didn’t have such weird bodies, I’d totes ship it). And I ship characters very easily, from just about everyone who isn’t hideous in Inazuma Eleven to the vast majority of the pretty girls in Saki. I just don’t see the men in Free! as cute in any way. (Flashback versions are another story of course!)

I don’t know that there’s much more that can happen in Free!. It may be better to leave it open as to how well Haru does in the adult world, and who the new swim team recruits might be. But if there’s a movie, or another series, or even just some OVA, I’ll probably tune in. And I’m all for more series like this, treating boys just the same way that anime has long treated girls. But preferably slightly less...bara. Please.