At long last, the dark and gloomy cloud that has been plaguing Ikuya all these years has finally been blown away. Ikuya was able to find himself again and break into the light when he finally understood the root of his problems. He was rewarded with ultimately winning the individual medley, with Haruka coming in second. The sweet part about it was how for Haruka, the results didn’t matter. He didn’t do it to win or or meet/beat the base time required to make it to the next round. He joined the individual medley for Ikuya’s sake, and to fulfill his promise. And while it was super corny, it was freaking adorable the way Haruka showed his pinky to refer to their promise Ikuya had thought he had forgotten. Man when Ikuya realized he remember, that’s when you could tell he was truly set free from the unfinished business from the past. The way he just threw himself into Haruka’s arms and bawled like a baby. Ikuya is no longer alone.
And I must say, I am so happy we are done with this arc. It is a bit unfortunate how it had gotten to the point that I feel like it dragged out a bit longer than it needed to. I get why it took so long, but it was just so gloomy. Ikuya’s long internal monologue of his journey and the moment he made his breakthrough failed to pull any of my heartstrings. In fact, we have heard this so many times now, it has gotten repetitive. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what followed afterwards. It made me happy to see Ikuya be able to interact with the boys like the good old days, to see him be freed from the shackles of the past. I was especially entertained with the way Isahi and Ikuya interacted with each other, Ikuya teasing him by imitating his, “I’m a genius” mantra. Of course it was super cheesy (but that’s Free! for you, it has always been like this), especially when we learned Ikuya’s wish, of wanting to be a hero like Haruka, the kind who can support people when they are lost or feeling down. And just as Haruka tells him, Ikuya has already unknowingly became someone’s hero, and that is Hiyori’s.
And speaking of the devil, frankly I wish Hiyori would just stop beating around the bush and just straight up acknowledge that yes, he was the boy Ikuya had met at the pool when he was in kindergarten. Look, I don’t care that Ikuya probably figured it out on his own, it still annoys the hell out of me. Stop being coy about it, and own it already!
Makoto reminded us this week why he is the best boy of the series: He noticed Hiyori was feeling down, and even though he was a dick to all of them, he still tried to reach out to him. He told Hiyori that it felt like he was trying too hard, and advised him to have a bit more faith in Ikuya. No surprise that Hiyori got super triggered when Haruka was brought into the mix, because he is super jealous of the guy. Luckily Hiyori did get to swim with Haruka during the relay. (Heck, even Haruka shared the same advice: Have more faith in Ikuya!) He and Ikuya joined in at the last minute, (I feel bad for the other two no-name characters that were booted from the lineup) and so he finally understood why everyone is so inspired by Haruka’s swimming. Man, am I glad this drama is finally over. I’ve had enough of it.
Ikuya and Hiyori weren’t the only ones who made a new breakthrough, Natsuya too have finally realized what Mao meant. He was pretty emotional when he came to term his dream is to compete with Ikuya on the global stage, and become number one in the world. I mean the guy was freaking crying. I am expecting to finally see the two of them finally eat out together, it’s been so long since they spent time together.
With Ikuya’s arc and Hiyori’s drama finally resolved, it’s time to set the stage for the next main event! The coach only gave Haruka a score of 70 when it comes to his ability, claiming he has lots of room to grow. With new competitors entering the spotlight next week as we head to the next competition where Haruka will finally be competing against Rin again, it will be interesting to see how he holds up to the new (and looking to be eccentric) rivals.