Hands down, this has to be my favourite episode of the season. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside, and I couldn’t stop smiling from start to finish. It made me so happy to see Haruka and Rin halt their training for the All-Japan Invitationals to support their friends competing in the nationals. Haruka made the right call of suggesting they park elsewhere and run the rest of the way when they got caught up in traffic. Haruka’s presence really gave Rei really raised his spirit, and we could see how much it meant to him for him to witness him get this far. Unfortunately Rei didn’t make it to the finals, I am still so, SO proud of him! It’s crazy to think it was only three years ago when the guy couldn’t swim even for his life! He has come such a long way, and just being able to even qualify to compete in the nationals, and beat his own record is an accomplished to be proud of! Nagisa too, has come a long way! I really cherish the friendship he and Rei share together because seriously, they are the best duo. The Iwatobi Swim Club is lucky to have them as their seniors.
I can’t believe I forgot about Rei and Isahi having met before at the bookstore (another reference from the movie: High Speed! Free! Starting Days). It was so funny how they walked passed each other once, almost twice, and then it finally clicked to them that they met before! It was a nice parallel to see Isahi giving Rei some support of calming his nerves when back then, Isahi had asked for Rei’s help (on the whim) for books to help him get over his head. I don’t think Rei knows that Isahi knows Haruka yet, but it would be great if the two could become friends too.
Another thing I loved about this episode was the interaction between Ryuuji and Mikhail. Although it was short, their exchange was still entertaining as I had hoped. The two of them met each other through the nationals, and Mikhail has been insisting on being friends ever since. I think it’s great how they are each training a swimmer who happens to be friends (and rivals) with each other as well.
Also I am glad we got to learn a bit more about why Ryuuji agreed to take Haruka under his wing. He hates dealing with the “monster” swimmers, who are already outrageously strong from the get go. He prefers to support those like Haruka, who absolutely have the potential to take them down, but will struggle as if their lives depend on it to do so.
I am almost sad that we probably won’t be seeing more of Gou and Isuzu, I absolutely want to see their friendship blossom after they realized the two of them share the mutual love for muscles. That hug of fellow comrade was freaking hilarious. But maybe we will see that in the next season, if not a movie to follow up this season.
Of course, the main reason why I think it’s a given that it’s going to happen either as a new film or season, is mainly because of the name drop of Kinjou Kaede of Naribusawa University. He is a rising star swimmer who broke the tournament record, starting off as a Butterfly main, but now has been switching to freestyle. He is the next challenge to enter the ring, and as Ryuuji puts it, another powerful opponent for Haruka to face. And since next week is the finale episode, it’s pretty late to drop in a new rival who has been featured in the opening the entire time, but has yet to actually make an appearance. With that in mind, I am very curious to see what will be the outcome of the match. Will Haruka lose to Albert and/or Kaede? It would be one heck of a cliffhanger if they were to end it on such a note. It is hard to say how good Haruka’s chances are at the moment given he has only recently started training with Ryuuji, starting from the ground up of mastering the basics he had long ignored. So I am quite excited to see what will happen!
That being said, I definitely feel like this episode was the strongest episode to date. It was a great way to lead into the finale, that is looking to potentially end on a dramatic note!