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Name: Free!
Abbreviation(s): Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club (English)
Creator: Kyoto Animation, Animation DO, Koji Oji
Date(s): July 4, 2013 (season one), July 2, 2014 (season two)
Medium: anime, novel
Country of Origin: Japan
External Links:
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Free! (Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club) is a sports anime by Kyoto Animation surrounding the lives of High School swimmers. It premiered on July 3, 2013 and it is based on High☆Speed!, a novel by Kouji Ouji. The show follows a group of four male swimmers, all in high school, who start a competitive swim club at their high-school.

The anime became a reality after a commercial garnered widespread attention on the internet, especially from yaoi fans on Tumblr.

The first season of the show started on July 4, 2013, and had a twelve episode run, ending on September 26. A second season, dubbed Eternal Summer! was later confirmed[1] and aired on July 2, 2014, completing the series in September.[2]

The show also has several extras/side stories, light novels, and a prequel film titled High Speed! -Free! Starting Days-' which aired on December 5, 2015.


The fandom for Free! sprung up literally overnight. In March 2013 a commercial by Kyoto Animation, which had been created to try out animating 2-D water, aired during episode 10 of Tamako Market.[3] It quickly spawned a fanbase on Tumblr, Pixiv and elsewhere within 48 hours of its release, due almost entirely to the attractive shirtless Bishōnen featured in it.[4][5] The fandom was quickly dubbed "Swimming Anime" before it was an official show and its actual name was revealed.[2]

However, the popular idea that Free! was an entirely original project, or that the original commercial was all that was intended to be created for the project and fan reaction caused the project to become an actual anime when it would not have otherwise is actually a popular misconception, as the anime was intended to be a sequel to High Speed!, a light novel written in 2011 by Kōji Ōji.[6]

Responses to the commercial, and show, have included role-playing blogs, fan art, videos, and fanfiction. Like many anime shows with a predominantly male cast, it has garnered a large following of yaoi fans. The series is know for it's fanservice focusing on male characters, which appeals to a female audience which technically being a shounen anime.

In October 2014, Free! reached 5,900 works on Archive of Our Own, becoming one of the top 5 most tagged Anime & Manga fandoms on the site when it surpassed Kuroko no Basuke. The fandom stayed in the top 5 until October 2015, when it was surpassed by Haikyuu!! reaching over 10,800 works.

Main Characters

Significant supporting characters:


The majority are slash (yaoi) pairings.[7] There was a major Ship War between the RinHaru and MakoHaru fandoms, however tensions have cooled over time.

Major Pairings

  • Makoto/Haruka - MakoHaru
  • Rin/Haruka - Also known as RinHaru.
  • Rei/Nagisa - Also known as Reigisa or NagiRei. They have around 2,000 works on Ao3.[8] This is a generally uncontroversial ship and is often featured as a background ship in fics for other pairings.
  • Sousuke/Rin - SouRin. Gained popularity during Season 2.

Other Common Pairings

  • Sousuke/Makoto - SouMako
  • Rin/Nitori - Rintori
  • Makoto/Rin - MakoRin
  • Sousuke/Haruka - SouHaru
  • Rin/Rei - RinRei
  • Haruka/Rei - ReiHaru/HaruRei
  • Haruka/Water - HaruH2O
  • Seijurou/Gou: SeiGou
  • Haruka/Gou - HaruGou
  • Seijurou/Makoto - SeiMako
  • Kisumi/Makoto - KisuMako
  • Kisumi/Haruka - KisuHaru
  • Haruka/Nagisa - Harugisa
  • Momotarou/Nitori - MomoTori
  • Ikuya/Haruka - IkuHaru
  • Hiyori/Ikuya - HiyoIku
  • Isuzu/Gou - IsuGou

Common OT3s

  • Makoto/Haruka/Rin - MakoHaruRin/Marinka
  • Sousuke/Makoto/Kisumi - SouMakoKisu

Fandom Events

In the height of the fandom's most active years, many fans held "shipping weeks" and other such events. The purpose of the events were to create more fanworks for a particular ship or character. Shipping events generally cropped up during the month of a character, for example, Makoto's birthday month in November had 6 different events ranging from ship-specific to Makoto-centric. At one point, there were so many ship-specific events, there were even weeks dedicated to rarepairs. Discontinued events would be resurrected by different fans moderating new blogs, usually differentiated by the year in the url. In 2014, a fan even created a calendar to keep track of all the events on behalf of the fandom, encouraging people to send in news of new events through the askbox. The calendar blog posted monthly 'digests' compiling what events were occurring and upcoming, so fans could follow and participate in any they were interested in.

Most of the events followed a simple format: generally running for a week or two, each day would be assigned a different prompt (or more, depending on the moderators). Fans would be encouraged to post their works on their AO3 or Tumblr and send in links, and/or post about their work in the event's trending tag (e.g. #fyeahbottommakoto), or add to the Ao3 collection for the event if it existed. During the week itself, blog mods would reblog and share the various works submitted. Hence, the blogs essentially acted as archives for all the fics and fanart. Gift exchange was also a favourite format, especially for the character-centric or birthday events.

Rules for the events generally encouraged friendly participation and banned ship or character hate.

Haru-related events

Makoto-related events

Rin-related events


Example Fanworks





Archives & Fannish Links


Further Reading


  1. ^ [1], "Free!" 2nd Season Confirmed At Official Event
  2. ^ a b [2], Anime: Free! (TV Tropes Wiki)
  3. ^ [3], Kyoto Animation: Suiei-hen on MAL
  4. ^ The Daily Dot, "Fake Anime Series inspires real fans on Tumblr," March 11, 2013.
  5. ^ The Mary Sue, "Tumblr Invented Entire Anime Based on Thirty Second Promo? Must Be Monday", March 11, 2013.
  6. ^ Anime News Network, "Kyoto Animation Unveils Swimming Team TV Anime Free! for July," April 26, 2013.
  7. ^ [4], Most Favorite Free! Pairings
  8. ^ Archive of Our Own, Works tagged Hazuki Nagisa/Ryuugazaki Rei.