Haruka Nanase and Makoto Tachibana have started middle school and must adjust to the changes that come along with growing up. While Makoto fits in with his classmates and remains positive about swimming, Haruka struggles to befriend others or join his school's swim club, as his previous issues with swimming trouble him. Distancing himself from his lively classmates and the swimming club, he has difficulty deciding which club to join instead. The rest of his classmates, including Makoto, are also hesitant as to which clubs to participate in. After an argument leads them to join the swimming club anyway, the boys strive to hone their skills, harmonize their swimming styles, and refine their conflicting feelings toward swimming and each other.
As determination and talent run high, Haruka and Makoto—along with their classmates—discover themselves and improve their talents during their starting days.
Anime Review: High☆Speed! Movie: Free! Starting Days
Before we plunge into the review, let’s get a splash of the film’s premise.
“High☆Speed! – Free! Starting Days” is a prequel to the original “Free!” series, which follows four elementary school friends — Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Ren — as they explore the exhilarating world of competitive swimming. This movie presents the swimming quartet back in the day when they were first-year middle school students. With newly minted friendships and budding dreams, they’re ready to jump off the block into the deep end of adolescence, one freestyle stroke at a time.
Unbeknownst to them, their journey isn’t just about winning races. The film showcases their growing pains, laughter, and tears as they realize that their future lies not in simply chasing the finish line but in understanding the bonds and personal growth that comes with being a team.
Let’s Dive into the Review…
Unlike many other sports-based films, “High☆Speed! Free! Starting Days” doesn’t just focus on the competitive nature of the sport. It brilliantly depicts how these four boys struggle to balance their studies, personal lives, and passion for swimming. Each character undergoes a marked transformation, making you emotionally invested in their journey.
What truly sets this movie apart is its masterful storytelling. It makes a profound reflection on adolescent years and personal growth. The film paints a vivid picture of camaraderie, finding oneself, and resilience through its well-rounded characters and their interactions.
The animation quality is impeccable and top-notch. Every swimming scene is a feast for the eyes — the splashes, the movement in water, sunlight piercing through the pool — it’s gorgeously depicted. Kyoto Animation’s impressive attention to detail, especially in the water physics, brings remarkable realism to the swimming scenes.
The music score of “High☆Speed! Free! Starting Days” complements the engaging storyline and sets the mood for every scene. Tatsuya Katou’s tracks become an inseparable part of the narrative. From uplifting tunes during exciting swim competitions to gentle melodies while portraying more emotional moments — the music never misses a beat.
While the nuance of this film lies in the personal growth of our beloved characters, we may argue that the pacing could have been slightly improved. At times the movie may seem a bit slow, but it’s a small hiccup in an otherwise greatly immersive and inspiring film.
In terms of replay value, it’s a definite watch for fans of the original “Free!” series. However, it stands on its own as a profound anime movie exploring adolescence and friendship through sport. Therefore whether you are a “Free!” veteran or just a casual anime watcher exploring your options, renting “High☆Speed! Free! Starting Days” won’t disappoint.
Overall, “High☆Speed! Free! Starting Days” is a delightful and visually beautiful film about friendship and personal growth, encapsulated in the thrilling world of competitive swimming. It may not be the fastest swimmer out there, but it undoubtedly makes the most meaningful and beautiful strokes. This is an experience that will leave you feeling inspired, nostalgic, and reaching for a towel — because no one wants goggle marks. If you are an anime enthusiast and haven’t got this in your collection yet, it’s about time you do!
I give this film a solid 8/10, a must-stream if you are in for a heartfelt feel-good movie that offers more than what it appears on the surface! Happy viewing, minna-san!
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