In the new series, Haruka, who is attending college in Tokyo, meets Asahi again and reawakens his memories from his middle school years, including those of Ikuya. Makoto is working toward a new dream while he is in Tokyo together with Haruka. Rin has an unexpected meeting in Sydney. As they await their new futures, will they see a new fight ahead? Or will they instead confront the past they left behind?
The second season was a great comfy experience. Eternal Summer was what it was called and it was H O T just like the name suggests. However, it was much more than that and left several different factors unanswered, for example, In s02e09, Haru said: "What dream? What future? I have nothing of that sort!" Other questions it rose were: The traumas behind our transfer student (not wanting to swim on the behalf of team, only on individual level), Haru's lack of motivation, and the disappearance / solitude phase of the best boy. Essentially, this 3rd season is exactly as the title promises: Dive towards
the future of our characters and that's pretty much how the story goes.
The selling point of this season among its light hearted drama are the cast who are yet again showing what being a bro to your bro truly means. This is like all those cute girls doing cute things anime series except the cast focuses on boys (bros) doing cute (bro) things and they all are rather real characters (bros) instead from the moeblob side because these are real manly men. The single best part is how natural these bros act in every situation be it them spooning in bed or hanging out naked. It's only possible and #nohomo because they are real bros and so manly. It's rare to see male friends achieve this level of broship and that's pretty much why I like this show because all the other manly and bro shows (I really like manly and bro stuff) center around GAR Jesuses and muscle Moseses who are often also Gary Stu and practically immortal superhumans all muscles and spreading masculinity wherever they go. Free's cast is realistic and fragile, but it don't matter because they are so bro and support the shit out of each others, always.
However, I don't think this series is especially good anymore because it only has few things going on and most of what it had to offer was already seen in the first 2 seasons anyway. I.e. it got old. Worth of watching, but really I could have personally lived without this season.
If Free's second season was an improvement for the series, its third season is its all-time low.
Free, in its best moments, may not have been anything more than mildly enjoyable (if teetering the line between 'fanservice' and outright pandering), but in this case it has fallen below even being tolerable. Nonstop, incessant melodrama, focused not on the main characters but split between the dozens of irrelevant side characters around them who nobody watching the show actually cares half a dingdong about. Any humor or relaxing little moments are gone, with an endless barrage of melodrama from opening credits to ending credits. Yes, if that sounds
interesting to you, by all means, have yourself a blast.
There are so many bloody characters in Dive to the Future that you will often forget who is who. KyoAni also assumes that everyone who watches Dive to the Future has also watched the prequel movie, High Speed, so you're also expected to care for characters you have probably never seen, or hardly remember. Depending on the way you divide things up, there are at bare minimum three different sets of characters, all largely doing their own thing for most of the season (one of these groups even living on a completely different side of the damn planet), with few important, and mostly minor connections holding them together. The high school group in particular is almost entirely irrelevant to the rest of the plot, them still existing only to appease fans of their characters who wanted to see more. Even by the final episode, there were still new characters being introduced, and by that point I had long since lost my patience. The ludicrous amount of subplots going on between Dive to the Future's seven million characters means there is so little time spent on each character that the viewer cannot get emotionally invested in any of them. It's like being given fifty dishes to sample, except all you get to taste from each of them is a tiny, minuscule amount on the tip of your tongue: would anyone actually feel full after that?
To say I had any fun at all watching Dive to the Future would be a lie. Whereas most anime at least try to intersperse the drama with a light-hearted scene here and there, the melodrama in Dive to the Future is all there is. It is the entirety of the show, with not a single moment to breathe. By the time I had finished watching even one episode, I would already be fatigued enough to want a damn break. While the first and second seasons of Free also had plenty of the 'ol melodrama to go around, it was nowhere near the onslaught it is here. Ikuya is waxing philosophical about not being able to see the stars, and I think, well, gee, you live in the most urban country in the world and somehow the word 'pollution' doesn't exist in your head. Hey, maybe I'm just dead inside, but I think it has more to do with how it is impossible to empathise with any word the characters utter. Dive to the Future is processed through your ears and your eyeballs, but never through your brain or your heart.
Some of the characters (Nagisa, for one-- boy, would I love to strangle this little dickweed at times) are infuriating as hell and do not even behave as actual people do. There's the flashback with Ikuya in the hospital, for example, where he smiles and giggles like a little schoolgirl whose mommy just bought him a new dollie. I suppose KyoAni believes that male characters should act 'moe' in the same way that female characters do, as if men and women in Japan somehow have the exact same mannerisms and behaviours (breaking news: they don't). Oh, and the white-haired foreign-dude's voice actor was such an awful match for his character that it was actually laughable. I think KyoAni had a grand slammin' total of one English voice actor available, and just handed him the job as their token foreigner, because, well, to be fair, Japanese people have no clue how white people actually speak.
I guess if you like gay stuff, Dive to the Future is pretty gay. There are scenes like when Hiyori tells Ikuya to forget about other dudes (and look only at Hiyori), as he towers over a submissive Ikuya laying on his back. Cue rockin' dupstep. Buuu-wuu-wuu. Everyone in this show is rainbow-ass-coloured gay, but KyoAni is only interested in teasing and playing pretend, for better or for worse, depending on how you prefer your gayness served.
Unsurprisingly, there is no real conclusion to the story, with your sole reward for watching the show being a "See you again in 2020!" announcement in the final few seconds. Um, thanks, but rather than more seasons, I'd have been much happier to see an actual ending to this one, which would have been possible if the show just focused a wee bit more on Haru's and Rin's central struggles and rivalry with one another, rather than all the superfluous rubbish surrounding the other forty-billion characters.
I fail to see the purpose in Dive to the Future, in 2018, five full years after the first season, when hardly anyone except the most hardcore of fans still care about Free. And another sequel in the works? For what purpose, exactly? They cannot do anything of value with such a massive cast of characters by throwing another measly twelve episodes at it. Surely there's better creative and monetary endeavors that could be pursued instead, and, well, I guess there are, what with the coming of their next fangirl-friendly series, Tsurune, this fall.
KyoAni always envisions these grand ideas on paper, but then give up midway when it comes to actually realising said idea. Were there twice or thrice as many episodes, a decent story might have been feasible, but with a cast this large and only twelve episodes, it makes you wonder if KyoAni is only capable of thinking in dreams, with reality somehow a distant concept to them. As long as they give the appearance of being something, so too do they believe they will truly become said thing. It's a bit like cosplay: if you're pretty and you act the part well enough, some who don't know any better might just assume you are the real thing.
Overall this season definitely felt weaker than the previous seasons. Partly that is due to the vast expansion in the main cast and obviously because of that, not all characters got to have the screentime needed for their characters to develop or to do much with the characters. However overall I feel like what has been accomplished, was done pretty well.
This season's major flaw however is the slow pacing of the first half of the season. The first couple episodes felt so so slow and I also understand that time is needed to introduce new characters and establish what is happening with all of them,
but it just felt too long. On the other hand the pacing in the latter half was fast, which in a way mirrors competitive swimming and it makes you hyped up for the races. I feel like most of the fanbase feels the same way and it's so unfortunate that that happened and might have turned off some people from watching more, because the latter half is done really well and feels exciting and is immensely enjoyable.
Ikuya and Toonu's drama felt... I guess it was needed, but it felt too similar to previous Free! seasons, so that almost undermines the whole point of this season, which is the characters are growing up. I guess because they grew up the drama only lasted half a season now, instead of a whole. I understand that a lot of attention was needed to develop Ikuya's and Toonu's characters and story arch, but I can't help but feel like TOO much time was spent on their drama, when it could have been spent on, ya know, actual swimming.
Long time fans of Free! will love seeing all the characters come together (I myself teared up quite a bit when that happened) and it is lovely to see so many bonds form between characters. The new characters are pretty good (however the girls are all very unfortunately underdeveloped (then again, the story doesn't really focus on them anyway, but it's still sad that that is still the case)) and they are introduced quite well.
Tonally, the series truly feels like the main characters are slowly growing up, but that does not mean that they are suddenly fully fledged adults either. I feel a ridiculous amount of pride for these fictional characters and seeing them grow up, but still remain their same personalities and quirks and characteristics. Especially Haru feels like he has finally reached a point in his life that might have been unimaginable to him a couple years ago. He has come a long way from the 'I only swim free and I by twenty I will be ordinary' guy.
Could this season have been made better? Definitely. I feel like this season should have been 24 episodes long, so there would be more time for all the characters to be relevant and develop. I hope that the next season will keep the pace from the last episodes. (2020..... ㅠ ㅠ )
In the end, I still love Free! dearly and the characters are all very precious to me, so I will always be biased. However I can still see the major flaws in this season and I can only hope that next season will be handled better. The things this season did well however, were done really well. It is just unfortunate that the bad things sorta drag it down and that they were the focus of the first half.
Free!: Dive to the Future is an amazing sequel to an already amazing series. We get to see Haru and Makoto lives after finishing high school, which we don't see a lot of, as they face new challenges and problems that come with the higher competitive world of swimming.
This season we get introduced to Ikuya, a childhood friend of both Haru and Makoto, and he is shown to be very cold to others at the start for certain reasons which are then told later into the series, Haru, Makoto and everyone else has to help him get over his past trauma and worries so he
can become the lovable kid he once was. Now that is pretty much how the first half of the series is in simple and non spoiler-ish way.
Now the second part is Haru training for the All Japan invitational Tournament. We get briefly introduced to some other competitors to see what kind of opponents Haru and Rin will have to face in this tournament. Although it's not has drama heavy as the first part it is more intense and exciting, and then we get to the tournament and then the final episode were it leaves off finishing the qualifiers (kind of) and then teases us with sequel to come soon.
Overall to say if this was better then season two I would have to say no as season two was was absolutely fantastic. Compared to last season this was a little bit rushed at some parts and some things just sort of worked out for the sake of it having to work out but it didn't happen to much so it did not degrade my love for this season at all.