Free!, also known as Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club in English, is a Japanese anime television series directed by Hiroko Utsumi and produced by Kyoto Animation and Animation Do. The anime is based on the light novel written by Kōji Ōji, High Speed!(ハイ☆スピード!,Hai Supīdo!?), which received an honorable mention in the second Kyoto Animation Award contest in 2011 and later published in July 2013. The anime aired in Japan between July 4 and September 26, 2013 with a second season currently scheduled.
Free! starts with four boys—Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Rin—before graduating from elementary school. They had all participated in a swimming tournament and gained victory but later parted ways. Years later, Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa reunite when they enroll into high school. Not long after, Rin, who was thought to be in Australia, turns up and challenges Haruka to a race and wins. Afterward, Nagisa mentions creating a swimming club and cleaning up the run-down outdoor pool to use. Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and, later on, Rei, form the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club and work together in making the club a success. Rin's victory over Haruka means nothing to him as he realizes that Haruka has stopped swimming competitively and is not in top shape. He claims that he cannot get over the fact until Haruka competes against him for real. The members of the revived Iwatobi Swim Club later enter a swimming competition against Rin.
Haruka is a second-year boy in high school who loves swimming and being in water. He is a strong and quiet person who displays limited facial expressions, and has a hard time communicating his feelings. His style captivates many and he has a strong fixation towards freestyle swimming. His love for water is so strong that he often strips down to his swimsuit at the sight of water and even considers encountering a waterfall to be a romantic experience. Due to his girlish name, he is often mistaken for a girl at first, so he is usually called Haru. After his first year in middle school, he quit competitive swimming after hurting Rin's feelings by beating him in a race, but Haruka regains his passion after racing Rin again when they reunite.
Makoto is Haruka's best friend, and is also a second-year in the same class as Haruka. Unlike Haruka, he is more outgoing and often speaks up for Haruka. He is nice and considerate to others. However, he is weak-hearted and gets scared easily. He developed a fear of the ocean due to a traumatic incident in which an old fisherman, whom Makoto greatly idolized, drowned in a typhoon alongside many others. He is captain of the swim club. His swimming style is backstroke.
Nagisa is a first-year boy who also goes to Iwatobi High School. He is very spirited and not afraid to speak his mind. He has admired Haruka's swimming since elementary school and enrolls at his high school hoping to swim with him again. He comes up with the idea to start a swim club at Iwatobi High, and is treasurer for the club. He has a strange fascination towards the club's penguin mascot, Iwatobi-chan. His swimming style is breaststroke.
Rei is Nagisa's classmate. He is handsome and intelligent, but is often manipulated by Nagisa for some reason. He is heavily attracted to all things beautiful, both tangible and non-tangible, and will do everything in his power to avoid things he claims "aren't beautiful". He used to be on the track team. He refuses Nagisa several times when asked to join the swim club, because he did not think swimming was beautiful enough. He joins the swim club because he admires Haruka's beautiful freestyle swimming. He is initially unable to swim, but with some advice from Haruka, manages to learn how to swim. Out of all the swimming styles, Rei can only swim butterfly.
Rin is Haruka's rival and his former teammate in elementary school. He comes back to Japan after studying abroad in Australia during middle school and becomes estranged to his former teammates due to a change in his personality, which came after he suffered a tough loss in a race against Haruka during their first year of middle school. He went to Australia after joining the swimming club and winning the relay. He goes to Samezuka Academy, but did not initially join the Samezuka swim team. Despite his self-proclaimed rivalry against the members of the Iwatobi Swim Club, he continues to demonstrate concern for them, particularly for Haruka. He adopted his father's dream to become an Olympic swimmer following his untimely death in a typhoon, but later decides to follow his own dream after competing in the regionals with Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa. His swimming style is freestyle and butterfly.
Gō is Rin's younger sister. She is a first-year at Iwatobi High School. She prefers to be known by the more typical reading of her name, Kō, due to Gō being a boyish name, though she eventually gives up, mostly due to Nagisa insistently at calling her Gō. She joins the swim club as a manager, in hopes that she can help change Rin back to his old self. She is very organized and determined, even going as far as using calligraphy to create a 60+ page calendar to increase the pressure on training. She has a muscle fetish, and tends to blush around men when admiring their muscles.
Miho is Haruka and Makoto's homeroom teacher. She teaches classic literature. The students nicknamed her Ama-chan. Rumors among Iwatobi students suggest that she had gone to Tokyo to pursue her dream that involved a swimsuit company, but failed and became a teacher instead. Although she has a quirky and upbeat personality, sometimes she uses old, confusing literature phrases to make a point. She becomes the faculty advisor for the swim club after Nagisa finds out her work in Tokyo involved swimsuits. It is revealed she was once a swimsuit model working under the name of "Marin-chan". She appears to loathe her days as a model, and takes extreme measures to hide her previous career. When engaging in conversation, she will emit evil auras if she feels the subject is tending dangerously close to her modelling days.
Goro was the swimming coach at the abandoned Iwatobi Swimming Club, having coached Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Rin while they were in grade school. He is now a part-time pizza delivery man. He later resumes coaching Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa, with the addition of Rei. Generally, he is very laid-back, but is incredibly strict with the Iwatobi boys when assisting with their training regime.
Makoto's younger brother. He and his sister Ran appear to greatly adore Makoto.
Radio show and drama CDs
An Internet radio show to promote the anime called Iwatobi Channel(イワトビちゃんねる?) began broadcasting on June 17, 2013. The show is streamed online every Monday, and is produced by the Japanese Internet radio stations Lantis Web Radio and Onsen. The show is hosted by Nobunaga Shimazaki and Tatsuhisa Suzuki, who voice Haruka Nanase and Makoto Tachibana from the anime, respectively. Two CD compilation volumes were released between August 21 and September 25, 2013.
Two volumes in a series of drama CDs titled Iwatobi High School Swimming Club Activity Journal(岩鳶高校水泳部 活動日誌,Iwatobi Kōkō Suiei-bu Katsudō Nisshi?) were released between August 21 and September 25, 2013.
Animation Do released a splash image for a new project in April 2012, which was followed by a television commercial for the project in March 2013. The commercial quickly went viral among fans—especially users of the blogging site Tumblr, who quickly developed a following around what they dubbed as the "swimming anime". Despite only being a 30-second commercial, a wide variety of fan works expanding upon the nameless characters from the ad were created, including hypothetical biographies, art, and fan fiction, along with online petitions calling on the studio to turn it into a real series.
The 12-episode anime television series, produced by Kyoto Animation and Animation Do, is directed by Hiroko Utsumi, written by Masahiro Yokotani, features character designs by Futoshi Nishiya and music by Tatsuya Katō. The series aired in Japan between July 4 and September 26, 2013 on Tokyo MX, and was also streamed on the Japanese video-sharing website Niconico and simulcast by Crunchyroll. The series will be released in six BD and DVD compilation volumes between September 11, 2013 and February 5, 2014, with certain volumes containing short bonus episodes.
The opening theme is "Rage On" by Oldcodex and the ending theme is "Splash Free" by Style Five (Nobunaga Shimazaki, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Tsubasa Yonaga, Daisuke Hirakawa and Mamoru Miyano). The ending theme for episode 12 is "Ever Blue" by Style Five. The single for "Rage On" was released on July 17, 2013 and sold over 24,281 copies. The single for "Splash Free" was released on August 7, 2013 and sold over 47,646 copies. Five character song singles were released sung by the voice actors of the main characters. The singles for Haruka Nanase (sung by Shimazaki) and Makoto Tachibana (sung by Suzuki) were released on August 7, 2013. Makoto's single sold over 23,487 copies, while Haruka's single sold about 20,371 copies. The singles for Rin Matsuoka (sung by Miyano), Nagisa Hazuki (sung by Yonaga) and Rei Ryūgazaki (sung by Hirakawa) were released on September 4, 2013. Rin's single sold over 18,698 copies, while Rei's and Nagisa's sold over 15,021 and 14,283 copies, respectively.  Four duet character song singles are being released sung by the voice actors of the main characters. The single with Haruka (sung by Shimazaki) and Makoto (sung by Suzuki) was released on December 18, 2013 and sold over 16,361 album copies. The single with Nagisa (sung by Tsubasa Yonaga) and Rei (sung by Daisuke Hirakawa) was released on January 15, 2014 and sold over 11,980 copies. The single with Rei (sung by Daisuke Hirakawa) and Rin (sung by Mamoru Miyano) was released on February 12, 2014 and sold over 10,002 copies.
The original light novelHigh Speed!(ハイ☆スピード,Hai Supīdo?) is written by Kōji Ōji, with illustrations by Futoshi Nishiya. Ōji entered it into the second Kyoto Animation Award contest in 2011, and it won an honorable mention in the novel category. It was published by Kyoto Animation on July 8, 2013.