COMMENT: New 'Free!' compilation film gives long-time fans what they want... sorta

Marcus Goh
Contributor

 

PHOTO: Encore Films

The best stories in the world are the ones that get told again and again. Just look at all the different retellings of the myth of Hercules (or Heracles, for purists). A good story is hard to keep down.

PHOTO: Encore Films

That’s why anime compilation films like “Free! Timeless Medley – Kizuna” exist. Continuing an anime after its original series has run its course is difficult — the villain has been defeated, the heroes have achieved their objective, and the the world has usually changed as a result.

Most good anime will have a definite and discrete ending to their tale — as opposed to evergreen anime like “One Piece”, which follow the storytelling style of Western comics, where the series is meant to continue indefinitely.

PHOTO: Encore Films

Anime compilation films offer a chance for creators to refine and retell the original stories that were so popular. In some cases, they even allow for an expanded retelling of the original story or they provide an alternate ending to shake things up a bit.

PHOTO: Encore Films

Free! Timeless Medley – Kizuna

“Free!”, the popular swimming anime, saw two compilation films released last year, “Free! Timeless Medley – Kizuna” and “Free! Timeless Medley – Yakusoku”. While the anime series itself focused on the friendship and brotherhood of the heterosexual members of the Iwatobi Swim Club, fans were quick to come up with their favourite (non-official) pairings of the male characters.

There were occasional nods and hints to fan favourite pairings, but the anime stayed firmly out of any overt boys’ love scenes.

PHOTO: Encore Films

So it’s no surprise that when the compilation film came out, the hints became a lot less subtle in nature.

Pairings were a lot more obvious, even though the characters had platonic relationships with each other. The film focused on key relationship scenes, much to the delight of long-time fans.

PHOTO: Encore Films

Unfortunately, this also meant that the storytelling felt rushed and, for lack of a better word, episodic. Unlike many other compilation films, the events weren’t as coherently put together — it required you to have extensive knowledge of what came before to understand the context of several scenes.

PHOTO: Encore Films

One of the most confusing aspects of the film came when it expanded on a storyline in the second season, which was not in the original.

While it didn’t exactly take a different direction, the compilation nature of the film suggested that it would be a straight retelling, but the actual movie itself gave a slightly different spin on how the events played out in the original series.

PHOTO: Encore Films

Then there’s the focus on characters. Rei and Nagisa were clearly shoved aside in favour of the three more popular swimmers, but this left them as somewhat unnecessary characters in the film.

The spotlight also shifted too suddenly from the Haruka-Makoto friendship to the Haruka-Rin rivalry/friendship, especially given how the film opened.

PHOTO: Encore Films

The strangest part was how the redemption arc of Rin, the rival-turned-friend of the characters (a Season 1 villain who became a Season 2 ally), completely vanished in the first compilation movie.

If you came in with full knowledge of the anime series, you’d be confused at how this important element of the story was just… missing. However, if you watched the film as a new fan, you’d have no background about Rin’s tumultuous relationship with the characters.

PHOTO: Encore Films

It’s especially important, given that he’s one of the main characters of the film (and hence, needed a lot more backstory).

Overall, you’d better off watching the “Free!” anime rather than the compilation movies. They’d give a better sense of what made the story so popular, without having such overt, there-but-not-there pairings of popular characters.

Free! Timeless Medley – Kizuna opens in cinemas:
– 22 February, 2018 (Singapore)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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