Haruka Nanase has a love for water and a passion for swimming. In elementary school, he competed in and won a relay race with his three friends Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki, and Makoto Tachibana. After claiming victory at the tournament, the four friends went their separate ways. Years later, they reunite as high school students; however, Rin couldn’t care less about returning to the way things used to be. Not only does he attend a different school, but the sole thing important to him is proving that he is a better swimmer than Haruka.
After the bitter reunion, Haruka, Nagisa, and Makoto decide to form the Iwatobi High School Swim Club, but they will need a fourth member if they hope to take part in the upcoming tournament. Enter Rei Ryuugazaki, a former member of the track team whom Nagisa recruits. As the time to compete draws near, the four develop a close bond while training intensely to come out on top and settle things between Haruka and Rin once and for all.
Free! is being tagged wrong as a sports anime, but what I believe it is (a slice of life and drama with sports as background) it does it extremely well. While it doesn’t have the passion and intensity I crave, or at least the first season didn’t with many shots of empty places, people walking, the gang having fun. Plus also 50% of the scenes are indeed drama and full of angst, hence me labelling it as not a sports anime.
But let’s clarify what a sports anime is for myself, everyone has their own gauge, so it’s fine if for you it IS a sports anime.