In which I commit a great sacrilege on this fine show. You know what they say, “If there’s no fanservice for you, make your own.”
Everyone’s favorite swimmers are back! iblessall’s favorite swim club manager is back in Free! Eternal Summer’s third episode, and she’s back with a vengeance! After being shut out in the first episode from getting even a single frame all to herself, and manage to claim only a few shots last week (although one of them was enough to make up for it), Gou Matsuoka really showed up this episode. She had some serious moments. She had some funny moments. And all of her moments were cute and compelling.
Gou-chan got off to a good start this episode, as she fired the boys up for their final chance at recruiting new members for the swim club. You do have to give Free! props. They’re dead set, it seems, on keeping the cast small—I doubt we’ll see any new members join the Iwatobi Swim Club. But that doesn’t stop Gou from pursuing her quest to see a club filled with muscles of the fittest degree. You have to admire her commitment to her passion, and it’s clear that her go-get-em attitude inspired Rei to struggle to learn other strokes besides breaststroke.
Following this, Gou-chan plays another big role in the plot of the episode. After inquiring after Haru’s health, she has a deep conversation with the blue-eyed hunk, a conversation which Rei is privy to and which causing another spark of passion to rise inside our purple-haired reformed track boy. Gou’s sensitivity to Haru’s feelings not only gave the older boy a chance to get few things off of his chest, but she unconsciously helped Rin as he struggled with himself and his self-doubt.
Gou is also the first person to uncover a clue about the strange mystery of Rei’s increasing absences and strange behavior. However, her kind soul doesn’t permit her to intrude upon Rei when he obviously doesn’t want to be bothered. It’s a small moment for her character, but it says a lot about her ability to consider the feelings of others—it’s a trait that perhaps makes her more suited than most to be the manager for the swim club. She may not ever get a chance to use her skills, but it’s comforting to know that Gou knows each of the boys so well.
Gou also refuses to put up with Rei’s diversions and shenanigans in the classroom. She initially comes prepared to help him with his love life (a kind-hearted decision considering she knows Rei’s love may hurt his commitment to the swim club), but when Rei laughs off the proposal, she immediately switches into interrogation mode. Gou wants to know what’s going on, and no amount of beating around the bush from Rei is going to stop her.
Gou ends up being the one to discover Rei’s fraternization with the track team captain (while staying appropriately focused on the captain’s forearms), and reveals the news to the rest of the team with a heavy heart. Although she initially misinterprets the situation—not an unreasonable assumption given the context and the fact that she wasn’t familiar with the track team—she stands side-by-side with the rest of the team as they confront Rei.
Happily, they are able to resolve the situation after stalking Rei (what can you say about Gou? When she commits to something, she commmits) to Samezuka and discovering that he’s been training with her brother. One can’t help but think that Gou may have helped facilitate the extra training for Rei, but if she did, she’s a great actress.
In the end, Rei’s back with the team and all is right in the world of Gou. Next episode is called the “Somersault Turn of Destiny” or something like that, so I expect the focus of Free! will veer away from Gou next episode and go back to focusing on the boys. It’s a shame, because Free! is a lesser show when it’s not focusing on its best character, but Free! is a show targeted at women, not a me. I can only be thankful that they allow me along for the ride.