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Swimming Anime is the fan-given name of an upcoming anime TV series Free! announced by the Japanese animation studio Kyoto Animation in April 2012. Despite the apparent lack of details surrounding its development, a promotional trailer featuring a group of competitive swimmers instantly sparked a following on Tumblr and 4chan’s /a/ (anime and manga) board.
On April 3rd, 2012, Animation Do, a property of Kyoto Animation, announced a new untitled project about a boys’ swim team. The press release was accompanied by two splash images, one of a male character swimming (shown below, left) with the caption reading “I’ll tell you what’s make you and me different!” and another of the four main characters standing in front of a pool (shown below, right).
Excited by the prospect of a new original series from Kyoto Animation, several Chinese anime blogs and news sites quickly relayed the announcement under the unofficial name “男子竞泳,” roughly translated as “Male Competitive Swimming,” including AcFun.tv, CCSX, CCC News, Mop and PC Games. Also in April 2012, the first 4chan discussion thread about the series was posted to /a/ (anime and manga) board, resulting in dozens of responses speculating what the series could be about.
The anime project was eventually introduced to a larger audience on the English-speaking web almost a year later, when YouTuber CureSumika posted a promotional trailer video for the project on March 6th, 2013. (shown below).
Over the course of the day, an Instagram account, Twitter account several ask blogs and fan blogs were made for Swimming Anime, despite it still being a concept. That evening, Crunchyroll shared a PowerPoint presentation parody that explains how fans can ship the unnamed characters from the untitled project. They also created a fan petition on Change.org to Animation DO and Kyoto Animation, requesting that the commercial be transformed into an anime. Additionally, the site announced a Swimming Anime cosplay contest on its Facebook page (shown below).
The explosion in fan reaction to the video as well as its lack of name or additional context was discussed on the Adult Swim forums, Yahoo! Answers, the All Kpop forums the Galaxy Cauldron Forums and 4chan. The project also got dubbed as “Ore to omae no sa o oshiete yaru yo!” (definition: “I’ll tell you what’s make you and me different!”), which was taken from one of the splash images featured in the press release. As of March 7th, 2013, there are dozens of archived threads about swimming anime on Foolz Archive. There are also hashtags on Twitter and Tumblr to discuss the show.
Dating Sim Game
Also on March 7th, DeviantART user fifthdimensional posted a beta version of a flash dating simulation game based on the trailer. In the game, the player assumes the role of new high school student Mizu Oyogu and follows her interactions with different boys she meets along the way. The game garnered positive feedback from fans on DeviantART and Tumblr alike.
On April 19th, 2013, Kyoto Animation unveiled a countdown event page for a press conference about the project in the following, leading to even more hype and speculations among the fans on Tumblr. On April 26th, Kyoto Animation held a press conference via live stream on Nico Nico Douga to announce the upcoming premiere of “Free!”, an anime series about a boys’ swimming team that will begin airing in July 2013. The press conference was followed by a sneak peek at the second promotional trailer for the series (shown below).
The anime fans’ reactions to the news were divided, with some pleased that Kyoto Animation was moving away from their conventional themes, while others argued they shouldn’t have made such drastic changes. Meanwhile on Tumblr, the show garnered a largely positive reaction from fans of the original trailer.
The first episode of Free!! debuted July 4th, 2013. Crunchyroll provided the first episode with subtitles the same day.
Anime News Network – Kyoto Animation Unveils Swimming Team TV Anime Free! for July / 04-26-2013
Anime News Network – Kyoto Animation’s Free! Swim Team Anime Promo Streamed / 04-26-2013