- Episodes : 25 (Free! Iwatobi Swim Club 12; Free! Eternal Summer 13)
- Genre : Comedy, School, Slice of Life, Sports
- Airing Date : July 2013 - September 2013; July 2014 - September 2014
- Producers : Kyoto Animation
Rin Matsuoka Preview (No Spoilers)
Haruka Nanase has a special relationship with water. Back in elementary school he was an avid swimmer, even winning a relay race at a tournament with his swimming club. However, that race became a bittersweet memory for Haruka and the other boys who took part - Makoto Tachibana, Nagisa Hazuki, and Haruka's ultimate rival, Rin Matsuoka. Forced apart by circumstance, everything changes for these boys. Haruka stops swimming and Rin, who leaves to study abroad, stops smiling.
One day in their second year of high school, Rin suddenly reappears in their lives, only to challenge Haruka to a race. With this Rin and Haruka's rivalry resurfaces and, along with Makoto, Nagisa, and newbie Rei Ryugazaki, Haruka starts the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club. They begin training in order to challenge Rin and the rest of the Samezuka Swimming Team, but now that Haruka is back in the water, will Rin's smile also return?
Rin Matsuoka Bio
● Seiyu: Mamoru Miyano
Rin is protagonist Haruka's old friend and long-term rival. As children, they attended the Iwatobi Swimming Club together, and Rin even changed elementary schools just to be with him and the other members. After this, Rin left Japan to study swimming at a middle school in Australia. At the beginning of Free!, Rin has returned to Japan and is a second-year student at Samezuka Academy, a famous all-boys school known for raising professional-level swimmers.
One of Rin's most prominent physical characteristics is his teeth, which are reminiscent of his character animal, the shark. Personality-wise, Rin is stubborn and proud, but incredibly caring and driven. He is also the older brother of Gou Matsuoka, the manager of the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club.
Rin Matsuoka Highlights
1. He's Incredibly Human
In the first season of the anime, Rin experiences an intense and expansive range of emotions that pulls the viewers into his world. We see him change from a bright young boy to an angsty teenager full of self-loathing. We learn about his father's death and the pressure Rin puts on himself to carry out his father's dream in his place. We watch Rin fight with anyone and everyone who confronts him and eventually, we watch him break down, finally letting the tears he's been trying to hold back fall.
But it's not all doom and gloom. At the climax of the first season, Rin builds himself back up with the help of those around him, gracing us with a smile brighter than anything we've seen before. Rin's back - and thanks to the hard times he's been through, he's stronger than ever. We can see this throughout Eternal Summer, as Rin becomes a pillar of support for both the Samezuka and Iwatobi teams, and in particular, Haruka. What's more, this new strength means that he is now able to express his emotions more freely, even if his tsundere nature means that he can't put them into words.
2. He's a Hard Worker
If there's one characteristic about Rin that stays with you long after the anime has ended, it's the way he works incredibly hard to achieve his goals. In order to train to become an Olympic swimmer, he made the decision to leave all of his friends and family behind and move to Australia to attend a prestigious swimming school - an incredibly difficult thing for a sixth grader to do, never mind alone. And when that didn't work out, he didn't give up. Despite battling depression and an inferiority complex, Rin kept swimming. He kept persevering.
Even though he puts so much effort into his sport, Rin remains humble - or rather, unable to see his own worth. No matter how much of an incredible athlete he has become, he is constantly trying to improve himself, whether that's by hitting the gym to improve his muscle mass, or swimming to improve his times. What's more, this devotion doesn't just apply to swimming - he is also devoted to his friends, teammates, and family. He's not just working hard for himself, but for everyone that he cares about, making us as viewers care for him all the more.
3. He's Affectionate
Rin not only treasures his ties with other people - he's also not afraid to show it. Due to his emotional struggles and isolating himself from others, we don't see this side of Rin until the end of the first season of Free!, when he rushes to embrace Haru after the relay with the Iwatobi team. This is a monumental moment as it shows that Rin is finally returning to the way he used to be, and how grateful he is to Haru for accepting him.
With this, the affection floodgates open. Throughout the second season of the anime, and even in official art, Rin can often be seen expressing his feelings for his friends through physical gestures. Whether it's an arm teasingly slung around someone's shoulder or encouraging hair-ruffling, it seems Rin finds it hard to keep his hands off his nearest and dearest, making him seem more like an adorable puppy than a scary shark.
4. He's A Romantic
One of the things that stands out about Rin's character is his romantic nature and his desire to create meaningful connection with others. We see this for the first time when he's in elementary school, after he, Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa have won the relay. Rin suggests that they bury the trophy they won as a kind of time capsule and dig it back up when they are reunited. It is also around this time that Rin introduces the others to the English phrase "for the team", something which becomes so deeply ingrained in Haruka's mind that he still remembers it years later.
As if that isn't sentimental enough, we also learn that other than becoming an Olympic swimmer, Rin has another dream - to swim in a pool filled with cherry blossoms. And it seems that Rin's romance is infectious - as in the first episode of Eternal Summer, the Iwatobi gang fill their own pool with the flowers to surprise him. Although rain ruins their plans, eventually Rin makes his dream come true himself at the end of the second season, pouring cherry blossom petals in the Samezuka pool, and inviting everyone to swim in it.
5. He Takes Haru to Australia (Free! Eternal Summer Ep. 12)
How far would you go for a friend in need? How about 4,000 miles across the ocean? That might seem a bit extreme, but it's exactly what Rin decides to do in the penultimate episode of Eternal Summer. Seeing Haruka struggle with trying to find his dream, Rin steps in and sweeps him away to Australia. There, he takes Haru to swim alongside Australia's national team, hoping to inspire him and help him discover what he really wants to do. Thanks to this, Haruka is able to get over his fears and realise that he too wants to aim for the Olympics.
It's not an exaggeration to say that Rin and Haru's relationship forms the very basis of Free! and is extremely important to both of their character development. However, this trip is especially significant as it shows the lengths Rin will go to to help those he cares about. Just like if it wasn't for Haruka in the first season Rin would not have been able to move forward, if it wasn't for Rin's actions in this episode, Haruka would still be struggling. It is thanks to this trip that both of them are able to pursue their dreams, and stand tall as professional swimmers.
Well, that's it for this week's Honey's Crush Wednesday. If you've yet to see Free!, now's the time to dive in. You don't even need a pool - with this series, you'll soon be swimming in your own tears. With Rin being such an all-round great character, it was ridiculously difficult to narrow the reasons to love him down to just five. He has so many facets to his personality and so much emotional depth, but more than anything, he's imperfect, and that's exactly what makes him feel so real and loveable.
So, what’s your favourite thing about Rin? Is there a particular scene that made you fall for him? Let us know in the comments below!