[Shippable Sports Fall 2016] Like Free!? Watch This!

Introduction

Buckle up people and get ready to drool over the gorgeous bodies presented in the following anime. If you’ve seen Free!, then you already have an idea of what you’re in for: men, men in love, and men performing for your enjoyment. Yuri!!!! On Ice and Days both present highly competitive sports anime with a flair of intimacy between each shows’ characters. Though each show might represent slightly different relationships, all of them represent an area of Boys Love, even as it professionally covers the trials and intensity of their respective sports.

About Free!

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: Jul. 2013 – Sep. 2014
  • Genres: School, Sports, Slice of Life, Comedy

Free! is a show of men and the most manly aspects of manhood, muscles and competition. Bro hugs and high fives are given in plenty with knotted shoulders, washboard abs, and porcelain skin. You are probably already very aware of this though, as you’ve probably dedicated some hours to following Haru and his friends form the Iwatobi Swim Club and then train endlessly to compete, or, in Haru’s case, simply be in water. The question is if each character can get over their personal struggles in order to compete well enough to earn the chance of another race.

Liked Free!? Watch Yuri!!!! On Ice!

  • Episodes: 10
  • Aired: Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2016
  • Read More

If you haven’t been watching one of the fall season’s hottest shows, Yuri!!! On Ice, what have you been doing with your life? Yuri!!!! On Ice takes us into the world of competitive figure skating, and boy does it make that world look glorious and sexy. After completely bombing the Grand Prix, Yuri Katsuki goes back home to Japan to figure out what his next steps will be. While at home, he performs a meditative imitation of one his hero’s performances. Well, some mischievous kids video taped and posted Yuri’s performance and his hero, Victor Nikiforov, has decided to leave skating behind to become Yuri’s coach! Seeing Victor become a coach, Yuri grow to his full potential, and how the skating world reacts to these two are just a few points that will be covered.

3 Major similarities Between Free! and Yuri!!!! On Ice!

Reason 1: Loving Boys

Each is inherently tied to the relationships that are formed between guys as they train together and compete against one another. This is because the competitive world is full of friendly rivalries, passionate support, and the desire to win. In each show, there is definitely a want to be number one, which creates certain antagonisms. However, this mutual desire also connects people together as one person’s success can motivate another to challenge themselves even harder. It creates a world of evolution with each person’s growth causing others to take on bigger obstacles.

Admittedly, there are two differences between the BL in Free! and Yuri!!! On Ice. First off, Yuri!!! the feelings between the characters in Yuri!!! On Ice are romantic and move beyond friendship. This is pretty clear when Yuri states that the love he feels for Victor is more than any he’s ever felt. Secondly, this fall’s skating anime actually has physical intimacy beyond just a hug. There’s no sex scene, as of yet, but the main two characters do engage in a passionate kiss. Most likely, you’ve heard or seen about this scene if any site you go to has an anime community.

Reason 2: Competition

As both shows are sports shows, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that they share similar elements of competition, and one of those aspects is the physical perfection of the human body. These athletes are ripped and do everything they can to stay in shape and perform to the upmost of their abilities. Would you expect any less though? Each show has a fairly large cast of characters and each person is vying for gold. One of the best ways to excel above the other competitors is to physically be the strongest. Being the most physical fit plays a huge part in each show as endurance is the key to being able to make it to the end and push past most barriers.

Each show also takes certain measures (camera angles, close ups, etc) to glorify physicality and the human body. Albeit, Yuri!!! On Ice does throw in a little body shaming, which is sadly all too real in the competitive world. That aside, both shows enjoy relishing in performances and the artistry of motion as characters perfect their respective sports and programs. Yuri!!! On Ice went so far as to even bring in actual figure skaters in order to properly capture the movements. The main difference is between the amount of musculature that is shown. In Free! it’s shirts off, while Yuri!!! On Ice demonstrates different types of masculinity through emotional intensity on the ice and gender bending outfits.

Reason 3: Personal Drama

A heavy plot point within each show is a character’s need to handle personal problems in order to perform. As stated above, physical prowess is obviously important. However, the mental and emotional states of characters can and does have a vast impact on their performances. In Free!, Haru’s reluctance to compete competitively and then his later uncertainty about the future leads to an inability to perform at his best, which causes some exceptional frustration for his rival/friend Rin. Yuri Katsuki consistently has something going on in his head that generally disrupts the fluidity of his programs. At first, its mainly confidence. Later on, it switches from losing Victor, frustrations with Victor’s noob status as coach, and plenty of other distractions.

Another similarity within this realm is that these shows are kind enough to show the mental and emotional situations that affect each of its characters, even if they don’t noticeably affect their performance. It allows us to feel deeply connected with everyone, and so we better feel the pain and heartbreak of those who lose.


Liked Free!? Watch Days!

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: Jul. 2016 – Dec. 2016
  • Read More

Days is a show that throws its viewers right into the aggressive world of high school soccer. It starts off with, and primarily follows, Tsukushi Tsukamoto, a shy and awkward boy, as he begins his high school career. He’s really nervous about making friends and fitting in, but luckily for him the popular Jin Kazama asks him if he would be willing to play a recreational match of soccer, because his team is down one player. Tsukamoto joins and enjoys the match so much that he dedicates his life to joining and supporting the high school’s soccer team. The only issue is that he’s an absolute beginner and really sucks.

3 Major similarities Between Free! and Days

Reason 1: The Beginner

One of the most obvious similarities between Free! and Days is that each take an absolute beginner in the sport and turn them into a relatively competitive player. Now, when the term ‘absolute beginner’ is used, it means along the lines of these two characters are essentially unable to do even the simplest, the most basic, functions of the sport. In Free!, Rei literally cannot propel himself forward in water and thus can’t swim. Tsukamoto from Days at least has the ability to run, but even that he does questionably at the beginning, as he has a tendency to trip over thin air.

Admittedly, both these characters do become essential parts of the teams they are on through an incredible amount of effort. However, the main difference is that Rei is literally needed for the team to even exist and perform in their coveted relay. Tsukamoto, on the other hand, is useful and will become one of the best, but at the time isn’t truly essential. Seiseki has had a strong soccer team over the years and consistently brings in powerful players. Thus, his appearance is not entirely essential.

Reason 2: Inspiration

How and why the beginner becomes so dedicated to the sport is actually pretty similar in each of the anime as well. Both Rei and Tsukamoto witnessed the beautiful grace of a character that most would consider a naturally gifted star. In fact it’s not until Rei sees Haru swimming that he can no longer deny the beauty that is swimming and commits himself to learning the forms and techniques in order to move with perfection in water. Tsukamoto watches Kazama play and becomes immediately infatuated with his skill and wishes to play with Kazama as much as possible.

The main difference between these aspects is that Rei is more closely attuned with the actual physical beauty of the sport, while Tsukamoto is in it for the friends. However, Rei does obviously become extremely close with his teammates and by the end just wants to swim with each of them one more time. Oh, and another little interesting tidbit on inspiration in these shows is that the growth and dedication of the newbie essentially vitalizes the rest of the team.

Reason 3: The Team

Another aspect of the show that becomes quite obvious is the team dynamic that is full of brotherly love. Both shows depend heavily on the team being able to function properly, which heavily relies on the players being able to read their teammates and become in sync. This is especially true for both these sports as timing can easily make the difference between winning and losing. How do they achieve such coordination? Well, obviously through tremendous amounts of team practice, one-on-one training, and training camps. In this way, both shows consistently develop a sense of bonding as teammates go through rigorous training as well as a sense of intimacy and understanding of the sport for the viewers.

Albeit, there is a slight difference of feeling as Free!’s bonding feels a little bit more intimate due to the team being much smaller. Also, they don’t rant on Rei nearly as much as the rest of the team rants (in good nature) on Tsukamoto.

Conclusion

If you liked Free!, then there’s a really good chance that you will also like one or both of these new shows. There’s a lot of undeniable similarities that most fans of the sports genre in anime will find comforting and exciting. However, were there any other similarities between them that I might have missed or a show that resembles Free! even more than these two? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

Yoko Dev

Writer

Author: Yoko Dev

Hello, my anime peers. I’m from the states, but have taken an indefinite leave to travel while freelancing. Outside of a deep admiration for anime that started long ago, I love to read, write, and play video games. The main issue of traveling so far has been not having a console.

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