I’m not a terribly big fan of Free! I really don’t remember season one too well, and two has been meh for me as well. But beginning with the last episode, the series has really picked up, and in episode ten, it does something really unexpected – it takes all the build up from this season and a lot from the last and makes it pay off in a way that doesn’t feel pushy or unnatural. In that way, episode ten felt, well, kinda free.
In this week’s episode, the focus lands squarely upon Sousuke, as he finally gets a chance to shine. As the emphasis of the lesser subplot this season, Sousuke doesn’t get a super thorough back story, but the few minutes spent on it in this episode were enough. We view Rin through Sousuke’s eyes, and see how Rin’s actions and thoughts through the years impacted him and ultimately helped turn him into a better person, one who once approached swimming selfishly, but now did it purely for friendship, even through physical pain.
But note this – Sousuke doesn’t take that final step toward making change in his life until he sees Rin compete in the relay with Makoto, Nagisa, and Haru. In that moment, the climax of season one, Rin became a “true believer.” And in that moment, Rin and the Iwatoba team served as witnesses to Sousuke, who would eventually transform as well.
Notice the way the personal transformation in this series works. Through demonstrating love toward Rin, the Iwatoba boys help push Rin toward change. By demonstrating a loving coaching style toward his team, his teammates do the same. And by showing love for one another, Sousuke is pushed toward change. All this transformation is almost infectious.
Our lives are connected to others in much the same way. As Rin didn’t realize that Sousuke was watching his relay last year, we, too, don’t necessarily know that we’re being witnesses to others through our lifestyles. And for those of us representing God, that’s a big deal, because it can reflect negatively on our faith, or as with Rin and the others, it can show something valuable and worthy.
But living our lives in a loving manner isn’t enough. Christ instructed us to “make disciples,” to play an active role in turning people toward Christ. In obedience and out of a desire to honor Christ, we should attempt to do the same. And again, in Free, we see how that plays out, as Rin captains (disciples) his team and changes the lives of several of his teammates, this though he’s a “new believer,” a swimmer who has just recently rediscovered the joy of swimming. He is learning along the way – as might we all as we seek to disciple others though we, too, are imperfect – and yet it’s through him that his entire relay team becomes focused on a worthy goal achieved through a worthy way.
Rin even functions as a model to Sousuke, who in his grumpy imperfection trains Nitori. Thus, discipleship begets further discipleship, with a second generation already beginning at Samesuka Academy.
And that’s the point – as we disciple others, we are also training our disciples to do the same, and encouraging a personal and powerful way to teach others about Christ. And I believe that as we do so, despite our fears, sins, and failures, we’ll see the promise of change in others’ lives as the Holy Spirit does in real life what water and freedom and teamwork do in Free – lead to personal transformation.