Usually when I watch an episode, I’m ready to start writing as soon as it finishes, beginning my review as the ending track is playing.
But for this episode, I just sat there, letting the ending continue playing, like some sort of background music as I tried to put the pieces together.
And I realized that now, even the ending makes more sense than it did before.
Every episode, I think that it’s the one that’s made the most impact on me yet, that there can’t possibly be anything worse or anything that just leaves me as speechless. But this episode is the one to really destroy everything. I’m still trying to search for the words to say…because even though the preview was frightening, nothing could have prepared me for this.
It’s funny, I watched this anime because I wanted something lighthearted about a sport I loved, but this is a lot more than I expected. It’s good. But I really didn’t see any of this coming.
"We need to worry about ourselves right now."
This doesn’t just apply to Iwatobi. Yes, Iwatobi needs to worry about themselves, not Samezuka, not Sousuke’s injury. Nothing beyond sympathy. But I think this really pertains to Haru and Makoto. When he says that, Makoto is urging Haru to move on with his life, not to worry about Makoto being left behind or Rin or anyone else. Haru needs to pursue his own path and it’s important that he figures out what he’s going to do before it’s too late. At this point, he can’t afford to spend time worrying about anyone else.
I noted that when Rin mentioned scouts, Makoto had that glimmer of hope in his eye. I don’t know if scouts have contacted Makoto, but what I’m guessing is that even so, Makoto believes that he can’t become a professional swimmer not because he’s too slow, but because that would probably hold Haru back. Haru would always be waiting for him, and Makoto would never be the one to be dead weight.
But this episode is all about Haruka. I knew something was terribly wrong when the dream began. It was…something I’d never thought I would use to describe this anime, but it was actually scary. Behind that quiet facade, Haru is beginning to crack under all the pressure. Everyone is urging him to go far, swim better, swim faster, impress others with his speed. But Haru was never about racing. He was about swimming. Swimming for fun, for peace, just because it was something he liked to do. There was no need to get competitive about it. Those words that his team might see as encouraging- “Go for it, Haru-chan! Swim fast!”- are terrible for him. They signify additional stress to perform well. For an ordinary competitive swimmer, those lines might be stressful because they they’re under pressure to swim fast, indeed, but for Haru, it’s more than that. Much more. For him, those words, like those threads that entangled him when he swum, pull him away from what swimming truly means to him. They defy his sense of who he is.
It’s often the most silent people who have the most emotions bottled up inside. It’s not healthy, and eventually it’ll result in something terrible. I know that well- I’m one of them. Writing is my outlet for it, but before, those emotions of sadness, fear, anger, all accumulated into something terrible and formed a monster- depression that haunted me for a year, and the constant thoughts of suicide. If I had found some way to let those feelings out, I probably wouldn’t have had to go through that. I’ve worked through it now, defeated the monster, but I doubt that Haru has. He’s starting to break apart at the seams, and this is when we see all of the emotions he’s been having to deal with expressed in that momentary burst of anger, that slam against the locker, something so uncustomary for the usually quiet Haru that it sent chills down my spine. And even with that, I doubt it was a full catharsis of his emotions. Swimming is something that Haruka enjoys, but I don’t think it helps him release his emotions, it simply placates the turmoil within him and keeps him content for a short while.
So that’s why I see swimming and Haru in a different way now. Maybe the swimming helps keep everything else drowned out, and that’s why he wants to swim all the time. But when those emotions of fear and the pressure to do well invade into the domain of the water, there’s no escape. That’s when swimming doesn’t become something that brings him joy, it becomes a nightmare. The water he swam in during his freestyle race was as dark as that of Sousuke’s earlier vision. Now, what can he do? He’s alienated by everyone. He doesn’t know where he can be safe. He stopped swimming right after he dove off the starting block because when he was there, he realized that he’s not swimming for the scouts because they’re the ones who tainted the water, that made nothing left for a sanctuary for him. In a way, Haru has, even though he might appear stubborn at first, always been changing himself to please others. He started racing to placate Rin, and swam faster to placate his team who wanted him to be scouted. In the ending, he wants to be a mermaid, but he changes himself to be a cook because inevitably somebody must have told him to do so. Simple swimming was the only thing that really molded itself into his identity, it’s the only thing that has really belonged to him. I sensed something distinctly cold when he addressed the rest of his team, after he spoke to Rin. And maybe, just maybe, he’s now afraid of the people who are closest to him.