Nitori Aiichirō x Matsuoka Rin is the weakest relationship in Free!

I personally think that the relationships between characters is Free!’s greatest asset.

The friendships between the 4 boys, the rivalry between Haruka and Rin, the relationship between the club members and their manager, the relationship between the club and their adviser,  all of these relationships are great.

One relationship that is not so great though, is the one between the lonely Aiichirō and his cold senpai, Rin.

There are various reasons behind this suckage. Let us examine three of them now.

Note: When I say relationship, I mean that in the most generic, not necessarily romantic form. But you can chose to believe otherwise if you so wish….

1. The love is single sided.

I do love the composition of this shot.

I do love the composition of this shot.

It is quite obvious that Aiichirō’s totally platonic feelings for Rin are one sided. That is to say, he likes Rin a heck of a lot more than Rin likes him.

For Aiichirō, Rin is the senpai to idolize, but for Rin, Aiichirō is just a kouhai who follows him everywhere. Rin is far too busy thinking of Haru to pay attention to Aiichirō.

Now, a relationship where one side is more fond of the other isn’t necessarily a bad relation. You can still get some great moments out of such a relation, but the Aiichirō x Rin relationship is far too one sided.

It is like watching a monkey play tug of war with a mountain. As exciting as that may be at first, it gets quite boring fast and to be frank, that simile is far more entertaining than the the actual relationship.

2. It feels fake.


Good relationships exist because there is either no reason for them not to exist or the characters involved want them to exist.

Other relationships exist because the writer wants to advance to advance the plot using the relationship. These relationships tend to suck.

Aiichirō x Rin exists not only because the writers use it to advance the plot but also because they use it to explain the plot. That latter point makes it suck quite a bit more.

When is Rin most troubled/anxious? When he is thinking about Haru of course. When is he thinking about Haru? When he has recently encountered Haru, of course. When does Rin encounter Haru? When Aiichirō alerts Rin of Haru’s presence of course.

That cycle has happened several times in the present time frame of the anime.

Free! uses the relationship between Aiichirō and Rin to inform Rin of Haru. It is a rather cheap reason for a relationship to exist but it gets even cheaper.

This relationship is also used to explain things. It was used to get Rin to talk about the past and it is often used to try and explain Rin’s current motivations.

I can understand the need for both the plot advancement and the explanations, but because of that requirement, this relationship feels incredibly forced and weak compared to the other, much better relationships.

3. Aiichirō sucks as a character.


You could take the hottest, coolest bishie and tie a string from him to a can of sardines, but you’d still only have a bishie tied to a can of sardines.

That is to say, relationships that have a lame character tend to be lame to.

I like pretty much everyone in Free! and while I don’t hate Aiichirō, I see nothing worth liking in him. He is just a plain box with fixed dialogue options. Sure, he makes a cute face now and then but that is really the extent of what he does.

Even the captain of Rin’s swimming team is a more entertaining character and he hardly ever makes an appearance.

p.s. Here is an awesome, somewhat relevant gif by Kiriska that you should definitely see.


Now, just for fun, let’s compare Nitori Aiichirō x Matsuoka Rin to other good relationships in Free.

Mako x Haru


I absolutely love this relationship. These two are such wonderful friends. Makoto is always on the lookout for Haru and he really only swims because he enjoys swimming with Haru and the others.

This relationship might seem one sided at times what with the aloof Haru paying Mako little heed but that isn’t true at all. The episodes involving the sea proved as much. Haru showed a lot of concern for Mako.

He even showed up to pick Makoto up in the morning which was quite extraordinary because it is normally Makoto that is waiting for Haru.

God, these two are such good friends! They clearly understand one another and nothing about their interactions ever feels forced or out of place.


Free! Makoto is my absolute favorite Free character. He is so nice, it hurts!

Nagisa x Rei


It is tempting to claim that Nagisa has romantic feelings for Rei and Rei is simply too bashful to accept, but if anything, it is Rei who has the feels for Nagisa but Nagisa has bro-zoned Rei much too far to notice.

Regardless, the two polar opposites get along quite well and the screen always lights up when Nagisa is toying with poor Rei. This is quite a fun, if not outright sadistic relationship. I like it!

The Four Boys x The Four Boys

Free Group Hug, Nagisa is quite kinky

Between the 4 of them, the group dynamics of Iwatobi Swim Club is fantastic. It never feels weird to see them hang out with one another nor do any of them feel out of place. Things just work and all of them just want to swim with one another.

It is a great group and one that functions like a well oiled machine. It would feel quite incomplete if one of the guys was to just disappear.

Gou x Everyone


Gou’s relationship with the boys is perhaps not as well developed as the relationships between the boys themselves, but she never feels out of place either. Her existence is important, her enthusiasm is necessary and the quality of her current interactions with the group far exceed those required of a club manager.

Interestingly enough, she often plays a similar role to Aiichirō in that she informs the guys of Rin’s nefarious schemes but she, and by extension her relationship with the guys, is much, much more likable than Aiichirō or Aiichirō x Rin.

Rin x Haru

Another fantastic shot. The accompanying music was

Another fantastic shot. The accompanying music was also wonderful.

This is the rivalry that spurns this show on. It’s reason for existence is never totally clear but it isn’t quite a straight forward rivalry. Haru and Rin have both only recently realized it, but they don’t just want to compete with one another, they want to swim with one another.

These developments and confused feelings might be detrimental to the health of those involved in this relationship, but they make this relationship enjoyable. All in all, it is a pretty strong relationship (from the viewer’s perspective mind you).

I could go on and talk about the other remaining relationships to, but I think I have made my point.

The Nitori Aiichirō x Matsuoka Rin relationship kind of sucks and is most definitely, the least entertaining relationship in Free!

As for this post as a whole, please don’t misunderstand. This wasn’t actually a rant per say, but just a minor complaint.

Free! is a great anime. It has a solid soundtrack, occasionally good animation (sometimes the animation quality drops a lot and that kinda sucks), great characters (except for Aiichirō) and great character relationships (except for Aiichirō x Rin of course).

It is really great but I didn’t really have much to say about its shiny, nice things, so I just said bad things about one of its blemishes. Heck, I don’t even dislike Aiichirō that much. I just think that Aiichirō and his relationship with Rin are rather boring.

Thanks for understanding ( I hope!).

Yes, this is also a good relationship.

Yes, this is also a good relationship.


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  1. #1 by Highway on September 8, 2013 - 2:14 pm

    Personally, I think Rin is a pretty terrible character, as well. Uninteresting and wooden, he’s a jerk who is in general far more well-liked than he deserves. I can see where Makoto and Nagisa, two people who focus strongly on bonds and friendship, don’t want to give up on their past friendship with him, but I feel Rin in no way deserves any sort of affection from them. I think Haru’s main worry about Rin is that he made him sad in the past. And Haru thought that swimming with Rin would bring his freedom back, but what he has realized that it’s not about Rin, it’s about his actual friends.

    I agree that Aiichiro is terrible, the worst character in the show. A fawning sycophant to the second-worst character in the show. And Rin has absolutely no care for him, just like Rin has absolutely no care for anyone else in the show besides himself. But to me, Aiichiro is just a throwaway character, put in for some exposition and fanservice. Rin is far more troubling. He doesn’t generate any sympathy from me, I don’t feel bad that he didn’t get as much satisfaction from beating Haru as he thought he would, or that he is now on the outside looking in at four friends who share a closeness he used to have. He’s the one who threw that away, he’s the one who ran away to Australia, who came back but didn’t even say anything, who held a grudge, who acted like a total and complete jackass when he beat Haru (by what, 2 tenths of a second? To claim 5th best qualifier in the final?).

    The rest of the show is a lot of fun to watch. But for me, Rin drags the whole show down, like an anchor around its neck.

    • #2 by Reiseng on September 8, 2013 - 3:09 pm

      I don’t really dislike Rin as much as you, but I do agree that all in all, he isn’t a terribly likable character.

      He probably doesn’t deserve all the attention he gets but more importantly, the attention given to him does have a significant negative effect on the show.

      Instead of seeing the swim club do goofy things with one another, we have to content ourselves with Haru -> Rin drama, most of which would go away rather quickly if Rin wasn’t such a blockhead.

      I will admit however that the show does use Rin’s insecurities quite well at times. The entire scene with Rin staring at Haru and the others swimming was magnificent. I loved the commentary he had on the swimming styles of his former teammates and the jealousy he displayed towards Rei.

      Yeah, he doesn’t really deserve to swim with them anymore (including him in the Iwatobi swim club would mean saying goodbye to Rei and that would suck!), but it is still nice to see him writhe in agony over his own loneliness. 🙂

      A fawning sycophant to the second-worst character in the show.

      I learned a new word today. Thanks. 😛

      • #3 by Highway on September 8, 2013 - 4:17 pm

        What makes the Haru and Rin stuff worse is that it’s *all* caused by Rin. Haru feels bad because Rin emo’d out over a loss. Haru feels bad because Rin ran away to Australia. In essence, Haru feels bad because Rin is a selfish jerk.

        I don’t have to like characters. I don’t particularly like Yura Yamato in Stella C3 right now. She’s a good character and is driving the show along. But Free! is a pretty typical KyoAni slice-of-life show, and having a bad guy character like Rin just doesn’t feel right in the show. It makes it drag, and pulls away from what the best parts of the show are: the growing friendships and camaraderie of the Iwatobi boys.

      • #4 by Reiseng on September 13, 2013 - 8:58 am

        Yeah, I agree. Though to be fair, young Rin is shown to be quite likable. Something bad likely happened though I guess that isn’t enough to justify everything.

        I should catch up on C3 but Yura’s turned me away a little.

  2. #5 by nicolemabdilla on October 22, 2013 - 5:25 am

    I agree whole heartedly! Rin is quite a hard character to ‘get into’ it feels like mission impossible (pardon the lame word play) i’m not sure what the writers were thinking when they made him so boring.

    • #6 by Reiseng on October 22, 2013 - 10:47 pm

      Yeah, he was quite boring. A good number of Free! fans liked him. I am not totally sure why, but yeah.

  3. #7 by insertnamehere88 on August 25, 2017 - 8:37 am

    To be honest, I barely ship anyone. But you should let people ship what they want to. Just because your opinion has reasons behind it, doesn’t mean everyone has to believe it. The world is consisting of 11,000,000,000 people, and they won’t always agree.

    • #8 by Reiseng on August 29, 2017 - 7:11 pm

      Ah, apologies if my bad writing was vague or ambiguous.

      There is nothing wrong with folk shipping this ship! Everyone can ship what they believe in >_<

      This was just me complaining about how Free has a lot of good relationships, but to me this particular one isn't very good, so it feels like a waste of time whenever the kouhai is on screen. Again nothing really wrong with people shipping it. I just felt a tad upset at their time on screen and wanted to rant.

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