Well, this was a boring episode that I don’t have very much to say about. I do find it mildly dismaying that apparently the staff are only capable of delivering season-long tension by having a Designated Asshole (even if my notes may read “hateship awwww yeahh” regarding the cornering by the vending machine). I really despised Rin last season, and I’m still not too keen on him; his behavior was so thoroughly repellant (and I take a lot of issue with his selfishness toward the end of the season, something that only gets revived by having the new Designated Asshole get all righteous toward Haru about Rin’s participation in the final relay race), so having Sosuke roll into this same spot is off-putting. At least the final new cast member, the younger Mikoshiba, is anything but an asshole, and I’ll admit to smirking when he was yowling over Rin’s bait-and-switch involving “cute girls”. He’s certainly not a unique character, and his character arc has pretty much been completed (i.e. joining the team after his competitive nature’s been fired up), but he’s not a jerk, and that apparently is enough to give him an edge here.
I criticized Sword Art Online II for failing to do anything to interest a viewer new to its universe in its characters and story so far, so it’s only fair to note that Free S2 doesn’t present much, either, to draw in a new audience. It’s all very boilerplate KyoAni. Actually, speaking of the studio, perhaps I shouldn’t look askance at Free’s approach to tension, as Tamako Market’s way of manufacturing some involved introducing a foreign prince who wanted teenaged Tamako to be his wife. I think I’ll take Designated Asshole any day over bizarre orientalist subplots.
Not much, either, to say regarding the swimming. I will state that it’s very difficult to believe that Rei, who has been swimming competitively for one year, is able to remain ahead of an athlete like Rin, even when it’s taken into account that Rei was an athlete prior to becoming a swimmer and that he had a lead from Makoto.
Only other thing of much note is Haru’s characterization here, which I think is decently done. Haru could’ve easily just been a weirdo, or been the run-of-the-mill cool-blooded shounen who can’t be bothered to show any emotion. While characters often in anime don’t clear up miscommunications due solely to demands of the plot, at least here it isn’t wholly baffling that he keeps silent on how Rin ended up in the relay – Haru doesn’t generally do so well with other people, so I’m more willing to accept his behavior here on the grounds that he doesn’t know how to handle the situation.
Oh, by the way, the bird outline in the OP… Haikyuu has a bird motif! COINCIDENCE???