[Sports Summer 2016] Like Free!? Watch this!

We’re more than halfway through the Summer 2016 anime season, at last! Most of you probably already have several titles you’re tuning into every single week, and as we’re approaching the end of the season, it’s about time for things to heat up even more! But there are definitely also several titles you’ve probably dropped because it’s turning out not to your liking. And well, what’s the harm in picking up a new one? It’s only halfway through the season!

For sports anime fans, or simply those of you who fell in love with Free!, here are two titles you might be interested in.

About Free!

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: July 2013 – September 2013

Kyoto Animation’s hit of a sports anime with a sequel, a prequel movie, and—after the announcement in their latest event the other week—most probably another installment of the series, Free! took its audience to see the world through Nanase Haruka’s eyes. A genius prodigy who, for some reason, had given up competitive swimming. Haruka is now involved in creating a swim club as his friends nudge him to swim together again. In facing his rivalry with his childhood friend Matsuoka Rin and finding his reason and joy back in swimming with the rest of his friends, Haruka manages to mend their friendships and, along the way, his own dream for the future.

Liked Free!? Watch Battery!

  • Episodes: 11
  • Aired: July 2016 – September 2016

Having his whole family move to a backwater town where his Grandfather live, Harada Takumi, fresh out of elementary school, is looking into joining the local junior high school’s baseball team. Not entirely exciting, considering it isn’t a particularly strong baseball team. For a genius pitcher like Takumi, who still doubts that there will be anyone in town who could catch his pitch, the team would probably rely solely on his throw to win any of their match. Except then Nagakura Gou appears, enthusiastically and stubbornly insistent in forming a Battery—a combination of Pitcher and Catcher—with Takumi. How far can they bring the team to the victory?

3 Major similarities between Free! and Battery.

1. Both are Sports Anime with Strong Touch of Slice of Life

Unlike other sports anime that focuses on a sport as familiar, well-known, and often-adapted into manga or anime as baseball, Battery has less focus in team dynamics or tournaments in general. Instead, the story focuses on the Battery pair and their individual life—their family situations, their friendships, and their day-to-day routines. While Battery is a sports anime, it is also, in a way, a slice of life anime. There are barely scenes of baseball matches or even technical baseball babbles. For the first few episodes, we get to see the characters’ quiet, normal daily life—from Takumi’s running routine and Gou’s relationship with his mother, to Gou taking care of Takumi after he got bullied, making it a chance for sleepover and breakfast together the next morning.

This slice of life touch is also a familiar atmosphere in Free!, where scenes of actual swimming matches only comes in a few episodes. Rather, Free! gave its audience a normal day-to-day routine of its characters depicting their high school life—from going to convenience store to buy ice cream to summer festival shenanigans. If you’re looking for a sports anime with a touch of slice of life, then Battery is a must-watch!

2. Genius and Extremely Talented Protagonists

The one similarity between the two anime that definitely stands out is that both Takumi and Haruka are geniuses in their chosen field of sports. Both are also seemingly incapable to not constantly be in contact with the object of their sports—Haruka with his obsession with water, and Takumi’s habit of keeping a Tokarev in his pocket. Their similarity doesn’t end there, though; both Takumi and Haruka are quiet boys who show minimum expressions, rarely smiles, and only speaks when and what they feel they need to.

As with all geniuses, they tend to have their quirks. Those who have watched High Speed!, Free!’s prequel movie, might feel more similarity between Takumi and middle school age Haruka. Takumi hates and doesn’t listen to anyone, and he’s a little bit more sullen than Haruka is. Regardless, both of them love their chosen field of sports, are quiet, and a bit of an oddball character who is somewhat awkward when it comes to social interaction.

3. Subtle Delivery of Characters’ Personal Conflict

If you’re the type who is quite critical to how an anime delivers its story, you would probably pay attention to this sort of similarity. Perhaps because both Free! and Battery have strong touch of slice of life atmosphere, they also have similar way of delivering their characters’ personal conflict: rather quiet, subtle, show-not-tell sort of storytelling that’s pretty hard to find in your usual sports anime. Just like how Free! tells Rin’s inner conflict in a slow burn for the whole first season, or Makoto’s fear of ocean and Haruka’s quiet reluctance in swimming for himself and for his team, Battery highlights the conflicts around Takumi and Gou in a quiet, slow burn way. There’s Takumi’s fear of losing hope in actually having a Catcher who could keep up with his throw, underlining his and Gou’s dynamic even when they appear to be okay, which brought unresolved tension between the pair.

There’s also Gou’s strained relationship with his mother who wished for him to quit baseball, rarely brought up but clearly playing a big role in how Gou sees himself. While Free! also has more light-hearted humor to balance the angst, Battery’s way of storytelling is a bit quieter though not darker, with occasional heart-warming scenes between Takumi, Gou, and the rest of the series’ characters.


Liked Free!? Watch Cheer Danshi!!!

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: July 2016 – September 2016

After an injury, Bandou Haruki feels like he doesn’t have any place in doing judo like his sister—the National Champion—does. Once he resigns, though, his friends since childhood, Hashimoto Kazuma, drags him along to create a never-before-existed boys-only cheerleading team. What begins as simply keeping his childhood friend company slowly turns into a way for Haruki to break through his old self, as he discovers new friends and learns new things in the cheerleading club they named BREAKERS, where each and every member aim to break through their limit!

3 Major similarities between Free! and Cheer Danshi!!.

1. Team Feels! (1-2 paragraphs)

One of the things you would be looking for in a sports anime would be a team dynamic. The bond of a team, the bond of friends who aim for the same goal—both Free! and Cheer Danshi!! has great team dynamics to offer! When Free! has adorable summer festival shenanigans and team outings where they all make great memories, Cheer Danshi!! is offering a more mature, college students style of team bonding: dinner outing after club activities, part-time jobs for club money, and Christmas party where half of the team get drunk.

Cheer Danshi!! also gives you more variety of interaction between club members, simply because BREAKERS has more members than Free!’s Iwatobi swim club. There’s the hilarious Kansai duo who makes fun of everything, the eating champion Ton who is apparently the only one with a girlfriend, and of course, Haruki and Kazumi life-nurtured understanding.

2. Both Series Deal with Creating A Club from Scratch

This is the one similarity between Free! and Cheer Danshi!! that’s most visible. Just like Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa have to work hard to create a new swimming club for Iwatobi High School and, later, work even harder to recruit members, in Cheer Danshi!! we also get to see Haruki and Kazuma’s efforts in creating a new club and all the mess that comes with it. From giving out flyers, practicing new moves without a coach, to sneaking into the gym class just to scout a possible new member, the fun of making a club from scratch is one of the highlight you could look forward to in Cheer Danshi!!.

And with it, of course, also comes the joy of watching the club grow. As new members join and the team grows, so does the team dynamic change. This is the part that Free! doesn’t really offer until the end of season two, but in Cheer Danshi!!, you’d get to see both the making of a club and how it flourishes!

3. Cute Boys Doing Cute Things

Let’s be honest, one of the reasons why we all watch Free! is because the series have cute boys doing cute things. Like Nagisa eating pizza, Makoto letting his twin siblings hang around his neck, or Rei stalking Rin at the summer festival. Cheer Danshi!! doesn’t lose in this aspect, of course—all of the cheerleading team members are cute in their own way, not only just physically. From Sho’s obsession over a squirrel mascot, Mizoguchi’s tendency to randomly quote writers, or Gen and Ichiro’s silly fixation on getting popular among girls, their traits easily endear them to the audience, and you’ll be picking out favorites before you know it.

You’ll see them doing ridiculous or adorable things too—like making a Christmas tree out of boxes, doing questionable poses while working a part-time job, and of course, one of the highlights of the series, their cheerleading routines!

Final Thoughts

Which sports anime have you begun to watch this season? As we’re getting quite an interesting similar-but-not-really options this season, it feels very refreshing. Considering the summer anime season is halfway done already, it’s the perfect time to pick up a sport anime if you’ve been meaning to, and catch up before the end of the season! If you’re a Free! fan who haven’t watched these two titles, do check them out! And if you have, let us know what you think in the comments!
Roti Susu

Writer

Author: Roti Susu

Roti Susu here! An aspiring writer who has spent more than half of her life actively writing in various fandoms. Currently living in Japan as a student, I'm a fujoshi who enjoys karaoke, watching a wide range of anime, reading manga and playing RPG games, and am also very much into seiyuu.

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