Thoughts on Free! Eternal Summer, Episode 12
Haruka did not suddenly change his mind. Up until this point, people had been trying to talk him into becoming a pro – Rin, Makoto, Nagisa and Rei, at school. As well-intentioned as they were, it made Haruka feel like he had no say in his own future. He felt overwhelmed and suffocated; thus, in Haruka’s head, becoming a pro grew into the complete opposite of being free.
Rin took Haruka and showed him another angle; then let him decide for himself. He never once tries to convince Haruka directly, but instead apologizes and tells him word by word how he has always admired him; he shares his experience of coming to Australia, both the excitement and the anxieties; he takes Haruka to meet his supportive host family; he reminisces about the first time they met, and why Haruka is such an important driving force to him.
At face value, Rin is the one doing most of the talking, while Haruka watches and listens silently. But it is Haruka’s situation that is being addressed, through Rin. We watch Haruka taking it all in, his initial reluctance and concern melting away bit by bit. Finally, before their last stop, Rin asks him: if you do find your dream, what will you do?
The last stop is the Olympic pool at Sydney’s Aquatic Center. Symbolically, this pool is The World: the site of completion of the journey – literally, their trip to Australia, but essentially Haruka’s own inner journey – and celebration of new beginnings. As Haruka stands a bit apprehensively on its edge (aren’t they interrupting the pros?), a member of Australia’s national team addresses him friendly and urges him on. “Hey mate, how’s it going? Let’s go!”
At the moment of his epiphany, Haruka is no longer the Hanged Man – looking inward, suspended in action, feeling stuck and restricted in life –, but the dancer in the World card, looking infinitely outward, into the future and eternity. Haruka realizes he wants to swim there; not because anyone tells him or wants him to, but out of his own free will.
That’s the sight Haruka had never seen before, and what ultimately moves him towards enlightenment. It took him the whole episode – no, the whole long and winding season – to find it… But now, he is finally there.