The Free! franchise will make its final splash later this year.
In honor of the eighth anniversary of the original Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club anime, Kyoto Animation revealed a new teaser for its upcoming Free! anime film, announcing the title and release date for the final installment in the sports anime series. Kyoto Animation also revealed that the film, titled Free! - The Final Stroke, will be split into two parts. The first part will premiere Sept. 17, while the second part arrives April 22, 2022. The film's tagline reads, "Let's go to the stage of glory..." While no major plot details have been revealed, the teaser does refer to the film as the "final chapter" of the series.
Free! - The Final Stroke was originally supposed to premiere in 2020 to coincide with the now-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but it was bumped back due to an arson attack on Kyoto Animation Studio 1 in July 2019. The attack resulted in the demolition of Kyoto Animation's Studio 1 and the death of 36 employees, including High Speed! Free! Starting Days director Yasuhiro Takemoto.
Eisaku Kawanami, the director of the anime's third season Free! Dive to the Future and the three previous films Free! Timeless Medley - The Bond, Free! Timeless Medley - The Promise and Free! Take Your Marks, will return to helm Free! - The Final Stroke. Nobunaga Shimazaki (Black Clover, Fruits Basket, Sword Art Online: Alicization) will also return to voice main protagonist Haruka Nanase, although the rest of the voice cast has yet to be confirmed.
The Free! franchise began as a 30-second promotional video for Kyoto Animation, but an intense fan campaign on Tumblr generated enough interest that the commercial was actually developed into an anime that debuted in 2013. Since that original commercial, the Free! franchise has had three seasons, a light novel, five animated films and the upcoming two-part film. The series' balance of fan-service, character development and sports anime action has made it one of Kyoto Animation's most popular and successful anime.
Free! tells the story of protagonist Haruka Nanase, a high school student who has always loved the water and whose sole passion in life is swimming. He reunites with his former middle school swim teammates Makoto and Nagisa and starts a new swimming club, and together they compete against friend-turned-rival Rin, who is determined to prove he's the stronger swimmer. The anime follows the boys' journeys to becoming professional swimmers and depicts their often tumultuous relationships with each other along the way.
Source: Free! Website, via Crunchyroll