this one got the hetboy otaku's entitled knickers in a knot, so i knew i wanted to watch it.
haruka loves to be immersed in water, and to swim in it. in elementary school, he won in a swimming tournament along with his fellow swimming club members, makoto, nagisa, and rin. good times, but rin abruptly went his separate way afterwards.
time has passed and memories receded when in the middle of their uneventful high school lives rin reappears and challenges haruka to a match, wanting to show off his overwhelming swimming prowess. not wanting it to end like this, haru and the other boys create the iwatobi high school swimming club in their school where nobody else has an interest in swimming, while rin joins the swim club of a highly competitive high school.
i'd like to wholeheartedly support this unexpected foray into male objectification from kyoto animation, the studio heretofore engaging in reams and reams of female objectification. it seems like such poetic justice. the animation is better than average, the sound excellent, catchy OP and ED, well-chosen voice talent, and wow, kyoani can animate water like no other. however, the story and characters are thoroughly cliched -- maybe on purpose -- but it felt all too thin to me. i think this is best enjoyed as a light and mildly amusing parody of its archetypes where all the roles are played by boys. for those who want to see it, there is a steady stream of homoerotic subtext. but if one doesn't want to see gayness in every interaction of two boys, one can honestly watch this as solely a story of childhood friendships and sports rivalry, without there being any love interest.
it's unfortunately for my taste not actually gay. there isn't even a true moment of romance here, nevermind of sexual activity. no kissing (and we don't even get close to it). it is a perfect example of plausible deniability. the fan service is quite classy (certainly when compared with most bouncy-bouncy-boob fan service directed at het fanboys); there's no ecchi, no lingering on sexual characteristics, no sexual cast jokes, no accidental wardrobe malfunction. we just get miles and miles of lean swimmers' bods, which are conveniently scantily clad because: swimming.
one thing i really liked, because i hate the "scheming female" trope in BL, is that the main girl in the cast is not used to come between any of the boys, she's competent and clear-headed, makes a great manager, and looooves their muscles. no, really, plausible deniability even stretches to the potential fujoshi. so, weirdly enough for a story inviting me to match up the boys, i much preferred her to her mopey jerk brother. yeah, definitely not enough gayness for me here.
not based on a manga, but a light novel, so i can't see whether the source material is more satisfying.
aaand... it just got a 2nd season. huh. i guess it was successful enough.