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Fans Do Cool Things

Tumblr Has Successfully Willed Their Fan-Created Swimming Anime Into Existence As a Real Show

Are you familiar with the glorious Tumblr phenomenon known as Swimming Anime? If not, Susana covered it in-depth when it burst onto the scene in a cloud of chlorine and homoerotic tension last month. But for tl;dr purposes, the basics are these: A company called Kyoto Animation (or KyoAni) created a 30-second promo for an anime about four male members of a swim team. It wasn’t a real anime; they were just showing off their animation skills. But Tumblr latched onto it, creating characters, ships, fanart, fic, and in-depth meta within 48 hours, all for a show that was never going to exist.

Until now. Congratulations, Tumblr. Swimming Anime is being made.

In addition to a new name—Free!, much catchier than Swimming Anime—the show now has a 90-second trailer (below), and a website featuring images and pictures of the main characters (five of them now). The canon will be expanded even further this July, when the show is expected to debut.

The Swimming Anime fandom on Tumblr is freaking out, and predictably so, because the power of their fannishness has literally taken the show they want to see—yaoi, hot dudes, fanservice geared toward the female gaze—and made it reality. Granted, there’s a high potential for the entire fandom to be Jossed when elements of the show as they created it on Tumblr don’t match what the show actually is.

But you can cross that bridge when you come to it, Swimming Anime fand—I’m sorry, Free! fandom. For now, bask in your success. My hat is off to you.


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  • Kawa

    I’m really excited. If they ACTUALLY taking the “swimming” part as seriously as they take the “attractive men being attractive” part, I think I will have a favorite anime for the 2013 summer season. :3

  • Amy Barnett

    I *may* have started barking with laughter.

    But in a good way.

  • Infophile

    The howls of outrage from past KyoAni fans are hilarious as well. It’s basically, “How dare they make something targeted at someone other than me?” minus the self-awareness, and plus a few death threats here and there. The privileged sure are a sensitive bunch, aren’t they?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    How dare they make a show that a large number of people have expressed interest in seeing?! Those fools!

  • DemonicPIty

    Yay for boy-love! I’m happy they’re making this an anime. It would have been like throwing money away not to. And of couse they added a glasses charecter… sillly of them not to have him from the get go.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, assuming Know Your Meme is correct, this anime may have been planned for some time:

    Notice that the first images came from last year.

  • Melinda Heaney

    i feel like this is a true victory for us women. finally an anime series that focuses on female audiences instead of guy eye-candy and male gaze

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Yeah, I was a little doubtful that the internet was the only say in something like this coming to fruition. I mean, these shows take a lot of time to produce.

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Kid number A, his arms overflowing with brand name candies, starts screaming when he sees empty-handed kid number B given a tootsie roll pop.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed. Though the positive reaction couldn’t have hurt.

  • Steven Garza

    I’m sure studio Shaft would be more than happy to take in the alienated fans and their money.

  • Kristin Oldfather

    My eye started twitching reading this. There has been MANY MANY different animes created that caters to women. It’s called ‘reverse harem anime’ and if you search it up you will find over a dozen of things to watch.

  • Alexa

    The animation on this things looks amazing. Also have a feeling that the red haired one is going to my favorite.

  • Laszlo

    Nah, this isn’t like comics or video games. The anime industry knows there’s a pretty sizeable female audience, there is quite a bit of stuff aimed at them, like yaoi or boy’s love, and even “boyish” genres start to rely on them more lately.

  • Mimi

    I think she means the fact that the anime contains FANSERVICE directed at women. The proportion of big-breasted, panty-showing girls to half naked attractive guys is highly imbalanced.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Unless you look at yaoi and BL/shounen-ai… which this fits right into as far as I can tell.

  • Guest

    That exclamation point with something splashing out of it is not phallic at all.

  • Becky Berg

    Not shocked by this. At all. I mean, if they made a freakin’ Hetalia anime (which as a webcomic actually talked about history shockingly) then nothing can shock me again.

  • Mimi Rice

    See…I don’t know. Male or female these kinds of shows just give me the wrong feels. I just don’t understand how objectifying [gay] men is any better. Yaoi in general always seems full of really bad stereotypes.

    But, maybe that genre has cleaned up in the past five years.

    That said, I can honestly say I haven’t seen a show about swimming. Given all the fun things you could do with animating it, I could see this having a good run.

  • Daryl Surat

    There’s a lot of misinformation going around about this, but suffice to say that the narrative being implied by this headline and post–that, because of sustained and near-instant degree of support on Tumblr that what was initially a concept video is now being made into a full-fledged series–is demonstrably false. The realities of animation production simply do not lend itself to supporting this in any way. There have been various rebuttals on this, but I feel the following is the most substantial:

    As the raw metric data shows, only about 0.2% of the traffic to the original promotional video that everybody linked to months ago came from Tumblr. This is not a statistically significant amount. Even expanding to the total combined views from the United States, that was only 7%. The truth is that FREE! was always going to be made and that what has been characterized as “just showing off animation skills” was in fact a teaser akin to how American movies debut with a teaser followed by full-fledged trailers. It’s not like say, Marvel’s The Avengers got made because of the strong SDCC reception to a short video that showed a spinning A; that was the plan from the start. Yet “FREE! got made thanks to Internet fan reaction” is precisely what is being posited here, and that notion has spread to multiple sites because it reaffirms what people already want to believe.

    Just as with the mainstream news, people only remember the initial headline. If there’s a retraction a few days later, few care as they’ve moved on to the next headline. This idea’s already out so there’s little to be done, but please keep this in mind if follow-up coverage of FREE! is planned on this site.

  • sukeban

    Begin with Hakuouki, for example?

    And then go to Ouran Host Club for the affectionate sendup of the tropes.

  • aaa

    Japanese video games know that, too. It’s hilarious because Japan has serious problems with sexism and yet they’re far more egalitarian when it comes to fanservice, simply because they understand the market better and don’t view women as sexless aliens.

  • aaa

    If you’re bothered by misogyny or offensive gay stereotypes, that’s totally fine. But there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with designing shows primarily to appeal to people’s sexuality. Especially when the fanservice is equal-opportunity.

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re right in calling it a genre. Yaoi is a specific subset of erotica with its own tropes: there’s a dominant guy and a submissive guy, noncon elements, and so on and so forth. That’s just what it is… I’m not the target audience, I don’t enjoy it, but comparing yaoi stereotypes to those in society seems like comparing objectification of women (in comic books) to objection of women (in porn).

    There was a really interesting interview with… was it Moto Hagio? Can’t remember. A famous manga artist, anyway. She expressed surprise that yaoi was popular in North America—she said that the male protagonist was used as a distancing stand-in for the female reader, and had thought that this was filling a gap unique to Japanese society. Made me think.

    Anyway, tl;dr: other people’s porn is a bit of a grey area, and analyzing it is more complicated than one might think.

  • Mimi

    But not every girl is into yaoi or boys love are they? And even with the yaoi genre included, it’s still not as much as the fan service aimed at males.

  • Shard Aerliss

    As far as I can tell from the little I know (this post); this anime is going to fit snugly into the BL category. If it lays off the romance/sexual tension then it’s at least shoujo, wandering towards josei… which again, are genres that’re not badly stocked; they’re just not aired on big US channels.

    It’s unlikely to be mainstream, to air in similar slots to… whatever it is wide audiences in America watch (with the headbands and has gone on forever… having a brain fart >_< ), so I wouldn't call it a victory for the female gaze.

  • snow anaya

    MarySue you are so fucking wrong it’s laughable. I hope you make another Article with an Apology to KyoAni for you stupidity.

    KyoAni has had Free! in production for over a Year. So to say that Tumblr made it a series is not only Stupid , it’s bad Journalism. I bet you didn’t even check facts or do research on this. Cause if you had know a god damn think about Animation you’d know it takes months to get music, get voice actor’s and start a promotion. KyoAni with the Announcement of the Free! anime had the music , the VA’s and the promotion taken care of. So what does that tell us , it tell’s us KyoAni had been planning to make Free! an anime Series from the get go. The Commercial/PV that we saw a month ago was only to test the waters to see if there was a Fan base for it and there was so they decided to follow threw with there plans . Another thing Japanese Animation Studio’s only cater to the Japanese market so sites Like Tumblr are not on there Radar. They don’t care about petitions or how the westerners feel. They are only in the Business of catering to there Japanese Demographic. So again this piece of shit garbage you call an article needs to have a Retraction. Your only Making the Tumblr crowd more ignorant with shit like this.

  • Anonymous

    Actually there are probably less then 30 of BL/Shounen ai animes out so it’s a fair comparison.

  • julia051

    Yay! I wasn’t following this much, but that’s great.

    Now wake me up when Little Witch Academia becomes a full-length series.

  • Dave Haroldson

    And yet if you look at Comiket and other market for selfpublished manga, anime and visual novels, after Touhou, works aimed at females are the largest market, Yaoi and BL derived works are some of the dominant forces there, shows like Sengoku Basara and Kuroko no Basuke have a huge female following and dominate festivals like these.

    Anyone who thinks that anime and manga have very little to offer female fans is extremely ignorant and knows nothing about the market.

  • Leah Starkweather

    It was cute while it started, but anyone who things that a few
    thousand posts on the internet convinced Japanese animators that
    something was worth making is just deluding themselves.
    Free! was always going to be a series…there’s a little thing called
    animation lead time. It takes months and years for cartoons to be
    storyboarded, written, animated and voice acted.

    Barring a few exceptions like South Park, animation is rarely able to make changes and turnarounds at the speed of the internet.
    So while “Swimming Anime fandom” got a few laughs, don’t think your posts had any influence on Japanese animators.

    As much as I think they’re elitist, I’m gonna have to agree with /a/ on this one.

    In the name of journalistic integrity, The Mary Sue should change the title and wording of this article to be less misleading.

  • xoxo_panda

    Are you serious? Do you realize how extremely much anime and manga there is for female audiences, not just the fujoshi? Do you know anything about anime at all?

  • Steven Garza
  • Shard Aerliss

    Do you mean out this season, or that exist?

  • Shard Aerliss

    Men are oppressed because women have started admitting they objectify men in a blatant “we’re not different, you and I” manner? Dude, you have it so tough!

    >_> Shoe, other foot.

    Actually, I’ve TRIED to start discussions about the objectification of men by women, men by men and women by women and how it relates, parallels and is different to objectification of women by men (due to the EPIC history this has and the damage already done by it compared to the other versions). No one ever wants to play.

    One very interesting area of the “objectification debate”, for me, is the different areas that men and women focus on. Women become just breasts, hips and genitals to men. I don’t know what parts, if any, women focus on, on women, nor really men on men, because I don’t walk in those worlds very often (from my bara reading I’d say men like other men’s lips, but that might be my own bias).

    Where do women focus on men? Again, this might be my own focus but; the face (and the hair… there’s a lot of hair going on in women’s erotic fiction). The sexual objectification of women by men strips them of their individuality. Men get to keep theirs. Look at men’s girly mags; it’s all about the hips and boobs. Look at yaoi (I can’t think of any female gaze oriented real life magazines); faces. And if a face is missing and the focus is on the area of lusty action? It’s the top’s face that is missing. You’ll almost always see the bottom’s face in promo and cover art.

    And as we’re getting into tops, bottoms, victims and perpetrators…

    Honesty time; I like men. I like looking at men. I like thinking
    about men. I like thinking about various things, some of which aren’t
    legal, happening to men. My fantasy sex is all gay. I write and read
    what is essentially torture porn that is 20% causing the mess and 80%
    dealing with the psychological clean up after.

    This stuff is affectionately termed hurt/comfort in fanfiction circles, with a
    massive focus on the comfort bit. The jury is still out but there are
    several theories as to why women love this stuff so much. One is that it
    is safe fantasy; they relate to the damaged character, but the
    gender difference creates a safety barrier. It’s like a trusted lover tying you to the bedposts. It’s like danger, but it’s not. It’s fantasy.

    Another theory is that they enjoy the “fixing”, it’s all in the “maternal
    instincts”. This would explain the popularity of hurt/comfort works,
    though I’m loathe to label it as “maternal instincts”; I don’t have any.

    Empathy is the one thing that connects these two main theories; women feel FOR the character being hurt and picture themselves in the role of victim (safe fantasy) or saviour (helping someone).

    The difference between this and male rape fantasy I think is pretty obvious, but you also have to key in the fact that woman HAS been the victim since before recorded history. Women have suffered this way pretty much universally right up until the last century (examples; when did men get the vote? When did it stop being legal for a husband to beat
    and rape his wife?).

    What’s all this violence got to do with objectification? When a group of people are viewed merely as objects, for whatever purpose (sex, hard graft) then it is easier to do them harm.

    Okay, so then we should not be happy about the objectification of men, right? You see how much power women have? How many female politicians can you name? How many CEOs? How many lobbyists? How many bankers? How many media moguls?

    The objectification of men by women cannot have the same affects and impact as the objectification of women by men, simply by dint of the facts
    that women have less power, in almost all aspects of life and that man has not and cannot be reduced to a mere object by woman.

    This is not the same as saying that men cannot be reduced to mere objects. The individual still can and still is. Men are locked away without trial in America, men are used as slave labour in South African mines, men are brainwashed into blowing themselves up for a cause all over the world.

    Objectification does not happen in a vacuum. You have to look at the history, the psychology, the impacts and the outcome. When women are objectified by men, the gender as a whole is used and abused without thought to the fact they are human. When men are objectified by women? Well, what negative impacts have you encountered?

  • Anonymous

    That exist, who knows I might have fudged the number a bit low but it isn’t that high. Manga yeah there is a lot but anime no. Most of the time the most you can get is bl fan service from shoujos and josei that come out, occasionally shounen animes too.

  • Mimi

    While it’s true that men can be objectified, and it’s just as bad as when women are, it’s not on the same level as how women are objectified.
    “Men really are the oppressed ones in our society” …I’m literally left speechless by the level of ignorance from what you’ve just said.