In this post I will present an allegory of the three estates of the realm, using material which is totally unrelated to NRx. Out of respect for my more socially conservative readers, I warn you that I will be referring to some things that may be a bit uncomfortable for you to think about; so you may want to skip reading this post if you are not feeling particularly adventuresome.
I will follow the model of the three estates of the realm as it is presented on the blog Poseidon Awoke: Realist. The first estate, the religious priesthood, is considered to have the qualities of femininity, short-term outlook, and coercion with speech. The second estate, the warrior-aristocrats, is considered to have the qualities of masculinity, a long-term outlook, and coercion with force. The third estate, the free commoners, is considered to have the qualities of being evolutionary, having a mid-term outlook, and coercion using remuneration.
I will now present to you an allegory of the three estates model of Western Civilization using the
love triangle close friendship (hehe) between three of the characters in the swimming anime Free!: Makoto Tachibana, Haruka Nanase, and Rin Matsuoka. I will frequently quote this website regarding the symbolism of different colors in Japanese culture, which I think were attributed to each of these characters, in the form of eye color to match their personality traits. The visuals I show in this article are originally from the anime itself, and are only to a minor degree, if at all, products of fan labor.
I realize that this anime is pretty gay, and for the record, I am not; there have been plenty of attractive females whom I have been fond of.
The Third Estate: Makoto Tachibana
Makoto has green eyes, and according to the website I linked to above:
Green is the color of fertility and growth in traditional Japanese culture. As the color of nature, the Japanese word for green, midori, is also the word for vegetation. In addition, the color green represents youth and vitality, and the energy of growth.
So Makoto’s eye color is symbolic of fertility and vegetation, and growth, all of which are concepts linked to agricultural productivity, one of the main functions of the third estate. Combined with his brown hair, one is reminded by his color palate of tender green plants sprouting in fertile soil. Now the third estate is neither masculine or feminine; it is evolutionary, and Makoto’s personality traits reflect this; he is neither explicitly masculine or feminine in his temperament, which is flexible between these two poles. Makoto also, as captain of the Iwatobi swim club must constantly evolve his approach by which the team trains to give it a competitive advantage over other teams, this is in the same sense that a business leader (capitalist) must evolve his business approach in order to compete well in changing market conditions. He, like a capitalist, is basically evolutionary in his approach to challenges. This is a characteristic of the third estate.
Also from the page on Japanese color symbolism,
Green can also represent eternity, since evergreen trees never lose their leaves or stop growing.
Makoto is perhaps the one character who retains a level head throughout the entire anime series. He also (If you have seen Starting Days) carries his love for Haru from the time he is a middle schooler up through the senior year of high school. His love for Haru is something which is seemingly eternal. While this has little to do with the three estates model, it is an interesting correlation with the Japanese ymbolism behond his green eye color.
Makoto also shows himself to have, as characteristic of the third estate, a mid-term outlook. He never talks about what he wants to do as an adult with a career, as Rin Matsuoka does, but he does have plans to go college, whereas Haru is not even able to see this far into his future until Rin helps him with that.
The Second Estate: Rin Matsuoka
Rin’s eyes are red, and thus carry with them the following symbolism:
Red is a powerful color in traditional Japanese society, representing strong emotions rather than ideas. As the color of the sun in Japanese culture and on the Japanese flag, red is the color of energy, vitality, heat, and power. Red also represents love and intimacy, including sexual desire and the life force and energy in people. (see link to source above)
Now Rin’s personality from the onset of the anime series is clearly masculine. He is highly motivated by competition (as a swimmer), and often behaves violently towards Haru out of competitive angst during the first season. Clearly his hot-headed personality goes well with the meaning of the color red as it is described above. Some might argue that the way Rin behaves towards Haru is due to Rin’s own erotic attraction towards Haru (the Rinharu ship); this too would make sense given that the color of Rin’s eyes, red, represents both vitality, heat, and sexual desire in Japanese culture. In this view of Rin, the anime producers also make it clear that Rin is the seme, the dominant individual, in relation to Haru, the uke, who usually receives the physical aggression, erotic or otherwise from Rin, not the other way around.
Even after Haru recovers Rin from an emotional breakdown after losing a race badly at the end of the first season, Rin continues to be very competitively driven in his swimming, though now his inclination towards violence has been tempered.
Thus it can be said from the information I have presented, Rin is all around a personification of the yang, masculine principle, and his method of coercion is clearly force. He also, like the second estate, the aristocratic warrior class, has a long-term outlook. From the time he is a child he is very set on becoming an Olympic swimmer. He, like Makoto, is often bothered by Haru’s momentary, short-term outlook, and it is ultimately Rin who helps Haru decide on a career in professional swimming.
The First Estate: Haruka Nanase
Haruka Nanase (Haru), the protagonist of Free! possesses blue eyes and loves being immersed in water. Keeping these this in mind:
Blue is also a color which represents purity and cleanliness in traditional Japanese culture, largely because of the vast stretches of blue water that surrounds the Japanese islands. As such, blue also represents calmness and stability. Additionally, blue is considered a feminine color, and so, in combination with the association with purity and cleanliness, blue is often the color young women wear to show their purity. (see link to source above)
Haru, as one might guess from his associated color palate and the symbolism behind it, is usually a very calm character. Even when Rin pushes him around violently, he never lashes out at him. Haru, as I will explain further when comparing him to the other three characters in the trio, is also the least masculine (in relative terms), and in certain ways the most feminine.
This both harmonizes with the symbolism behind his eye color, and adds to his personification of the first estate. Haru’s physical build is not overly muscular as Makoto’s and Rin’s are, and he also rarely tries to coerce using force; in the one situation in which he does do this, his primary method of coercion is still with speech (shouting at Makoto in that instance). Speech, being his primary method of coercion throughout the series associates him clearly with the first estate.
Also as a personification of the first estate, Haru possesses the feminine (generally speaking) personality trait of compassion or caritas towards suffering individuals. This trait of Haru comes out particularly strong when he selflessly helps Rin at the end of season one, when Rin is in an emotional mess and is so angry he tries to hurt Haru, before Haru helps him calm down. If you watch the anime, it is clear that Haru, as a personification of the first estate, provides Rin with important moral instruction at this moment, which Rin carries with him to become a better person.
If there is any doubt regarding the relative femininity of Haru in relation to the other two swimmers, whether one pairs Haru with also, or Haru with Makoto (Rinharu vs. Makoharu debate) it seems clear that Haru is the uke in relationship to them both. Haru is never the initiator of a romantic discourse with either to them, and is always the one on the receiving end of the romantic and/or erotic assertiveness of Makoto or Rin. Given all of these characteristics I have explained, Haru essentially symbolizes the feminine or yin principle in relationship to these two other characters
Perhaps most in line with an association with the first estate is that Haru has a special, spiritual relationship with the water (see image above). He speaks about it as though it is alive and conscious, and he wishes to interact with it as such. He is, in a sense, a water-priest. Haru also, if you watch the anime, gives a special meaning to swimming for Makoto and Rin, in the same sense that our spiritual leaders in the first estate help us escape nihilism by articulating a meaning to life which is higher than mere human utility.
Lastly, as a personification of the first estate, Haru has a short-term outlook. He is very focused on the sensations he feels in the present moment, particularly his desire for two things: mackerel and being immersed in water. In season two, Eternal Summer, he gets into disputes with Makoto and Rin, because he has no plans regarding what he will do after graduation, that is until Rin takes Haru to Australia, and gives Haru an idea of what professional swimming might be like. This is when Haru decides to take up professional swimming as a career.
From the anime Free! it is clear that the three estates of the realm act complementary to each other rather than exclusively from each other. Neither one can exist in a stable state without the other two. In a complete society, the first estate needs to spiritually and morally guide the second and third estates, and the second estate needs to protect the first and third estates by force so that the third estate can provide necessary resources to the first and second estates to even exist. Perhaps of particular importance, we see how the first estate needs to prevent the second estate from being self-destructively aggressive, and the second estate needs to show the first estate what should be followed for long-term success.