High School Romance on a Thursday
- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Slice of Life, Drama, Romance, School
- Airing Date : Oct. 2017 - Dec. 2017
- Studios : Pine Jam
Just Because! Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
If Japanese anime is to be believed, the final year of high school is a dramatic time. Seniors leaving, juniors stepping up to take their place, and uncertain futures. Of course, there’s always the bittersweet conclusion of romance that may or may not have developed during one’s term. That is the main focus of Just Because, and it really tries to put the audience into its setting.
Izumi Eita has just transferred into a high school back in his hometown. On the cusp of graduation, his future is assured with a paid scholarship to a top university. With graduation being all that’s left for him, he finds himself reunited with friends from his past; his former baseball teammate Souma Haruto, and his unrequited crush Natsume Mio. Mio and Eita met when he found her trying to awkwardly approach Haruto, and nothing has changed since. Only now, instead of Mio having pushed forward for her shot at love with his friend, Haruto has set his sights on their classmate Morikawa Hazuki. This love triangle becomes a polygon as their kouhai Komiya Ena takes an interest in Eita, but with all this romance blooming as their final days approach, not everyone’s love will come to fruition.
What We Liked About Just Because!
Similar to last Spring’s Tsuki ga Kirei, Just Because! is a calming romance anime with a recognizable art style. The setting impresses upon the audience with both the finality of the students’ senior year and the desperation felt because of their approaching future. While there is a strong focus on romance, it definitely feels more like a slice of life that puts viewers into the atmosphere.
Many romance anime either feel too extraordinary or have misunderstandings too big to occur in real life. There’s no perfect senpai, no prettiest girl in school, no pushy, heated rival. Just Because! feels natural in the way it develops for the majority of the show, and while it may not always be as interesting, it never becomes annoying.
While the show doesn’t follow all the tropes of some of the more memorable romance anime of the past, it does fall into some. There’s the classic love triangle between two main characters and a third wheel. From the first episode, you can gauge who’s going to end up with who, and midway through the season it’s all but guaranteed. The only real uncertainty is the path the characters take to reach their destination. It’s not a bad journey, nor an unwanted resolution, but those expecting something earth-shattering or deeply memorable will be disappointed.
1. Art Style and Calming Visuals
What first attracted me to Just Because! was, honestly, the character designs by Himura Kiseki. Last year, he was the original creator of an ONA series called Getsuyoubi no Tawawa, which was mainly memorable for its... oppai-based ecchi encounters. The girls in the shorts were drawn almost to the same exact style, and if you watched the series to completion like I did, you would recognize his drawings in an instant. He was also a character designer in Just Because! and, no surprise, the female characters bear his signature look, minus the exaggerated chests.
Aside from the female characters themselves, the backgrounds have a realism to them. Definitely not on the level of Shinkai Matoko or the like, but it works to create a pleasant flavor to make the show seem more realistic. It may not have been the most visually striking anime of last season, but it definitely lent itself well to the show.
2. Down to Earth
Some of the more popular romance anime over the years have had some fantastical things happen throughout the series. The appearances of rivals, sometimes hectic and hilarious misunderstandings, even the introduction of paranormal elements. That’s not the case with Just Because. It’s a very down to earth, almost sleepy show that stands grounded in the real world.
Izumi Eita has had to constantly move over the years because of his father’s job, making for a realistic plot point devoid of forced drama. His love interest and friend Mio has a shy personality, and thus, has dedicated herself to intense study throughout the entirety of her high school years. In real life, the dramatic, big, showy confession behind the school doesn’t exist, and you won’t find anything like that in this show either.
3. Interesting Cliffhangers
The events in this show feel impactful, even for how minor they actually are. Still, a number of episodes leave the audience waiting for the next episode, but never in a way that feels cheap. It actually adds depth to the show’s teases by allowing you to hear a character’s response before the end credits close.
For instance, in a rather unexpected turn of events, Komiya Ena approaches Natsume Mio with the expressed desire of dating Eita. Usually the episode would simply end with that in another romance series, but here, Mio responds defiantly; “no.” It never feels cheap or forced when the show ends at a shocking point, even if the following episode loses some of its surprise because of it.
If you watch a PV or trailer, even the opening sequence, you can already gather who will end up with who. Morikawa and Haruto’s romance is rather straightforward. Haruto has had a crush on Morikawa, while Mio has silently watched him throughout their high school years. Upon his return, Eita has painfully sat by as Mio longingly watches and supports Haruto, despite knowing he has no right to criticize her, as he is doing the same thing with her. Finally, Ena, their kouhai, has growing feelings for Eita and is spending more time with him, knowing the situation of everyone involved. The drama is predictable, and at no point does it really surprise you with what happens, but it does take interesting paths to get there. Still, if you’re looking for a romantic plot with twists and turns, this won’t be that.
2. Flat Romance
It’s one thing to say that two characters like each other, but it’s another thing entirely to show why. Developing feelings of attachment at a young age can only compel the audience for so long, and that’s definitely the case here. More often than not, the reasoning behind the characters’ attraction felt hollow. The show does very little to emphasize their feelings, it just shows the characters staring at each other. The communication doesn’t really assist this either.
Mio was the first character to display feelings of love, beginning a crush on Haruto when he returned an eraser she had dropped. This love grew over five years, but in high school, Haruto came to notice Morikawa instead. This love triangle doesn’t really feel too unnatural, but the second one does. Izumi Eita spent time with Mio, naturally, as the only girl speaking to him, he became attached to her. Returning in high school, he sees nothing has changed, Mio is still in love with Haruto and he himself is too shy to confess to her. Ena pursues Eita and becomes infatuated with him. At no real point do these three feel like a natural dynamic is taking place. It seems more like the show has decided these couplings are taking place, despite the development of the show not really aligning with their feelings.
Mio herself only seems to exist as a character that studies and is a romantic interest. Ena is just the tool getting in the way of Mio and Eita, and later pushing them closer. Morikawa is a girl who has never though about love, but is opening up to Haruto as he’s paying attention to her. Ultimately, the show would feel more impactful if it didn’t have to spell out that these characters were in love, but show compelling reasons as to why. If it weren’t for the scenes of long staring, sighing, and telling ancillary characters of their intentions, there would be very little to suggest any real romance.
3. Small Payoff
This definitely doesn’t feel like a story about growing in love, or the development of relationships. It’s as the show is categorized, a slice of life with some romantic elements. Even still, the end has a payoff that feels a little light.
At the end, the couples are cemented, and their futures are decided. Some characters are left out in the cold, and others are moving forward. The show doesn’t show this, it ends right as they confess. I’m not going to be the sobbing sap to say they should be openly embracing, running through crowds and making a big show of their affection. However, for them to be pursuing each other for so long just to have the final five seconds end with “I like you too” feels a bit hollow. The ending, if nothing else, was the only portion of the series that felt like it defied logic. Just that the level of difficulty for a “maybe” answer was too high for that. Without spoiling it, you’ll probably understand if you watch it. But know that if you do, you’re not going to get a big showy end scene, or even a warm feeling. It just kind of stops.
Just Because! was more of a school slice of life than a romance, but it was a good attempt at all it was. It definitely feels like a show that would be a better binge watch than a week by week viewing, even if the cliffhangers were smart and without frustration. I definitely think viewers should go into it without expecting anything revolutionary.
What did you think of Just Because!? Did you watch it or any other romantic dramas last Fall? If so, let us know in the comments. We want to know!