Just Because! – Anime Review
Synopsis: For a group of high school seniors, a chance reunion with a transfer student will change the course of their final year. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Just Because! is the latest causality of modern anime production: forcing studios to churn out productions on a time table that leaves little room for correction, quality assurance, and possible setbacks. Crafted by the same studio behind Summer 2017’s Gamers!, Pine Jam suffered a number of setbacks during the production of Gamers! Nothing unusual, but enough that these delays crept into Just Because!’s schedule. The director had a, now rather infamous, meltdown on twitter concerning the struggles behind the scenes. Indeed the series began to really suffer visually, with an increasingly muddy quality that we discussed in our Mid Season Review. All that said, Just Because! eventually manages to stabilize, and while never again achieving its first episode highs, it never ends up looking outright awful. As if to remind us that Just Because! could indeed look worse, Evil or Live released in the same season which only helps to make Just Because! look amazing by comparison.
Moving past the visuals, Just Because! has a lot to offer. For fans of Tsukigakirei’s grounded, youth romance, Just Because! offers much the same. We’re given characters like Haruto Soma, who comes across as an upstanding high school student driven by a strong crush on one Hazuki Morikawa of the band club. The ‘will they, won’t they?’ romance between these two is the most engaging, as the audience is left on the edge of their seat as to whether Morikawa will ever return Haruto’s feelings. Soma’s attempts to woo her, and the grounded realization of his character make for the series’ strongest moments.
Ena Komiya, an excitable photography club girl, makes for the second most compelling storyline. She’s struggling to keep her photography club going, and in doing so ends up falling for series main, Eita Izumi, a young man who returns to his hometown after a 4 year absence. Komiya’s pursuit of Eita is adorable, and features a number of the series’ most memorable sequences. She’s lovable, feisty at times, and so vulnerable when she’s honest with her feelings that you can’t help but root for her, even if you know she’s destined to lose.
That’s where Just Because! really falters: Its predictability. This mainly concerns the series central storyline: The romance of Eita and Mio Natsume, former student council president and the center of Eita’s affections. Mio doesn’t know how Eita feels, at least initially, and has eyes for someone else. However the series never manages to shake the feeling that these two will ultimately end up with one another, making Just Because!’s conclusion feel entirely expected. It doesn’t help that Eita and Mio are the most bland characters of the series, entirely subdued and lacking defining, endearing characteristics. At least that’s how the two come across when sat next to Komiya or Soma, whose personalities are so much more memorable and quirky that Eita and Mio feel a bit boring by comparison.
Stemming from all that is Just Because!’s forced ending. The series goes for an almost fairy tale like conclusion, but ejects some of its realism in order to force that final shot. I don’t want to spoil too much, and it’s probably not nearly as bad as I’ve made it sound here, but it’s a low point for the series when realism and grounded romance were so strong otherwise. Tsukigakirei has, perhaps, similar issues in its finale, but avoids feeling too fairy tale-ish thanks to stronger lead up to the conclusion.
Ultimately Just Because! still holds up strong. In fact, during the Mid Season I gave the series a Take it or Leave it, feeling that its flaws were just a little too much. But the series really picked up in that second half, and not just in story as the crumbling animation stabilized into something acceptable. While not the best the Fall had to offer, it’s still one of the better titles and remains a solid watch for anyone who enjoys a more grounded portrayal of youthful romance.
Just Because! is available for streaming via Anime Strike.