Just Because! – Mid Season 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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Just Because! is the most extreme case this Fall season of the gradual collapse in animation quality. The Fall season, perhaps more so than other 2017 seasons, has seen numerous anime start strong only to gradually lose that impressive initial quality, downgrading to ho-hum animation lacking detail and refinement. It’s not uncommon for visuals in animation to degrade as a season continues. The anime industry isn’t really set up to maintain the superb level of quality we often can see in premiere episodes, like this season’s Garo. But Just Because! especially suffers from an increasingly detrimental problem to the industry: Impossibly tight schedules. Pine Jam, the studio behind Just Because! and best known for the Summer season’s hit romantic comedy Gamers!, has found itself under increasing pressure due to an impossible work schedule. The production team has fallen behind and while the first six episodes aired near on time, Episode 7 is already delayed. It’s most evident that there’s trouble behind the scenes by Just Because!’s increasingly rough animation that stands out, even amongst the other troubled productions of today.
Linny: Production schedule issues aside, Just Because is a very grounded story, one that may feel a little too slow for those seeking more energetic tales about high school students. It isn’t all laid back though and some of the most entertaining moments in the show come in the form of Haruto Soma, one of the young male characters whose enthusiasm and frustration regarding his attempts to woo fellow classmate Hazuki Morikawa are some of the funniest and most endearing moments so far. That said, it’s not like the rest of the show is boring. It’s just very restrained and besides another extremely extroverted character, Ena Komiya and her spirited attempt to save her photography club, the rest of the cast all seem to be more passive by nature. Also, while the show keeps teasing and hinting at a lot of the cast having romantic feelings for each other, we’re halfway through the show and with the exception of Soma and Morikawa, everyone else seems to be finding every excuse to avoid actually doing anything about their feelings.
Tom: For better or worse, Just Because! keeps its story grounded. Near every development, or interaction between its cast feels natural, real and believable. These characters feel like ordinary teenagers, rather than the tropey, bombastic, and absurd depictions normally found in anime. Alongside works like Spring 2017’s Tsukigakirei or the incredible manga/anime drama A Silent Voice, it’s a refreshing and altogether rare depiction of the teenage experience in anime form.
Linny: Just Because doesn’t seem to have a very focused main plot line besides exploring the experiences of its cast members as they all deal with the drama arising from being in their final year of high school. Soma’s romantic quest and Komiya’s attempt to save her club are the most prominent and highlighted story lines, with almost every episode contributing to those two plots. One could argue that those almost feel like the main point of the show. This leads to frustration though for anyone who really takes to any of the other characters and their little side stories which get less focus and could end up feeling a bit like background noise for Soma and Komiya’s stories.
Tom: It’s true that Just Because! isn’t quite managing to balance its ensemble cast. While Tsukigakirei really kept things focused to just one couple, Just Because! is more ambitious, seeking to tell a tale of young love across multiple couples and characters. There’s about four to five main cast members, each to varying degrees of importance, and a handful of side characters. I agree with Linny that the romance between Soma and Morikawa is the most gripping component of the series. The ‘will they, won’t they’ also gets the most screen time. For as much as the series tries to paint both Izumi, our blue-haired transfer student in love with Natsume, the red-haired girl instead smitten with Soma, but too timid to announce it, as our main duo it couldn’t feel more off base from reality. Izumi and Natsume are both front and center for the title credits, and much of the promotional material, but often feel more like supporting characters, destined to do little more than flesh out the world around Soma and Morikawa.
Linny: It should be pretty obvious by this point that Soma and Komiya are the two characters most entertaining of the ensemble cast, with their lively reactions and behaviour. However, for those who prefer or relate to more restrained characters, it might be the greater cast that appeals to them. In fact, while Morikawa is another somewhat passive character herself, she has a very nurturing and mature personality that could really appeal to certain audiences.
Tom: Just Because! is a frustrating experience. Not because the writing is bad. While perhaps misfocused, there’s still often charm and solid drama to keep you glued to your seat. But with anime, visual fidelity is half the battle. It makes Just Because! one of the more unfortunate tales in anime production, a show not given the proper development time needed to match its lofty goals in visual creativity. If you can deal with the crumbling visuals, Just Because! offers a melancholic depiction of youth struggling with their final high school days. But for right now, I might recommended those less willing to deal with the flaws cross fingers for a physical release in the future that could, perhaps, elevate the series’ greatest detractor.
Linny: Even if you’re someone who is more forgiving or even oblivious to animation issues like me, there is still a chance that you will notice them in Just Because! This isn’t to say that the show is outright ugly and you should still be able to get through most of it ignoring the plague of production issues, especially if you binge this at the end of the season when all of the series is out and the delays no longer matter. If you’ve been a fan of the more down to earth approach to depicting school life and teenage stories, there’s still enough heart, drama, teen romance and comedy in Just Because! to keep you entertained till the end… but you may want to wait and only pick it up once the show is over and you can binge all of it in one go.
Just Because! is available for streaming via Anime Strike.