Haruto Soma has a crush on Hazuki Morikawa, thought Hazuki is mostly thinking about college rather than romance. Eita Izumi, an old friend of Haruto's who has returned to Haruto's school for his senior year, secretly pines for Mio Natsume, the girl he crushed on but could never bring himself to confess to, while Mio, in turn, has unresolved feelings for Haruto, in addition to also being preoccupied with college entrance exams; while a girl named Ena Komiya is, in HER turn, developing feelings for Izumi. Our little group needs to sort all this out pretty quickly though, because the clock is about to run out on their time together as high school students.
Hajime Kamoshida is the creator of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (which I had pretty mixed feelings about; see the Review), and Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (which was based on a concept I just couldn't get "into"), so I was genuinely shocked that he's behind Just Because!, which is a surprisingly restrained, even REALISTIC, drama about graduating high school seniors, and their management of competing priorities of career advancement (usually college) versus their private (love) lives.
The treatment here is the exact opposite of that of, say, School Days. There's no sexuality here at all, for one thing. Here the two girls that are in some sense rivals for one boy (Mio and Hazuki) actually become friends in spite of that fact. And certainly nobody flies into a murderous rage; of the principal cast only Komiya ever exhibits much passionate intensity at all. (She was my favorite character by the way; I'll have more to say about her later.)
Haruto is the simplest case, so we'll start with him. He's the only one NOT planning on going to college, but straight into a factory job. He's cheerful and gregarious, and is completely oblivious to the fact that Mio harbors romantic feelings for him; he views her merely as a good friend.
Haruto's interest, as noted in the synopsis, is Hazuki Morikawa, but Hazuki's going to college, no ifs, ands, or buts!! Hazuki's a quiet sort, and takes quite a while to think things through- and is still given to second thoughts- and the show uses her indecision (as it uses almost everyone else's indecision and/or reserved demeanor) to leave us in suspense for quite a while. (She plays trumpet by the way; she thinks her trumpet playing "sucks" though Haruto digs it. I'll let the viewers judge for themselves.) Hazuki is definitely the most pragmatic of our little group, and if something can't be fit into her plans, it ain't happening.
Mio is a bit different. She's preoccupied with the college entrance exams as well, but personal issues play a larger part in her decision-making. She's quietly frustrated with Haruto's obliviousness to her own feelings, but now Izumi's also back in her life, and he's trying to show her how reliable he is, even if he's no better at love confessions than Hazuki (or, for that matter, Mio). Mio's got another concern that's steering her decisions as well; and we'll say that EVERYONE here might be postponing critical decisions a bit too much for their own good.
As for Izumi, he's nearly perpetually glum, in addition to possessing that hesitation to express his feelings that seems to afflict most of our cast. It's not that he NEVER smiles- his old buddy Haruto can occasionally make him flash a brief grin- but that stony, hangdog expression of his made me weary after a while. Some of the ladies seem to have positive responses to him, though.
One of those who does is Ena Komiya. I gather that Komiya is not graduating yet (possibly a Junior?). She's trying to keep her Photography Club alive, and thinks that a photo she took of Izumi is the key to doing that, so she's at first mainly interested in getting his consent to use the photo- but the more time she spends with him....
Komiya's the least emotionally restrained person in the cast, and therefore the closest to an actually amusing person here; even her facial design is the most open and playful of the bunch. But this only emphasizes the show's dearth of real comedy; it seems unable to leaven the drama with humor in the way a show like Lovely Complex does. Izumi, Mio, and Hazuki are all Very Serious People, in the manner of Sorata in Kamoshida's Pet Girl, and while I thought the Misaki character in Pet Girl was a bit TOO over the top, if we call Misaki a 10 on a scale from Unfunny, to Too Over The Top to Enjoy, even Komiya only puts us at about a 2, when the show might have benefitted from at least some 3's or 4's. Yes, I really DID find the show's subdued, "naturalistic" approach pretty refreshing- BUT humor is a real part of human nature too.
Just a few random observations before the end:
-A LOT of this show is cell phone messaging, which was sometimes challenging to keep up with. Much of it seems to be open messaging to all one's friends, which I found interesting since it's almost like the current generation has rediscovered, and EMBRACES, the horror of the "party line", a thing which was becoming obsolete in Grampa's youth- at least partly because of the potential for hurting someone's feelings.
-I kind of liked a character named Yoriko Inui, a close friend of Morikawa's and a tall, athletic girl. There's some speculation (in the Wiki article on the show) that Yoriko might have a crush on Morikawa. I have no idea, but it seemed to me she was acting more like a gatekeeper- and she DOES take bribes!
-It's kind of interesting that the students are often shown sitting for at least TWO entrance exams- one for their "dream" school, and one for their "safety" school (a school the student feels more confident they can get into, presumably because the examination requirements are less demanding.)
The show certainly demonstrates the value of finishing one's planning BEFORE the last minute- not to mention the importance of clear communication! But the show DID engage me to the point of caring about its cast, no matter how hard it seemed for some of them to express their feelings, and it was VERY refreshing to see high schoolers in an anime series making their academic or occupational advancement a top priority- while still trying to pigeonhole their love lives in there, somewhere. I had to decide whether to ding it for not enough humor, and for the plot contrivance of making the players indecisive and procrastinating in order to create a suspenseful ending (which would make it more like 3 stars) or praise it for its "realism" and its view of high school seniors as more goal-oriented (and less sex-crazed) than they are typically depicted in anime (which would have made me lean toward 4.) I went with the more generous rating here, at least partly to encourage Kamoshida's movement in this direction. The Recs, however, include a show which covers similar ground with more laughs. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: NO nudity, sex, or fanservice (which is ALSO unusual for a work by Kamoshida). Mature situations. Amazon Prime rates it TV-14.
Version(s) Viewed: Amazon Prime video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Just Because! © 2017 Pine Jam
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