Leaving school and heading off to pastures new, whether that be a job or university, is a time of mixed feelings. I remember it well. On the one hand you’re happy to finally get out of the school system and get on with adult life. On the other hand life as you know it is coming to an end, and many friendships that have endured for years are also ending. I have seen several anime series focus on this but only ever as part of a wider examination of school life, but Just Because! has a tight focus on the end of school life. That makes it a rather melancholy affair.
This is also a love triangle series, with five main characters. It doesn’t take a genius at maths to work out that at least one of those five is going to have to lose out. The problem with that is everyone will have their favourite character who they want to get the guy and end up happy. The series doesn’t pull its punches and one girl is left in tears in the last episode. Annoyingly, it was the girl who I thought was most deserving of happiness, which was one reason why I found this series a frustrating viewing experience.
Another reason was that I didn’t really like most of the main characters. The main guy is Eita Izumi, who transfers to the school over halfway through the final year. He’s not a stranger though, because he used to go to the same middle school as some of the others, and has returned to his home town. Unrequited love comes rushing back between Izumi and his old friend Mio Natsume. Although I’m well used to the anime trope of a grumpy main character, Izumi takes that to extremes, and Mio is a grump most of the time as well. I just couldn’t warm to them, Izumi in particular. It doesn’t help that the actor delivers all his lines virtually in a monotone. It’s a perfectly fair interpretation of the character, but this guy just comes across as being emotionless virtually the whole time. I get what they were trying to do here. He’s a quiet teenage boy who doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Plenty of viewers can probably identify with that. But in the end he just seemed depressed most of the time, and it was hard to understand why anyone would fall for him.
That brings us to his other love interest, Ena Komiya, the only character who really brings this miserable affair to life. And boy does she do that in style. Where Izumi is morose and static, Ena is full of life and energy. She is a second year student, so she’s a year below all the other characters, and she is in charge of a photography club that is threatened with closure. Winning a prize for a photo would prove the club’s worth but the photo she thinks might win is one she has taken of Izumi playing baseball. She needs his permission to use it. Being as Izumi is the world’s biggest grump, he says no (how can we warm to a jerk like that?) but Ena is a bundle of energy and won’t take no for an answer. She’s a brilliant character, lighting up the screen every time she appears, and refreshingly she just gets on and says what she feels, which is a rare thing in a love triangle anime, which thrives on misunderstandings because the characters just can’t bring themselves to be up-front with each other.
Rounding out the five are Izumi’s old friend and baseball sparing partner Haruto Soma, and his love interest Hazuki Morikawa. Soma is another fun character, and again just gets on and says how he feels relatively quickly. His baseball practice with Izumi is used very effectively as a metaphor for their struggles in life, with home runs a prelude to plucking up the confidence to make a love confession, for example. Hazuki is irritating, overthinking everything and finding lots of unimportant (in my opinion) reasons why they shouldn’t get together, despite actually liking him a lot. Their will-they-won’t-they storyline gets strung out across the series, and soon overstays its welcome.
It’s all a bit angsty, and as much as I enjoy a good romantic drama, love triangles and all, this one just never quite came alive for me. A different ending might have made it all worthwhile, but in the end it left me feeling the way Izumi looks: uninterested and a bit miserable. RP