by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Just Because! ?
It's no accident that Just Because!'s promotional artwork features the main characters stranded on a train platform. Narratively, Just Because! is obsessed with the awkward, often accidentally intimate nature of transit in a small town. The show's characters bump into each other on trains and in hallways, after dramatic declarations and while choking back tears. They are rarely given space to sit with their feelings and rarely afforded the clear-cut dramatic confrontations they desire. But on a thematic level, the train platform also represents these characters' positions in life: stuck between stations, unsure of where their tracks may lead. You could see Just Because! as the romantic drama that takes place after your standard anime romance: the buildup has already taken place, the confessions have been made, and now the characters must figure out how to actually keep on living day to day. The first leg of their journey has ended; now they sit stranded at the transfer station, awkwardly making idle conversation.
The urgency of their approaching transfer was made clear in this episode's early scenes, as the show's various characters all elected to go to school simply to take their minds off things. With the end of high school approaching and exam season underway, actually attending high school has now become optional. The relative sparseness of their class underlined this world's end, with attending school on Valentine's Day now feeling like a weird luxury, an emblem of the past.
Both Mio and Ena hoped to give Eita chocolate, but it was Mio who unexpectedly made the first move. Though her discovery of Eita's Ena-focused phone wallpaper left her running away in tears, her defeat ultimately became a happy thing, much like Ena's prior sucky day. It was precisely the threat of Ena that helped Mio realize the strength of her feelings—smiling while still holding back tears, she happily declared that “I'm completely serious about him!” Given how her feelings for Haruto ended up vanishing in smoke the moment she acted on them, it made sense that Mio would see even this conflict as a validation—simply knowing she really did like Eita enough to cry over him would be an emotional relief.
While Mio clarified her feelings, Haruto and Hazuki were off having their own dramatic Valentine's Day meeting. Hazuki's choice to play trumpet at the baseball field for Haruto felt simultaneously romantic and deeply sad. While Mio's feelings for Haruto ultimately proved to be nothing more than empty nostalgia, nostalgia is clearly far more meaningful to these two. When given a chance to hang out together, all they can think to do is reenact their glory days, play-acting happy moments that they were too slow to see as precious and fleeting at the time.
Fortunately, their meeting ended on a happy note, with Hazuki agreeing to go out with Haruto once she'd settled in at college. While I greatly enjoyed seeing these two confirm their feelings for each other, I was a little less happy with the scene's denouement, where we followed Haruto on his bike ride home. The show was clearly trying to place us directly in Haruto's headspace through its lengthy perspective shot, but I feel like sticking with the sidelong shot and letting us watch Haruto's visual procession of bubbling emotions would have been a more effective choice. Ultimately, the choice to lean on that CG perspective shot may have been a more practical than aesthetic one; it's unclear whether Just Because! could even manage a twelve-second cut of continuous character animation at this point, so the perspective shot might just have been a necessary concession. The moment was still relatively effective, but given that this was both the resolution to one of Just Because!'s main dramas and also one of its signature “following a character long after their big confrontation is over” sequences, I would have liked some slightly stronger execution.
Fortunately, the episode's final confrontation had no such issues. Calling Eita out at the end of the day, Ena ended up handing him an embarrassment of good-luck charms, signalling both her love for him and her acceptance of his own feelings. Their conversation was charming and their character acting strong, emphasizing once again what a good couple these two would make. And yet, with the two of them once more stranded on a train platform, this scene also felt like its own kind of goodbye. Ena might like Eita very much, but his train is about to leave the station. Just Because!'s heroes grasp at hands as they pass by, long days of idling transformed into precious memories as the whistle blows.
Just Because! is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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