by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Just Because! ?
Just Because!'s fifth episode began with both Eita and Haruto waking up and realizing they actually had to go to school. Despite getting rejected after their big emotional confessions, today was just another day, one where they'd likely have to walk past the objects of their affection at least a couple times. Are they still friends now? How do they actually talk to each other, now that all the fireworks have passed? It was an awkward realization that perfectly suits Just Because!, exemplifying its consistent focus on the less glamorous details of adolescent romance.
This episode was packed with such awkward and well-observed tiny moments. The next hiccup belonged to Mio, as she noticed Eita at the foot lockers and resolved to clear the air between them. Mio possesses the maturity and emotional intelligence to potentially clear up these adolescent doldrums, but when her friend arrived and started throwing around romantic accusations, she was forced to awkwardly avoid Eita's gaze. Mio's failure exemplified another classic dramatic dilemma—the feeling of knowing you have to resolve this tension, but missing the appropriate moment and thus feeling like you're stuck in some kind of permanent stasis. It wasn't necessarily meant to play as comedy, but that feeling of “oh god, I missed my chance to address this, I guess we're strangers forever now” felt silly and familiar enough to bring a smile to my face. Watching the two of them hide from each other and get confronted by others about their hiding felt like a true-to-life representation of an iconic high school experience.
While Mio was stuck in awkwardness limbo with Eita, Haruto seemed desperate for distraction. Though Yoriko saw his palling around with friends as too chipper for someone who just got rejected, it quickly became clear that Haruto was simply trying to distract himself from his unhappy feelings. Asking if his friends wanted to hang out after school, he was rejected in favor of cram school, reminding him of his own seemingly dead-end future. While Eita accused Mio of distracting herself from romance with studies, Haruto's position seemed to be the exact opposite—having lost his focus-stealing passion for baseball and pursuit of Hazuki, he was now forced to reckon with the feeling that his happiest days might already be behind him.
I appreciated how well these early scenes illustrated Haruto's headspace through observations from other characters. From Yoriko's comments in the classroom onward, we were often forced to infer Haruto's anxieties from the fragmentary engagements he shared with others at school. This style of hands-off characterization reached a peak in the episode's most devastating moment, when Eita came across Haruto's abandoned baseball glove. Its upbeat inscription of “Until the last ball!” must have felt like a knife in the chest—after all, that ball had already passed, and now Haruto had nothing to look forward to but the long doldrums of a working life.
Of course, life doesn't actually end after high school, and adulthood isn't some one-tone malaise of quasi-existence. After sulking at home, Haruto ultimately brought Eita out to a baseball game starring Sanae, one of his future coworkers. Eita's rescue of Haruto's glove, along with the fact that he texted Haruto in the first place, offered a firm indicator of how much Eita still cares about his friend. Ultimately, that glove did lift Haruto out of his depression, as he learned that even the adults he was soon to join got rowdy and competitive about their baseball leagues. As a high schooler, it can be a revelation to learn that becoming an adult doesn't mean losing your personality and giving up on fun altogether. And that realization bore further fruit in the following scene, where Haruto's newfound perspective allowed him to see his mother as a fellow person and actually ask her how she felt about her own work. Just Because!'s articulation of personal growth on the edge of adulthood remains razor sharp and insightful, drawing clear lines of emotional discovery while still feeling like a naturalistic exploration of daily life.
In the end, Eita and Mio were forced to finally acknowledge each other by the tyranny of the bus schedule. Just Because! has had to cut down a fair amount on its idle character acting, but the body language of this scene was clear. Mio once again took the lead in trying to speak naturally, while Eita slumped in the corner of the bus, his defensive posture topped off by an inability to meet Mio's eyes. The two exchanged guarded apologies, and Mio resolved to actually clear up her Eita-related ambiguity. Eita might have finally eclipsed his high school attitude, but it doesn't look like high school is done with these boys—with both Mio and Hazuki planning on confronting Haruto, it seems like he'll have plenty of fresh distractions for his final semester.
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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