by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Just Because! ?
I am sorry to report that this week's Just Because! did something terrible, something almost unforgivable. After I had already landed on the firm conviction that Eita and Ena would make for the best possible couple, this episode completely sold me on Mio and Eita as an equally compelling pair. Some character I care about will have to get hurt. This is intolerable.
Shipping disasters aside, this was ultimately a strong episode for Just Because!'s drama and character work. Its main failing as usual was its visual execution. I've come to accept Just Because! won't be returning to the character acting finesse of its first couple episodes, but the jerky animation of this week's episode occasionally moved beneath “passable” and into actively distracting. On top of that, awkward live-action backgrounds led to some seriously messy photography, with the sequence where half the cast visited a mall coming off as a journey into another reality entirely. Just Because!'s visual ambition is laudable, but the show is seriously paying for that ambition now.
Fortunately, Just Because!'s storytelling was as strong as ever, and this episode did a wonderful job of fleshing out the Eita-Mio-Ena love triangle. All three of these principal characters received some excellent character work this episode, opening with Ena's tearful defense of her investment in the photography club. In a show that's consistently meditated on the difficulty of finding a happy place after high school, Ena's fixation on the photography club as a place where she could truly be herself felt natural. The show did a fine job of portraying the disheveled honesty of this declaration, dedicating its limited animation first to sequences of Ena sniffing back tears, and then celebrating when Eita finally gave her the okay. In a larger dramatic sense, it was satisfying to see Ena once again demonstrate how much more willing she is to articulate and pursue her feelings and goals than any other member of this cast.
That strength and determination likely inspired Eita as well, though his monotone delivery made Ena certain he was making fun of her. As the sun rose on the morning of Mio's center exam, it was met by gentle but persistent snow, layering over all the homes and hangouts of these awkward teens. Just Because! is the perfect show for capturing the muffled peace of a snowy morning, but that atmospheric setup did Mio no favors. Stuck between delayed and cancelled trains, she found herself paralyzed and unable to stand. Enter Eita, as his feelings for Mio and unintentional pep talk by Ena finally drove him to action.
Eita's rescue of Mio felt like both a climactic turning point for his character and a choice that was perfectly in line with his prior actions. Though Eita presents himself as a sullen and self-focused person with no real passion in him, the ways he's lifted up first Haruto and now Mio demonstrate his true strength of character. His breathless “I was just passing through” was as charming as it was true to him, and the following scene where he quizzed Mio on history questions felt like a tiny romantic triumph. Mio's conflict of being so rattled by her horrible morning that she lost her nerve entirely is perfect for Just Because!, as a problem too small for most shows to prioritize, but absolutely true to many real-life experiences. Eita's rescue fell into the same parameters; he's not the kind of person who could lift Mio up with an inspiring speech, but he could still try to help reset her headspace, so that's what he did. Isolated on the train by the subtle desaturation of all the other passengers, this scene was the most convincing demonstration yet that these two characters belong together.
Mio's potential relationship with Eita was further bolstered by a flashback, which demonstrated how Eita has always been this awkward, grumpy, and fundamentally kindhearted. But of course, while Mio has taken seven episodes to realize she maybe sorta wants to date Eita, Ena's proactive personality pushed her to make her choice by the end of this episode. Ena, Mio, and Eita have all been established as sympathetic characters with compelling and unique relationships. This love triangle has me frustrated for all the right reasons.
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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