by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Just Because! ?
It's cliche to say, but it often takes losing something to make you realize how much you valued it in the first place. So it goes with Mio. Having already settled her lingering preoccupation with Haruto, she realized that she might be losing her chance with Eita as well. Considering what mopey and passive people both of them are, it's quite possible Eita and Mio could have spent several more years circling each other, growing closer in college or simply maintaining their comfortable distance. But unfortunately for Mio, Ena doesn't have time to play these somber quasi-romantic games.
This episode featured Ena ascending from start to finish, clearly unfazed by Mio demanding she not ask Eita out. Ena's proactive nature is important to this story for a variety of reasons. In terms of narrative beats, Just Because! demands a certain ratio of characters who can actually push the story forward. Eita can act when he's forced to, and Haruto has managed to push through his own insecurities before, but Ena is by far the most confident and proactive member of the main cast. Ena's attitude also nicely emphasizes that it's simply possible to be more forceful. She reveals that the show views Eita and Mio as unreasonably passive people, and that even though they're sympathetic, their adolescent insecurity is ultimately self-destructive. If you don't make a choice eventually, someone else will make that choice for you.
Of course, Ena herself isn't some paragon of confidence. I really enjoyed the early scene of her fretting over asking Eita out, writing and then rewriting potential text messages. Just Because!'s character writing is sharp enough that it was easy to see how “wrong” a more formal tone seemed for Ena—jokes like that are only possible because we have such a firm grasp of Ena's regular “voice,” so we can appreciate the absurdity of Ena sending any sort of polite invitation. That scene also offered a great variety of ludicrous expressions courtesy of both Ena and her tubby cat Puta, one more of Just Because!'s consistent pleasures.
Other scenes demonstrated Just Because!'s stellar character writing in other ways. I really enjoyed the scene where Haruto and Eita shared a bus ride home, which deftly demonstrated the strong friendship between them. Eita is a naturally withdrawn person, and this scene smartly captured how well Haruto knows him and can draw him out of his shell. There was comedy and a strong sense of naturalism to moments like Eita's “I do? With who?” response to Haruto highlighting his chemistry with Ena, while Eita's own fondness for Haruto was delivered largely through his expressions. It's easy enough to convey “these two people are friends,” but one of Just Because!'s signature talents is finding nuances beyond that, exploring how two people who are totally different interact on an intimate level.
That talent was put to harsher use in articulating the fault lines of our central love triangle. Having realized she might have a crush on Eita just a moment too late, Mio spent much of this episode forced into his proximity, the awkwardness of public transportation offering ample opportunities for them to avoid each other's gaze. And when Mio found herself standing chaperone to the first act of Ena and Eita's date, she ended up leaving the train entirely, her plaintive “where am I?” offering one of the episode's best gags. By contrast, the ensuing date felt warm and natural, with Ena and Eita's strong rapport suffering little from being put in an overtly romantic context. Overall, this episode wasn't a highlight, but it consistently demonstrated Just Because!'s reliable strengths. Even if the show's visual execution has diminished, its writing is as strong as ever.
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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