by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Just Because! ?
If I were to assign a theme to this week's Just Because!, it'd either be “much ado about Hazuki's haircut” or “everyone has their crap together except me.” Both of these lines threaded continuously through this episode, along with a charming duel between Ena and Eita. Just Because! may be approaching a conclusion, but that doesn't mean these kids are any closer to figuring out how to be adults.
Hazuki's newly shortened, stylish hair was this episode's first priority, drawing loud attention from her classmates. For Hazuki, this haircut doubled as a metaphorical letting her hair down. Hazuki has always acted extremely reserved around others and rarely acted on her own desires. Though she's had her future secured for perhaps longer than any of the other characters, she seemed to see that certainty as a capitulation, an act of simply going with the flow when it comes to the direction of her life. Though she's not necessarily comfortable with all the new attention, Hazuki's haircut reflected a clear shift from the girl who would rather walk to her classroom's other exit than ask someone to step aside in the first episode. And though Haruto lacked the courage to immediately compliment her on the shift, Yoriko once again demonstrated her worth as a friend, urging Hazuki to stand up straight and embrace her decision.
Hazuki's narrative was smartly interwoven with Mio's throughout this episode. Mio's own indecisiveness was first underlined through her indecisiveness even in choosing what drink to buy, and from there, she eventually reached the point of outright asking Hazuki how she had decided on her future plans. After being dressed down by her sister, Mio realized she really was just going with the flow—and even though Hazuki was likely feeling the same way, from Mio's perspective it was Hazuki who had things all figured out. That presumption was later undercut at Haruto's baseball practice, where Hazuki described Haruto as the one who'd found the secret to becoming an adult. Just Because! continues to sympathetically illustrate how the certainty we see in others is often just a reflection of our insecurity, and that everyone else is muddling through as well.
While Mio and Hazuki were sorting through their feelings about their futures, Ena and Eita were engaging in a much more immediately satisfying game of romantic comedy tag. One of Just Because!'s most unique and consistent strengths is how well it conveys the claustrophobia and persistent visibility of going to a small school and living in a small town. In this episode, that strength was put to work in a new way, drawing great comedy out of Ena's efforts to hide from Eita. The moment where she outright hid behind a pillar in the school's entryway was one of my favorites of the episode, and her subsequent laughing “today sucks” perfectly captured the delirious, contradictory nature of young romance. I only wish the animation were still strong enough to match that outburst with a convincing walking cycle.
Ena and Eita's standoff came to an end in another great scene, when Ena ambushed Eita while he was out on his evening run. Their conversation demonstrated that at least as of now, they are easily the most believable couple in this show. The two of them converse easily, have fun together, and seem comfortable even though the question of romance clearly hangs in the air. I would be very happy to see these two get together.
Of course, this is Just Because!, so nothing is ever that easy. The end of this episode also signaled another turning point for Mio, as a flashback revealed that she'd actually declared her feelings for Eita. Having given up on a school she was applying for just because her sister went there, and a romance she was pursuing just because she liked the idea of being in love, it seems like Mio might finally be honing in on what she actually wants. The contrast between those two states may actually be the meaning behind this show's strange title—living in a state of going through the motions, doing things “just because” and hoping to find a passionate reason behind your actions. Mio now seems passionate enough to actually pursue the things she wants; it remains to be seen whether she's arrived at that point soon enough to grab them.
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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