Final Thoughts on Just Because (But Mainly the Final Episode)Posted: February 19, 2018
So the last thing I put out was on a show airing last season that I thought deserved some more attention than it was getting: Just Because. It was a show I was largely ambivalent towards until about the third episode, then liked it more and more each new one that aired.
Seeing as it’s now over, I thought I’d do one more so I can talk about the overall package. Though you may have noticed I’m not calling this a “review”, and that’s because the final episode gave me some extremely conflicting emotions. This is mainly going to be me spilling those inner thoughts on it out for all to see.
Normally I like to put out things that make people think about a particular aspect or topic where I argue a specific point, then it’s a matter of thinking about and agreeing or disagreeing with the conclusions I reach. However, seeing as I can’t manage to reach a conclusion on my conflicting thoughts, this is going to be much more a stream of consciousness rather than a structured argument of some kind.
If you want my non-spoiler thoughts on the show: it’s a really good show that you should watch if it sounds like your type of thing. It doesn’t have great production value most of the time, but it’s a solid character show about high schoolers about to graduate and trying to understand who they are through their romantic feelings towards each other. I compared it to ToraDora before, and while it doesn’t reach the lofty heights that show is at, I stand by the comparison.
One more thing before we get into spoilers and end this needlessly long intro: I know the audience for Just Because was not very large, so if you know you have no intention of watching the show and don’t mind being spoiled, I’m going to try and word what I go over in a way so that you can still engage in the conversation and whatnot. I won’t guarantee you’ll have the full context for everything, but I’ll do my best.
With that out of the way, let’s finally get started.
As I said, the final episode of Just Because was very conflicting for me. I wasn’t particularly subtle about it online, but – like most people – my favorite girl was Komiya. As a result it seems obvious that I would hate the finale seeing as she didn’t win.
Well, it’s not that simple.
For the vast majority of people, their favorite character not winning the affection they desire would be grounds to then wash their hands of the show and shun it. It’s actually a perfectly understandable reaction, and I’ve done it before myself. But over time, my priorities for what I enjoy in a show shifted. It became less about what I wanted on a pure emotional level and more about determining what the show is trying to do and whether it accomplishes said goal.
Similarly, it’s also about viewing what works in terms of a character arc and seeing that play out, so what happens works from a narrative perspective. As much as I like Komiya, her character arc doesn’t rely on her getting together with Eita. Sure, it would still work, but it would be the cherry on top rather than anything necessary.
The issue is that Mio’s character arc is the one that relies on her getting together with Eita. She starts off liking Haruto because of a silly one-off encounter, and is sustained by the pure desire of wanting to have a crush on someone. Over time this view crumbles due to her realizing her genuine feelings toward Eita. The only way to make the payoff work was to have them end up together, which is why you know full well how the final episode is going to go after the previous one.
As a side note, this is partially why I don’t agree with people saying a show being predictable is a bad thing. Often a show is predictable because you can see where the narrative is heading and doing anything else simply wouldn’t make sense from a plot or thematic standpoint.
But hang on, we’re not done diving down the rabbit hole yet.
Despite it making sense for her character arc, it doesn’t change the fact that Komiya was my favorite to win. Simply discarding my preference for her as a personal bias only makes sense until realizing that the whole reason she was my favorite was due to what the show gave me. So then is it the show’s fault for not selling me on Mio despite that being the direction it was going in? Yes, the only way to aptly finish off the various character arcs is with Mio’s feelings being reciprocated.
So why didn’t I want her to win?
That line of thinking led me to look at all the character arcs for everybody in the show. Haruto was probably the most basic: he noticed Hazuki’s trumpet-playing during his baseball games and couldn’t get her out of his mind afterwards, which blossomed into romantic feelings. He then has his unending optimism and energy countered by Hazuki’s disinterest in romance and realistic view of how troublesome a relationship can be, especially with a distance gap after graduation. His views on romance mature but his feelings become more grounded rather than disappear.
Hazuki’s was about coming out of her shell that she put herself in. She served a motherly role towards her younger siblings and as a result didn’t think about herself or have any particular desires. Haruto’s confession actually slightly scared her as a result, but with some pushing from her best friend, she started to think about herself and what she wanted some more. By the end she can reciprocate his feelings as long as he’s also willing to put the effort in due to the distance they’ll have to deal with.
On another side note, I want to make sure I mention that I actually really, really enjoyed the romantic development throughout the show between Haruto and Hazuki. Typically side characters are relegated to either comedic relief or they just don’t do much of anything most of the time, but the show did its best to try and balance every character as equally as it could. Eita is still obviously the main character as he’s the new kid on town at the start getting to rediscover old relationships and meet new people too, but Haruto and Hazuki’s relationship wasn’t neglected at all and was enjoyably wholesome to watch develop.
Komiya is loud and outgoing, but she keeps almost all of her deeper feelings bottled up. Meeting and hanging out with Eita causes her to be more honest about what she wants and directs that energy in a more productive direction rather than it manifesting into rebelliousness. This doesn’t have to finalize in her feelings being reciprocated because her arc is just about being honest about what you want, even in the face of adversity, and not letting that get you down. It doesn’t require her to lose either to be fair, but she’s competing against Mio’s arc, which is the ToraDora-esque one I mentioned before: crush on someone for a single event, sustained through romanticizing it despite no real contact with them, then realizes what it means to actually love someone, they get together.
As I thought about these characters, I stumbled upon a realization. The reason for the disconnect between what I personally wanted and what made the most sense for the narrative wasn’t due to liking Komiya a lot or necessarily disliking Mio.
It was Eita.
Eita is the one character who has no real development of any kind in this show. He starts it off liking Mio for reasons never given, and ends it in the same place. The episode that sells you the most on their relationship – where he helps her get to her exam when everything is going wrong – doesn’t actually explain why he started liking her. He explains that she has pretty much the worst luck in existence, but that’s about it.
That serves as more of an explanation for Mio’s feelings since it makes her realize that he’s frequently done these kinds of acts for her, just on a smaller scale and she starts realizing her true feelings. It’s framed in a way that feels like Eita is supposed to have a similar development to her, where his childhood crush dissipates and he grows attached to a new, more genuine affection, but it never happens. There’s even a scene where he’s on the bus with Haruto and he tells Eita how good of chemistry he has with Komiya. It’s actually a really cool conversation to see considering Haruto is normally pushing him towards Mio since he knows his feelings. Normally characters are adamant about their affections, so having a genuine conversation about how well you go together with someone else entirely isn’t something you get to see often.
The only thing close to development you can give to Eita is how he’s more open after hanging out with Komiya, but it doesn’t feel like that applies beyond his interactions with her. It’s less of a general attitude change and more of a reflection of how comfortable he is around her. Her energetic and outgoing demeanor draws him out of his shell in a way only maybe Haruto can rival. Him ending up with Komiya would work to this, but it wouldn’t necessarily work as a character arc unless it was framed in a way like I mentioned before, with it being almost identical to Mio’s.
Unfortunately, if it went that route, the problem is that now you have conflicting character arc resolutions. Eita would have to end up with Komiya for his arc, but he also needs to end up Mio for hers. Initially this led me to believe that the writer had just basically put themselves in a corner, but like I said before, Eita isn’t actually framed in a way showing that he’s supposed to have this arc in the first place.
So the problem comes back to being about not doing enough of anything with Eita rather than misusing him or something. It doesn’t do enough to sell you on his feelings for Mio, nor does it commit enough to his growth through interacting with Komiya to make him going out with her a necessity from a narrative perspective. Seeing as he ends up with Mio, my guess is that they were going for the former. His interactions and chemistry with Komiya were more for the sake of her development rather than him actually deciding to go out with her.
So, at the end of the day, the lack of commitment on a direction for Eita was a shadow looming over the finale of the show no matter what choice it went with. I keep saying I wanted him to choose Komiya at the end because I liked her, but if he did with no other changes to the show, it would have only been fulfilling emotionally for a short amount of time before the lack of meaningful resolution for Mio would start to creep in.
With that said, if you managed to make it this far, congrats on making it through the hellscape that is my mind when thinking about anime.
Despite being conflicted enough emotionally to ponder this hard about the show and its final episode and the other possibilities it could have gone with, I still think the show is great. It also obviously helped in a meta perspective since it got me thinking more about what I want from a show. Obviously as a critic I simply have to be honest about my opinions and why I have them and I’m set, but as a normal viewer there’s still a split in finding simple pleasures of wanting the best for your favorite characters versus the satisfaction of a narrative playing out well. As I went over pretty extensively, I can argue that committing on a character arc for Eita for either of the girls would have helped, but I ultimately can’t guarantee that, it’s purely hypothetical after all. I can only accurately judge what exists, not what doesn’t.
Anyways, the moral of this whole spiel is that you should watch Just Because if you haven’t already, especially now that Anime Strike isn’t a thing anymore and all you need is an Amazon Prime account to watch those shows on Amazon Video. Just be warned that the final episode has none of the on-screen text translated on the Amazon version. You can take an educated guess at what they say or look up a translation online since I believe someone did that.
I suppose it turned out to be a good thing that stuff got in the way of me finishing this quickly after the episode came out, because it allowed me to mention that for those that didn’t know. Admittedly, a PSA is a bit of an odd way to end this whole analysis into how I (and perhaps others) perceive quality in shows but I’ve never really been good at figuring out how to end these thi-