Every so often, I stumble upon an anime series that just seems to get it. The show will be written in such a way that it knows precisely what story it wants to tell, understands the span of time it needs to fill, figures out a proper scope of characters, and then turns all its focus into the execution of story and the growth of its cast. This level of polish does not have to be genre specific; great examples across different styles of work would be Clannad, the Crest of the Stars series, Katanagatari, Mushishi, and Tokyo Magnitude.
For those familiar with my ratings over the years on Anime-Planet, you’ll know it’s damn hard for me to give a series an 8 or above – especially when it comes to romance. Having watched anime for over 20 years, I’m quite the snob when it comes to picking out critical flaws in a series and slamming its scores because of them. Thus, when I say Just Because nobly tips its hat in the ring of contenders of “great” anime series in the 8+ category, and it’s a romance, you can be sure that I think pretty highly of the show. Indeed, despite being a high-school drama/romance, Just Because knows precisely what it wants to do and what story it wants to tell. It steers away from the many of the flaws that plague similar contenders, such as Myself;Yourself and True Tears, which all suffer crippling problems with character development or story pacing.
The show has five main characters and a handful of minor support cast, but balances screen time very well. Cuts between characters and the interwoven story arcs are handled skillfully to keep the emotional tug and pull of the story steady and balanced. Too many times a drama or romance series will want to overplay its emotional strings, causing an early peak-and-crash or a sense that the events are fake or forced. In contrast, Just Because has a surprising dearth of melodrama or angst, and avoids tedious filler or belabored side plots to try to give meaning to conflict between the characters. The writers instead include many scenes with the characters’ families, handled with a delicate and deft touch to individualize and distinguish each backstory and provide a very realistic sentiment as to why the characters interact with each other the way they do.
Overall, the story juggles a handful of themes – ranging from nostalgia, duty, heartbreak, and love – with a certain elegance that only the top tier of storytellers can produce. Just Because is a fundamentally simple tale designed to make you empathize and relate to its characters, partake briefly in their fictional lives, and then move on with that small tug in your chest and a faint smile on your lips. It taps into that baseline essence that, despite having vastly different lives and circumstances, all its viewers will understand and share. In the series’ own words, it hits a “home run.”
The animation of Just Because is by far its weakest attribute, plagued at times with awkward character animations and some scattered frames. Still, overall the series is visually pleasing, focusing heavily on mood-based lighting and detailed backgrounds. The monorails and cityscape architecture, especially, are exceptionally well-drawn and compensate for some of the character flaws. It’s clear the animators cared about doing the best they could on a drama/romance series, and the attention to subtleties gives the show a solid visual score.
The soundtrack in Just Because is awash with soft violin, guitar, and piano pieces that shift ever-so-slightly to target each scene’s intended vibe. While many series have a wide range of musical style, bouncing back and forth between high-energy and slow-dramatic tracks, there’s a certain steadiness and consistency with the overall musical score that just works. The music plays a major role in keeping the story’s intended emotional pacing, and always carries with it a drop of lingering sadness that perfectly conveys the presented themes.
While many romance series start with a generalized archetypes for characters, all five of the main cast in Just Because are unique and avoid standard tropes. The three female leads – Mio, Ena, Hazuki – all feel very well fleshed out. Each character has certain themes which all foil and interplay with one another: Mio’s story is one of nostalgia and unrequited love, Ena’s of loneliness and heartbreak, and Hazuki’s of longing and duty. Though the story avoids prominent twists and turns such that the big-picture events are largely predictable, the manner in which their tales are told is exceptional. Both Mio and Hazuki are strong female leads, and each is likeable and relatable in how they struggle through their particular stories. I admit, at the beginning I disliked Ena’s character and thought she would be the odd one out, but by the end her story hit me the hardest out of all five cast members. The writers give only ever-so-subtle glimpses into her personal life, with some implications of alcoholism and a certain level of neglect by her family, but at her core she’s a girl burdened with a remarkable amount of hurt who constantly wears a big smile. Her final scene is particularly touching despite the viewer knowing it’s coming for quite some time, and still managed to deliver a good wallop into the old feels.
Eita and Haruto are the two male leads who, like the girls, are both are believable and solid. Each has a very different personality, but the writers foil the two with one another quite well in order to push the romance arcs along. Haruto probably grows the most out of all the characters, starting as a charismatic and charming guy who falls apart around girls before turning into a patient, collected young man who begins to understand that the pacing of life and relationships is not all about feelings and passion. Eita’s the quiet type whose social circle is constantly torn apart due to his father’s work, but he’s written such that he’s not an awkward or antisocial buffoon. Despite being fairly stoic, his writing highlights an honesty and straightforwardness that makes the girls’ attraction to him believable – none of the “harem of girls attracted to loser nerd” syndrome is present in his character.
My only real major complaint with Just Because is how it wraps up Eita’s and Mio’s arc – it feels as if the last episode ran out of time to finish their story, and crammed together a trimmed version to give the story its close. Still, in the grand context of the show, this is a pretty minor complaint, and all-in-all I have no substantive criticism of how the characters are given closure.
Just Because is a somber, emotional, and beautiful dramatic tale conveying the story of five friends wrapped up in the turbulence of life. While set in a high-school with young characters, the themes presented have a definite cross-age appeal, as they target the human experience in ways that extends beyond a simple school setting. With perfect pacing and solid direction, the show knows exactly what it wants and executes near-flawlessly. Despite some minor flaws that aren’t really worth mentioning further here, the show really stands firmly as top tier in the genre – for any fan of drama/romance, this is a must watch.
When you combine brilliant storytelling, blooming characters in a simple love pentagon and a normal high school, you get the perfectly woven high school drama bearing subtle romance : Just because.
Just because is a rollercoaster of emotions beautifully presented through normal high school students that you can see anywhere. Everything was just so heartwarming to watch, due to the low contrast colours of the animation, chilling BGMs and adorable characters. I personally enjoyed it 10/10, but I'm not going to show any mercy.
The whole anime was beautifully presented, emphasising the characters and their interaction between each other. But, the story, or the base itself was not that special. Its just a normal high school romance, but beautifully told. The drama indeed was perfect, but yet everything was obvious, what happened and whats going to happen. If you are here for a brilliant story of romance ; characters in a complex state, then you wont get it here. It was really a let down, but the presentation itself made this anime not boring.
Animation & Sound (7.5/10 & 7.5/10)
The animation was kind of, all over the place. The characters faces were flat and chubby, they had different structures from different angles, and their eyes were also poorly animated. But for some weird reason, it suited the anime. Lets think about it. Such calm atmospheric anime with rigid bright characters wouldn't suit much. Also, they almost wore the same clothes for the 12 episodes. Its because the climate in the anime was winter, and they all just wore a sweater upon whatever they are wearing inside. These trivial details had a little impact on my watch, but it might just pass through you if you don't care about those small things.
The OP and ED were good, and some details in the OP can give you some hints of what's gonna happen. They also do some slight changes in the OP of the last 5 episodes. The BGMs were ok, and suited the anime pretty well. They used the same BGMs for 11 episodes but used new ones for the last episode. Same goes for the animation, they did good job on the last episode. They really emphasised the last episode didn't they?
This is the crucial element which in overall makes this anime really good to watch. The whole show was based on what the characters do, and what they are going to do. They were not o boring, the main protagonist actually knew whats going on around him unlike those in some other anime, where the girls just fall in love with him for no ******* reason. Speaking about main protagonist, they concentrate on every characters equally, giving you a Birdseye view of what's going on and how they feel about each other. Well, there are surprises here and there, but you can figure it out if you think about it.
I personally, REALLY enjoyed this show. Watching the characters study for their college exams motivated me to study too (lol) (I was also on the last year of my school, 2 months away from my final exams when i watched this show).
If you like relaxing, slow-paced subtle romance and drama, then you should try this anime. But, if you are experienced, watched a lot of romance shows, then this will just be an average show for you.
Well, the whole romance genre is constructed that way. The first romance anime you saw will always be your favourite and it will become a object of comparison used to compare any other romance anime.
Just Because, for all its intents and purposes, is just nice. Nicely-animated, nicely-voiced, nicely-scored, and maybe nicely-done – but that’s only if we’re talking about the first half. The series gets off to a strong start, where all of the pieces to the love puzzle are set in just the right way. The problem is, things don’t start happening until the midway point – and once they do, they get stalled by the most inconvenient problems, so the pay-off isn’t nearly worth it in the end. For a friend group connected via LINE, the characters here sure suck when it comes to actually communicating. Was this some kind of statement about the way online communication’s affected everyone’s ability to talk face-to-face? In Just Because, people get by with casting meaningful stares at each other and storming off in an angry huff when the other party doesn’t understand what they’re trying to say. And then they still get so surprised by all the miscommunication that happens as a result.
By the time the series really begins to hit its stride, you’ll already have a good idea of who’s going to end up with whom. Unfortunately, it’s also at this point the series chooses to slow itself down and wallow in unnecessary conflicts for drama’s sake. The result: you get the ending you may have expected from the beginning, but none of the fulfillment you were hoping for.
This could be blamed on the sudden romantic wrinkles the show tried to force on you, but the bigger problem is in the way none of the characters really get developed by the time the series ends. They may have become different people from when we first saw them, but because they don’t really work for what they want after their initial motivations get revealed, they remain stagnant after that first burst of development. Meanwhile, the story seems content with going through the motions as far as romance is concerned, as if it thought that simply willing the desired ending into existence was enough to make us care. Most of the time, feelings blossom out of nowhere and we’re supposed to accept the things that happen just… well, you know, just because. A lot of the problems that happen here could have been solved if the characters just sat down with each other and talked. Talking’s a thing that happens here for sure, but for some reason, the people who really need to do this with each other never get around to it, even when it’s already too late. It’s such a waste too, since this looked like it was going to be a different kind of romance series compared to the other titles in its genre. Instead, it got so caught up in many of the usual genre trope tangles, that it ended up stumbling on its way to the finish line.
Get out the ol’ tinfoil hat and red string, kiddies--it’s time to watch...a high school romance drama.
That’s not a joke. Just Because, despite its seemingly ludicrous title and ostensibly benign subject matter, is as densely packed a story as any conspiracy thriller, told more often than not through subtext, with every look and gesture and turn of phrase a quiet insight into or subtle foreshadowing of the many unexpected edge-of-your-seat turns to come. As such, for the serious viewer, it is just as often an exercise for the brain as it is a stroll through the heart.
It’s also really, really good.
And not just as a romance, but as a piece of fiction. Just Because is carefully constructed to be a single cohesive piece: from the very first frame to the very last, every line and action and character is precisely carved and slotted in exactly where it needs to be. Not a single second is wasted or superfluous, and if any one moment was shifted or removed, it simply would not be the same show. (This consistency of storytelling is made especially clear in re-watching each episode. Which you will absolutely do. Immediately.)
But, of course, it is a romance, and, when it comes to love, Just Because knocks it out of the park. However, it’s more of a story about love than it is a "love story." Nothing here feels like destiny--or a will-they-won’t-they roundabout or a zany battle royale of homemade lunches and specially tailored bikinis. (Its defiance of anime cliches is second only to its usurpation of viewer expectations.) As such, each new scene brings with it the same mystery and possibility that every stolen moment with a crush does, with the show’s pacing and structure mirroring the stages of courtship: getting noticed, building rapport, speeding into heartache, and finally hurtling towards the Schrodinger’s Cat of confession.
(To that end, it is almost unfortunate that the whole series is there to watch at once, now, as this ready availability robs you of one of the great pleasures of the show: days of wondering what comes next, obsessively recalling and reading (perhaps too much) into all the details of every moment spent with it...essentially, all the signs of having a crush yourself.)
If there is a flaw, here, it is that the show gets a bit…precious, towards the end, flirting (if only briefly) with the pedantic in its "single cohesive piece" method of storytelling as it moves to wrap things up--perhaps too quickly, in some cases. Despite being so full of development that it feels like it has twice as many episodes as it does, another one or two might have helped it breathe a bit more steadily than it does as it concludes. (Well, that and the animation, which sometimes swings wildly from "vastly better than its budget implies" to "somehow worse than its budget implies" from scene to scene...or sometimes within scenes.)
But (again like a crush) it’s also easy not to care about its flaws when there is so much else to care about. Like the characters. And their feelings.
Which, I think, might be as far as we should go with that, here. Because, while it feels a disservice not to discuss the characters--because they are wonderful, top to bottom--it would be a greater disservice to rob you of the chance to find and fall in love with them on your own.
Because you will. Maybe without realizing.
Or maybe just...well. You know.
TL;DR - I would have scored this a 9/10, but the ending fucking kills me.
Overall it was a really good show. If you enjoy romances and slice-of-life anime then this one does a good job of combining both as well as doing an exceptional job with character development. It does have a happy ending, although maybe not necessarily in the form you'd expect.
*** MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW ***
Story - 7/10
Story is pretty normal. It's good in that it makes sense, flows cohesively, and helps make the characters shine. But at the same time, it is also a slice-of-life, and they didn't really do anything exceptional or noteworthy that would send viewers reeling. It's about high school students struggling with life and relationships and entrance exams. That's about it. I gave it above average score because although it's a bland story, it was very well-composed.
Animation - 7/10
Animation was ok. Some parts were pretty good, but there were a couple of spots that were clearly "WTF" moments where it felt like they didn't give it enough attention or time. See an example of this below where Hazuki is supposedly running away from the window (i.e, towards the camera) but it just looks like she's doing an in-place jog. I think the issue here was the the distance between the window and the middle of the hall is not large but she spends a solid 3-4 seconds running towards the camera. OR, the size change was not enough to show perspective of the distance from the camera she is. It's.. off.
Sound - 7/10
Great voice acting. I recognized a few of the actresses and I have to say that they are either really good at what they do and/or they have very pretty voices. The male voice actors were also very good, recognized a few voices there too. The emotions that characters displayed were believable, and nothing seemed forced or overly exaggerated. Unfortunately, music wasn't too memorable, leaving the overall score at above average but not exceptional.
Characters - 9/10
Probably the best part of this anime. I actually liked all of the characters - they were all believable and relatable. Most of all, the characters were reasonable and none of the stuff they did was too weird. It made sense. I was frustrated at times with the miscommunication between characters but it was within the realm of reason rather than manufactured just to create conflict and frustrate the audience (except the ending... see final paragraph below). Only issue was that it felt like a few of the secondary/minor characters added so little to the story that whenever they took up screen time, they were mostly just a distraction. I think that if you're going to have minor characters as foils and/or comic relief, they still have to have significant (enough) rolls such that they're not totally irrelevant.
I liked most things about this anime... except the ending. Don't get me wrong, it does have a happy ending. But what leads up to it is... eh? What? Why? That was stupid. All that buildup only to trip near the finish line and end up crawling past it on all fours. I think the issue is that they really really really wanted to include the very final scene (it's hinted at in the OP sequence), but they tried way too hard to fit it in. And they didn't even execute it well... who the f*ck walks like that? I don't "prep" my steps before I take them :/