As Just Because! has continued its chug through to the midway point of the season, I had honestly expected it to stumble in some way that would break the spell that the first two episodes cast over me initially. Thankfully, this has not been the case, as it has actually kept a steady pace with regards to its plot pacing and genuinely interesting character interactions. I’m definitely still deeply enjoying the show’s depiction of the existential trepidation that comes with, essentially, every aspect of high school life, and feeling for the characters as they wrestle with issues that, frankly, many of us struggle with today. Episode four, as Mythos said, brought the relationships between Eita and Natsume, as well as Souma and Morikawa, to a very early sense of heavy drama for the show – the climax of the first act, if you will. Coming right on the heels of that, episodes five and six have a lot of weight on their shoulders – the climax is important, flashy, and heavy, but the resolution of the events that transpired is just as important, if not more so.
In a lot of ways, episodes five and six revolve almost exclusively around dealing with fallout and recovery, as well as with bringing things to a reset. In much the same way that Mythos’ previous post focused on a few specific elements, I am also going to focus on a few specific elements that stood out to me, namely those related to the ideas of fallout, recovery, and the reset.
Episode five adopts an interesting structure where we begin with each of our primary characters individually contemplating the events of episode four – Souma and Morikawa considering Morikawa’s rejection of Souma’s feelings, and Eita and Natsume mulling over their fight at the festival. On their own, none of them are doing terribly well, and it shows, especially for Eita and Souma, who both look like they’ve been hit by a truck first thing in the morning. More than anyone, Souma seems to be having the worst time in general, because even though he doesn’t really say it, his rejection by Morikawa has him depressed and thinking about much more than just his seemingly shattered love life. With his friends Ishigaki and Saruwatari studying for college exams while he has already accepted a job at the factory his mother works at, Souma feels very much left behind by the world – that his days of happiness have already come to an end at the ripe age of eighteen. This complete disillusionment that Souma feels comes to a head when he throws away his prized baseball mitt, signed in marker with “Until the Last Ball!”
Similarly, Morikawa and Natsume have both felt in the dumps about what transpired over the winter holiday – Marikawa feeling that she was too harsh to Eita, and Morikawa agonizing over her quick rejection of Souma. We see Morikawa, for instance, practicing an apology numerous times by herself in the halls to try to psych herself up and repair what’s happened between her and Eita. However, something always seems to come up; sometimes things beyond her control, sometimes things she can use as an excuse not to act.
In all of these cases, everyone is dealing with the fallout in their own ways, but with admittedly little success. It isn’t until they get together with their close confidants that they can begin their progress to recovery. For instance, the only way that Souma even reaches a point of recovery is through Eita’s prompting to hang out. With that support, they go to a baseball game for a team from Souma’s soon-to-be workplace, where Souma ends up subbing in for an injured player. The fact that Souma gets to play baseball again is deeply important, but perhaps the most important aspect of this is that Eita returns Souma’s mitt to him.
Returning the mitt gives Souma some comfort, as he says, because it’s one he’s grown used to and worn in, but it’s not just comfort for the game – it’s a degree of comfort with everything. Souma throwing away his mitt wasn’t just indicative of him ending his time in his club; it was akin to him throwing out any semblance of how for a happy future. But by playing with the team and seeing that, in his words, “adults play ball and make a fuss about it, too”, Souma comes out feeling refreshed – that he can have a job without college and still enjoy his life and the passions that have fueled him for years. Souma likely would have found his way eventually, but it was Eita’s support that allowed him to get over the hump so quickly, and by extension, this spurred Eita to actually take a vested interest in his studies for entrance exams, instead of simply riding on the coattails of a recommendation he received.
In much the same way, Morikawa and Natusme needed each other’s support to decompress and understand what they had recently went through. Morikawa had taken the rejection better than Souma, of course, but with that comes the inevitable worry: did I do the right thing? In her own way, she came to terms with why she and Souma couldn’t be together, but Natsume, acting in a supporting fashion similar to Eita, pushes Morikawa to go further, to explain to Souma her decision in full and to make everything clear, as opposed to a quick, simple “sorry, I can’t be with you.” This encouragement in turn psychs Natsume herself up to make things clear to Eita and Souma, as well. The two of them might have come to these conclusions on their own, but they also might have not, and the central catalyst for these courses of action they have resolved to take spurred from the support they had for one another.
It’s this idea of supportive kinship that made episode five so compelling for me. Making big decisions or coming to grips with some of the more difficult aspects of life are incredibly difficult moves to make, especially when you’re contemplating them in solitude, and doubly so when you’re young and have so much ahead of you. Just Because! does an incredible job in this episode of showing just how much this support from friends and family can help us make those tough jumps ahead, whether it’s through full, long conversations, or through something as simple as handing a friend a baseball mitt.
By the end of episode five, our big five have all come to terms with their various struggles, and in their own ways have patched over the hurt that came from it. There are still things that need to be resolved, though. Specifically, Souma needs to respond to Morikawa, who has asked to talk to him, Natsume needs to make things clear to Souma herself, Eita, after much deliberation, is looking to make his feelings clear to Natsume, and Komiya is still trying to find the photo that could save the photography club, all the while growing closer to Eita. Most of these, surprisingly, are resolved in some way by the end of the episode, and most of our cast receives a hard reset of sorts, as well.
In considering the idea of the reset, several parts of episode six mirror events of episode one, specifically Eita and Souma going for another at-bat game, as well as Morikawa taking up her trumpet again to give a solo refrain of “In Unison.” In particular, a number of interesting developments are brought to light through this at-bat game. The stakes of the game itself are the same for both Eita and Souma – winner goes to make things clear in their own way. However, the rest of the main cast is drawn to the game, as well. Watching the game, for instance, prompts Morikawa to take the trumpet back up, and gives Natsume the motivation she needs to finally talk to Souma. Beyond those surface-level points, though, the end of the game, with Souma pulling out the home run needed to win, is fascinating, not just because it prompts Souma to finally meet with Morikawa, but because of Eita’s entire working in and after the game.
Although they were both playing hard, it seemed, Komiya comments while looking over the photos she took that Eita lost because he only threw straight pitches. In effect, he wasn’t putting forth his full effort, despite the fact that he knew what was on the line for him. Because of this, of course, Eita does not go to make things clear to Natsume, but it’s interesting to consider how similar this makes the two of them. Eita, who has been ragging on Natsume for always using exams or some other thing as an excuse to not speak to Souma, has essentially made an excuse out of this game, as well. He made the stakes of the game such that he would have to confess, but by not playing at his best, and essentially playing to lose, he satisfied himself in that regard. He lost, therefore he couldn’t confess. The perfect excuse. Same old feelings, back to square one.
Speaking of square one, Natsume, on the other hand, goes to Souma not to confess, but to put a final stopper on her thoughts of confessing to him. She returns the eraser that Souma lent her years ago, which acted as a catalyst of sorts for her infatuation with him, and by returning it, she confirms to herself that she really doesn’t know if she has been liking Souma because she truly did like him, or because she had been holding on to a simple childhood crush. Either way, the symbolism in the moment was fantastic, and it seemed to provide Natsume with some much-needed relief. She has enacted a reset of her own, no longer making excuses, and is back to her original position of cram school and studying for entrance exams.
As for Morikawa and Souma, they meet by the riverside to talk, and Souma asks her to play “In Unison” again, the song that carried so much of his infatuation with her. Afterwards, Morikawa gives Souma her full explanation – that her initial rejection was done in haste, and that she wants some time to think on his confession; that her hesitation still stands for many reasons, especially since they would be long-distance once she goes off to college. For Souma, though, the sheer thought that there is a slight chance of things working out for them is enough to make him ecstatic and to patch some of the awkwardness between them. In the end, a reset for the two of them.
Episodes five and six held an impressive amount in the wings, and there’s been a heck of a lot of shifts between the character dynamics. However, this show’s only now halfway done, and there’s a lot of ground to cover before anything is final. I’ve loved seeing these characters develop so consistently over time, and if the rest of the show continues in this fashion, I’m sure there’s going to be quite a bit more to get excited about in the coming episodes.