Quick note for any Just Because! viewers outside of America: Lucky for you, HiDive got ahold of this one because still at the point of this writing, Amazon has not translated the signs and text for this show along with the official subs. So if you’re watching this show, might want to head over to HiDive for those translated signs on the last episode given the incredibly important use of text messaging in this show. Us Americans will just be over here crying and raising a defiant fist against our Amazon overlords who will still not turn over the full rights to HiDive.
Well here we are, the end is near, we face the final curtain, and my friends, I’ll say it clear. I’ll state my case of which I’m certain… This was such a good anime. Since the first episode, I’ve been impressed with this show and I’m so happy that Just Because! never let me down. Of the shows that we’ve written about thus far as a group on this site, this one was probably my favorite to watch. And now we’re at the end. I guess if the previous episodes were the wind up, this would be the pitch… and then the aftermath. Though, to be less haughty for a sec, it’d probably be better just to call this the exam arc ‘cause hot damn is there a lot riding on these college entrance tests.
We initially pick up from where episode ten leaves off, with Komiya readmitting her feelings. However, we see that she tells Izumi not to give her an answer until he passes his test, stating it with the assurance that he will. He promises her he will with the same earnest and serious face I’ve come to love on this deadpan boy.The next day, Izumi fills in Souma about what’s going on with him and his exams while Souma in turn explains his relationship with Morikawa and his plans for the future. The standout moment here, however has to be when Izumi tells Souma to stay in touch with Morikawa, as it’ll get harder to message her if he waits too long. It’s thrown out so nonchalant but the meaning is easily picked up by Souma as Izumi alluding to how they fell out of touch, bringing us back to the beginning of the series and the lost friendship they thankfully were able to rekindle. It’s a nice touch to one of the last major bonding moments these two have with each other as we head towards the end. With a promise to stay in touch with Morikawa that also seems to be an affirmation to be there for Izumi as well, Souma then throws it back to Izumi, telling him to stay in touch with Natsume to which Izumi promises Souma that he’ll tell her everything when he passes his test. A lot riding on these exams, huh?
And while Izumi has a lot riding on his test, after meeting up with Natsume’s sister (who is fantastic in every scene with her teasing), we’re reminded of a similar promise Natsume has made and how much Natsume is depending on this test for not only her future but her potential future with Izumi. All of this leads up to the moment of the big tests for Izumi and Natsume, and overtop of the nervous looks inside the quiet testing rooms both of them think back on all the interactions they’ve had leading up to this. It’s a beautiful scene, mixing nostalgia for all we’ve seen so far with a full realization of everything Izumi and Natsume are bringing into the test rooms with them besides their pencils and erasers. It also has some of the best music in the show up to this point, which is saying something with a soundtrack this good.
However, the scene after the test I found to be just as good of a montage of sorts than the test scene itself. Seeing each member of our cast wrapping up the last days of their high school careers, spending their last moments with friends in anticipation for their test results, we get a more positive feeling than the fear and uncertainty we’ve felt up till this point. The scene acts as a nice calm before the storm and the final results of what the future will be for out cast, particularly Izumi, Natsume, and even Komiya, who’s competition is wrapping up the same day.
But then comes the end of episode eleven and the day of the results. Suspense immediately rockets up as the music stops and only the sounds of each character play as they find out their future. Komiya, Natsume, and Izumi don’t utter a single word as the episode ends with three smiles: Komiya in joy, Natsume in relief, and then there’s Izumi.
Queue episode twelve.
In a singular cliffhanger moment, this anime easily shows what makes it such an amazing series. Izumi’s smile on the cliffhanger heading into the last episode is the perfect tell in this show. We initially are led by the previous joyous victories Natsume and Komiya had before this to believe Izumi had passed in a very happy anime-esque ending. However, the following episode immediately drops us back on that same scene but with the new realization that instead of a smile, it was a grimace. Izumi realizes that he won’t be able to make it to Natsume’s school. And in a weird turn of events, we’re happy that he failed. Since we, the audience, know more than our characters, we celebrate in the midst of his sadness as we see that he’s left going to the only school available to him now, which is the same one Natsume just made it into. However, we’re left uncertain as to what Izumi may do, as he promised himself to only admit his feelings if he passed. In a way, our characters are getting the potential for their happy ending but much in the same beautiful way the rest of this show works, it’s not without a sense of realism and sadness that our characters arrive there. Rather than joyously celebrating and shouting into the sky as the camera pans up, Izumi is left feeling the loss and realization that maybe not everything for him works out and that life isn’t that easy.
It’s also to the amazing credit of this show that this whole roller coaster is told to us in under sixty seconds without a single word needing to be said between the end of episode eleven and the beginning of episode twelve. No music, no dialogue, just pure and deliberate silence. That’s where this scene shines beautifully, even for those that may have seen it coming a mile away. We don’t need to see Izumi’s number on the board to realize what happened and we don’t need him to break into deep emotional tears to understand the pain that he’s gone through. That isn’t in character for Izumi and so very realistically, we instead see that his smile that left us on a cliffhanger is a grimace about his defeat. We can easily see etched on his face the pain that he feels and the realization of what this means for him. It wasn’t passing some test that he cared about. Izumi truly believed he was fighting for his future and his future chance of staying with Natsume. And not a word needs to be said when the animation and direction can tell all of this for us.
It’s interesting to note that the show had a few more twists up its sleeve at the end of the previous episode as well. We see as Izumi meets up with Komiya that it wasn’t her picture that she had fought him for the whole damn show that had won the competition. Izumi had gone by to see how she did and saw it wasn’t the picture she had taken of him but the picture the club had taken of her at the beginning of the series as she watched Izumi and Souma’s first baseball game. It’s a clever twist that leads to a beautiful but sad moment as though he didn’t pass the exam, Izumi gives Komiya his response to her confession, both of them knowing full well what Izumi would say. But in admitting it out loud, they’re both able to move on, albeit with pain in Komiya’s heart. It’s a powerful scene.As we see the last threads of the story unwind and fall into place, a game of cat and mouse only slightly less anxiety-inducing than Your Name. prevents Izumi and Natsume from meeting on their last school day as Izumi is still not wanting to admit his feelings because he failed the test, deciding to instead avoid Natume altogether. However, just as that is used as an excuse, Izumi decides to use one last baseball game between Souma and himself as an excuse to finally get the courage he needs. And with an amazing home run for a guy who’s supposed to be the pitcher, he runs through town until… nothing.
He never makes it to Natsume.
This almost seems typical for this show at this point. The tropey anime ending is always an option, but it’s never taken. Instead, the show goes for a something a bit more unorthodox, deciding to jump forward in time to see the start of each of the new futures for our cast. Morikawa and Souma stay up-to-date with each other and catch up with each others’ lives via text, Souma at his job and Morikawa at college. As they talk, they run through the rest of the cast and catch us up with everyone… until we arrive at Izumi. In a cruel joke for friends to do to someone they love, they never told Izumi that Natsume was going to the same college and instead figure those two lovable dorks of the bunch will figure it out eventually.
And they do.
In a scene that looks like it’s ripped from an oil painting, after several months of neither person messaging each other, Natsume texts Izumi to ask how his college life is doing, only to appear behind him. Finally having the chance after all this time, it’s almost the first thing they blurt out as they both confess and take a step toward each other. All in the same beautiful, fitting silence this show has down to a science.
For Just Because!, it’s not a matter of what’s being told but how it’s said that is why I’ve enjoyed this show. We’ve seen the coming of age story countless times, a group of teens struggling to come to terms with growing up and the daunting fear of the future before them. I mean, back in the 80s, this was a common theme (and was the backbone of almost every John Hughes movie), and I’d bet even if someone hasn’t seen the film, most everyone is able to reference The Breakfast Club. With so many adaptations to choose from, it’s a not surprise that these are real worries for most people around the end of their high school lives. Most of us go through this same thing.
However, the beauty of Just Because! isn’t that it’s a holistically new and unique story. It’s the one we’ve seen done before but done in only the way this show can do it. We see very real reactions to those fears we’ve come to know and the shaping of each character throughout the story feels close to our own hearts as they come to terms with the struggles of growing up while also trying to balance being with the people they hold dear in their life as those lives grow apart. Rather than show this through stereotypical characters and tried and true methods, Just Because! shows us a more realistic approach with very real emotions and characters, a breath of fresh air the amongst a sea of coming of age stories in anime. And rather than have deep inner monologues filled with angsty soliloquy, the anime decides to instead show us the emotions of our group of characters but leave room for us in the silences to feel those emotions as well, using the amazing animation, acting, and pauses to tell us the inner turmoil they feel. It may be the same story, but when it’s done so damn well, it never feels old. Why? Well…