「On Your Marks!」
Let me apologise in advance, the temptation was too much. I have a feeling that I’m guaranteed to enjoy this, Just Because! I’m a huge fan of the artist and writer. As such, I’m definitely expecting an anime original romance that combines elements of the creators previous works in Getsuyoubi no Tawawa and Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. The great news? I’m already enjoying the art and character designs! Judging from the PVs, the characters and premise also look really promising. But with a rookie director at the helm, it’s hard to imagine how this will turn out. My guess? Most likely a diamond in the rough, that will hopefully provoke powerful emotions from the audience in its portrayal of adolescent love.
While it’s nothing groundbreaking, when a transfer student moves back after four years, the fact it happened so late into the academic calendar certainly raises my eyebrows. There are only three more months of school before final exams. I’m even more intrigued that our transfer student barely cares for the people he knew from before, while they all still seem to know him. He has a point though. Many people only contact each other, due to close proximity on a day to day basis. But the way he phrased it was pretty harsh and cold, if not downright cynical, even if it was true. Forgetting your previous friends is natural, as time relentlessly marches on without a second thought. However, meeting them again must surely remain a joyous occasion?
Right from the get go, Izumi Eita (Ichikawa Aoi) seems apathetic and detached. While I usually dislike this sort of characterisation, especially if done in an unsubstantiated manner, it genuinely feels like Eita’s natural disposition. Hence I cannot fault it. He never really breaks out of character, and hearing some of his internal monologues help to construct the kind of mindset we’re dealing with. On the other hand, Natsume Mio (Isobe Carin) is rather listless. To me, it looks like she wants to enjoy life, but is bogged down by various obligations regarding her academic studies. No doubt, she has some impressive credentials, as a former student council president. Huge expectations ride upon her shoulders, which is probably stifling. But what I ultimately care about is the past she shares with Eita, which is strongly alluded to towards the end.
Even before that, there were signs hinting at some history between Eita and Natsume. When she received a picture message of a mysterious transfer student, her subsequent transition from bored to somewhat frantic particularly stuck out for me. Unrequited love? Perhaps mutual but unexpressed feelings? And that’s what I really liked about the overall direction in this first episode. A lot was shown, without going into details explaining every point. As a result, I’m left asking many good questions that make me want to know, what happens next? I’d venture to say that both Eita and Natsume were negatively affected, and this series will deal with unresolved matters between them, as well as an inevitable love triangle I’m already smelling from a mile away.
Although the first episode was not very eventful, Just Because! establishes a wonderful atmosphere worthy of praise. If I were to describe it – the premonition of youth ending, as the adult world draws closer. During their springtime of youth, Haruto and Eita dared to pursue baseball and dream of greater heights. Yet the stark reality is that close to graduation, they are nowhere near a professional level, having abandoned the path long ago. With that gone, what will their future be? The springtime of youth is long gone, and all that remains is a well of dried up aspirations. In that way, it would be antithetical to Kamoshida Hajime’s previous work. If Sakurasou could be considered people passionately chasing their dreams regardless of pitfalls and obstacles, Just Because! is angling towards the death of dreams, before they even have a chance to truly begin. And coming to accept that bleak status quo as a fact of reality.
I thought the interactions between the characters struck a fine balance in regards to highschool dynamics. Saruwatari Junpei (Amasaki Kouhei) is that brash and enthusiastic friend, while contrary to his stature, Ishigaki Rikuo (Yamamoto Shouta) is mild and meek. Forming a friendship group together with Souma Haruto (Murata Taishi), our boys don’t lose a moment in making the most out of their remaining highschool days. Komiya Ena’s (Lynn) vibrant and headstrong personality stood out amongst the female characters, particularly during her staunch refusal to disband the Photography Club, as well as in later interactions with Mio. Her dedication towards photography is admirable, and I hope the ability to capture special moments in time will be a focal point to the exploration of her character, as well as the series itself. Youth may come to pass, but can still be preserved through the memory of photographs. That aside, there definitely wasn’t enough on trumpet girl Morikawa Hatsuki (Yoshino Yuna), though I suppose she’ll be under the spotlight next episode. Can’t wait to see her response for Haruto’s confession! There’s absolutely no way we’ll be getting a straightforward acceptance.
In terms of possible improvements, Just Because! could become a more immersive experience. My greed is insatiable, to the extent that balanced dynamics are simply not enough. It needs to go further than that! I hate making comparisons so early on, but when Tsuki ga Kirei aired in spring this year, the show immediately whisked me back to my highschool days. I’m not getting these vibes just yet, which would otherwise be cherry on the icing. Another point I want to make is the use of text messaging service. They came at the right moments and weren’t overdone, yet execution often left a lot to be desired, since I generally found the texts to be obtrusive compared to Tsuki ga Kirei.
Looking ahead, I’d say optimism is definitely warranted, Just Because! a lot of the groundwork has been laid out for things to really take off. Depending on how things pan out from here, we could truly have a brilliant dark horse on our hands.