OP: 「over and over」by Yanagi Nagi
Going into the second episode, Just Because! continues to maintain its stride. This time, past relationships between characters come to light, though some details have yet to be fully revealed. However, the general gist of things seem apparent. We learn that Natsume has had an unrequited crush on Haruto since middle school, while Eita himself has feelings for Natsume. To be completely honest, something rubs me the wrong way with Natsume still having a crush on Haruto. I won’t deny it hits too close to home, and not in a good way. Fortunately, both Natsume and Eita are able to display their selflessness by trying to support the respective targets of their affection. This is important for indicating that they are good people we want to cheer on, as well as highlighting the emotional struggles that will underpin their growth as characters. Or perhaps you generally hate these kinds of protagonists, and want to see them suffer and fail, but allow me to still provide some examples of their virtue. At the aquarium, Natsume bumps Haruto and Morikawa together for photo opportunities, rather than seeking to get between them. Eita could have cherished his time alone with Natsume, but tried convincing her to rejoin the main group, which she stayed away from due to pains from her repressed feelings. The situation is totally screwed, but what can anyone do? You just can’t help loving the person you love, and almost no amount of common sense can change that. Only the passage of time can erode away at such wounds.
Anyway, I cannot bring myself to dislike Haruto – he’s such a nice guy! That much is evident from how he gets along with Morikawa’s younger brothers, despite the fact they pretty much denied any chance for him to successfully confess at the aquarium. He also looked to genuinely care about them, as opposed to merely trying to score points with Morikawa, though I could be overstepping in my positive judgement of his character. Unfortunately, I reckon Morikawa won’t be able to date Haruto, because she has so many younger siblings to look after. That will definitely cause drama down the line, and I’d be surprised if Pine Jam skipped straight past such a juicy opportunity. Also, I firmly believe that Sakurasou’s original creator enjoys making his characters suffer, Nanami Aoyama being my primary case study.
I really appreciate that Just Because! is looking to explore LINE in a different way from Tsuki ga Kirei, which had purer and more straightforward interactions. Following on from a criticism in my previous post, I’m happy to see that the LINE messages have become less obtrusive. Anyhow, let me tell you, messaging platforms are great. You can be downright miserable, look like it, and conceal it with a smiling emoji – which is what we saw Natsume do towards the end of this episode. To be honest, I absolutely hate that, but have been there and done it before. Bottling up emotions like that is certainly unhealthy, and platforms like LINE/WhatsApp/Facebook help enable such a course of action, especially in the context of a one-sided crush. At some point, Natsume will eventually explode from all that pent up pressure. It’s a contemporary issue with modern society and social media that deserves attention, and I’m glad that it’s being incorporated into the story.
Youth is indeed coming to an end. While many in the West choose to go to university, myself included, it’s a reserve of the elite students over in Japan. Most folks enter the workforce upon graduation, making highschool their final harrumph. These kids understandably want to find closure for matters such as romance, and pursue passions like photography where they can, before an inevitable assimilation into the Japanese corporate environment. When death by overworking is abnormally high compared with elsewhere, to the point of requiring a specific word like ‘Karoshi‘, I can see why the outlook is so bleak.
If I had to guess, Natsume will soon realise her feelings for Eita at Ena’s expense. I think the main issue will be how Just Because! can convince me about the sincerity of such a change, because one wrong step might make it look like a rebound. That said, I’m glad that we finally get a show focusing from the perspective of unrequited love. Usually, that stuff is usually reserved for fringe characters, so the time finally came for main characters to receive their share of the suffering. Last time, I wanted Shiina to win in Sakurasou, even though Nanami was a perfectly likeable character. However, I’ll be rooting for the underdog this time. Unlike Chinatsu’s situation in Tsuki ga Kirei, there is no relationship to speak of between Natsume and Eita, so Ena literally cannot alienate my support unless she does something crazy.
ED: 「behind」by Mio Natsume (Isobe Karin), Hatsuki Morikawa (Yoshino Yuna) and Ena Komiya (Lynn)