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Just Because!

The slice-of-life genre and a high school setting appear to be inseparable in anime. Off the top of my head, this Fall season alone has at least 7 titles revolving around the hi-jinks of these uniformed teenagers. Think Love Live! Sunshine!!, Ousama Game, Shokugeki no Souma and Anime-Gataris, amongst other titles. But what sets Just Because! apart from the rest would be the time frame which it's set in. It depicts a group of third-year high school students preparing for their next stage of life, be it tertiary education or hunting for a job. It's a period of time which is often skipped or added in as an afterthought via the epilogue in most "high school" anime titles I've watched. Having graduated twice already, I know what the feeling is like and the unique focus alone was enough to convince me to give it a go.

The main cast is easy to relate to, having the same problems that most graduating high school students have, be it professional or personal ones. The way they interact is natural and what impressed me was how easily the protagonist Izumi Eita re-connected with his old group of friends, having moved back into town in the first episode for the final semester. There was little awkwardness between them and the transition was seamless, making up for the slower pace during the first few episodes where the characters were introduced. It was full steam ahead from there, with the rest of the episodes focusing on how the cast attempted to tie up any loose ends and getting rid of any emotional baggage before graduation.

Like any other story involving high-schoolers, there is the usual teenage angst thrown into the mix. However, it manifests subtly in Just Because!. Overblown reactions, in-your-face tsundere behaviour and a whole host of misunderstandings are nowhere to be found, being traded for nuance and tension instead. It makes for an enjoyable watch, considering how little time Eita and friends have left. It's similar to social situations anyone would face in real life, especially when it comes to the various characters finally confessing to their love interests. It doesn't feel like an unnecessarily grand affair, unlike other anime titles.

Unfortunately, the character designs detract from the overall viewing experience. It's the achilles heel of the series and the poorly designed characters seem out of place on more than a few occasions. The voice acting, plot and music can only do so much but considering how character-driven Just Because! is, it's hard to ignore them, to say the least. Pine Jam's previous production last season, Gamers, had the same faults regarding character design and artwork in general. On the other hand, this didn't stop me from watching either series so I'm probably exaggerating how bad the problem is.

All in all, Just Because! was worth the watch, bar the odd character designs and I'm eagerly waiting to see how Pine Jam wraps up the last two episodes. Although there is a novel adaptation that covers the ending already, I'm keen to see how the studio handles it and whether any major changes will take place.

Written by ET

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