Most coming-of-age series tend to be touching and memorable in one way or another because of the kinds of experiences they explore. Anime that chronicle growing up and into one’s personal identity, rekindling old friendships or even healing from past events will usually always be emotionally resonant and heartfelt stories. Of the many coming-of-age anime out there for fans to check out — perhaps the most poignant of them all — is the 2017 anime Just Because!.
High school can be a tumultuous time for any teen, but even if it’s not, it’s not unusual to eagerly await the end of high school for that fresh start into adulthood. Sometimes though, the past comes back to shake things up. Just Because! explores how five teens come together and how their new and rekindled relationships change the course of their final year in school together.
It’s almost the end of his third year of high school when Eita Izumi returns to his hometown. He’d moved away in middle school but is now reunited with his childhood classmates Haruto and Mio. Along with the anxieties of impending graduation, buried emotions come to the surface to complicate their day-to-day lives. As an old love triangle transforms, new friends get thrown into the mix and old feelings begin to change, and the trajectory of everyone’s remaining time in school together embarks in a new direction.
What really sets this anime apart from others in its genre is its grounded characters and realistic portrayals of all their relationships. It’s an honest insight into the changing dynamics of friendships and the realization of how much people can grow and change over time. The unraveling of the love square-of-sorts provides the tension in this romantic drama, with Eita’s return stirring up old feelings and signaling growth and transformation. When they were in middle school, Eita had a crush on Mio, but she had a crush on Haruto. When Eita returns and falls back into his friendships with them, he assumes this is still the case. Haruto, however, has since moved on and is now interested in his classmate Hazuki. While Haruto and Hazuki try to determine their feelings for one another, Hazuki is also worried by the possibility that Mio might still have feelings for Haruto.
She does still have unrequited feelings for him, though these slowly begin to change when Eita re-enters the picture. This realization is further spurred by the fact that an underclassman, Ena, starts taking an interest in Eita. Ena doesn’t initially show romantic interest when she begins to interact with the group of friends. Ena originally speaks to Eita to see if she can use a photo she took of him for a photography contest. She hopes to win and revitalize the dwindling photography club, and Eita agrees since she is so passionate. Through this interaction, she comes to befriend him. However, her company stirs irritation in Mio, leading her to realize how much she likes Eita. While the four upperclassmen have been or are focusing to varying degrees on college and work post-high school, they’ve now got to focus on untangling their feelings for one another.
Just Because! succeeds in being so emotionally impactful because of how well it hones in on the emotions of each character and the inclusion of alternating perspectives to further ground viewers in the importance of each shared moment. Everyone’s personalities feel well-developed, and each character is given the time to explore their relationships outside the group, like with family, to further add to their characterizations. Their stories are genuine and thoughtfully portrayed, and the grounded characters and their lives make their experiences easily relatable. Just Because! never loses its thread about kids trying to figure out their future and understand what they want in life, and their romantic entanglements are allowed to be a part of that.
All 12 episodes of Just Because! can be streamed on HIDIVE.