I can’t help but recall something Mio uttered to herself in last week’s episode: “You never say the most important things, after all.” Eita’s biggest weakness is that he’s a bit cowardly, but is she so different? Over and over again in this week’s episode, Mio can never say “the most important things” on her mind. In last week’s episode, she told Eita she had something important to ask him after she was done with her exam but she never did. He tries to follow up, but she tells him she got the gist of what she wanted to know. Apparently, she only needed Ena’s side of the story. Hell, that reminds me: did she ever thank Eita for helping her? We can’t tell. Everyone (minus Ena, of course) gathers at Haruka’s house for some delicious hot pot, and the conversation eventually turns to Mio’s stressful day: “But after I got everyone’s support, I felt fine.” Everyone’s support, huh? I guess they did support her, but as usual, Eita did all of the heavy-lifting. She gives him a long look at the table but nothing important escapes her lips.
Ena’s the direct opposite of Mio; she’s always able to vocalize what’s important to her. Well, almost always. Early in this week’s episode, she wants to ask Eita out, but she can’t find the right words. If she’s too direct about it, he would likely decline her invitation. If she’s too formal, he won’t get the right idea. In the end, she tries to split the difference but still agonizes over the tone of her words. Luckily, Puta (what an unfortunate name for a cat) is the perfect wingman.
Eita is too clueless to realize what the invitation is for, so he accepts… as long as Ena agrees not to take up too much of his day. After all, he still wants to spend some time studying. He’s got a one-track mind; he’s all-in on Mio even though he’s too cowardly to confess his love. So like a pathetic puppy, he’s going to do his best to follow her to the same university. No matter what school she picks, he’ll be there. When she is throwing up after a nomikai and needs someone to hold her hair, he’ll be there. To me, his behavior is slightly creepy, but who knows? Maybe this is romantic in some teen-addled, puppy love sort of way. But like I’ve said, he’s so focused on Mio that he’s completely clueless about Ena and how she feels towards him. So what’s a girl to do but say “the most important things?” “It’s a date,” she says, “so try not to be late.”
Even Haruto can cut right to the chase. Eita would never come out and say it, but it’s obvious why he’s taking the same entrance exams as Mio. So Haruto asks, “Eita, are you okay with Komiya?” We all have our blind spots, though. Haruto was blind to Mio’s feelings for him, after all. And likewise, Eita is clueless about Ena. Haruto points out, however, that the two of them have good chemistry in general. Really? I wouldn’t say it’s good, but… I suppose it’s better than what he currently has with Mio. Lately, those two have barely spoken to each other unless it’s about entrance exams. Their relationship remains awkward. Ena, of course, has no problems talking to Eita. The guy, on the other hand, just goes about his usual dour business whenever he’s with her.
Speaking of Haruto, it doesn’t appear as though he’s doing much lately to improve himself. He’s being too complacent: “I’ve already asked [Haruka] out. So, whatever happens, happens.” Nevertheless, Eita continues to look up to his best friend.
On the day of the date, Eita bumps into Mio on her way to cram school. She frowns when she sees him out and about; she might already suspect at this point that he’s on a date with Ena. Besides Haruto, who else would he hang out with? Eita suggests that it’d be easier for her to take a bus, but it almost seems as though she’s following him onto the train just to confirm her suspicions. As they wait at the station, she, too, questions him about Ena. He’s frustrated that everyone keeps bringing the girl up but remains clueless about the overall situation. Hell, he only just now realizes that Mio had seen them that night when he gave Ena permission to use his photo. But does he try to clear up any misconceptions Mio might have? That would be too easy, huh?
Eventually, Ena joins them, and hoo boy, if looks could kill….
Mio: I told you no.
Ena: Do I need your permission?
Mio: Then, why did you ask?
Ena: Well, just because.
Eita is completely lost, but even he can feel the tension in the air. He later comments, “I used up all my strength for today on the monorail.” The brief exchange here is interesting, though. Why did Mio say no just to do nothing to help her own case? She doesn’t want Eita to date Ena but she’s not making any moves of her own either. Does some small part of her expect Eita to always be there to support her? Let’s not forget how she failed to say anything to Haruto either, and now she’s making the same mistakes. In fact, we later see her distraught and distracted at cram school, because she can’t help but think about Eita.
Maybe something else is at play, too. Maybe Mio is frustrated that her feelings can’t get through to the one guy who should understand her best. After all, she told him ahead of time that she was going to move on from Haruto. She even thanks him for helping her come to this realization. Then when she did return the eraser, she made sure Eita stayed to hear the entire conversation. Maybe Mio thinks she’s given him enough clues to work with. I still think she should follow her own advice, though. She needs to say “the most important things” on her mind or she may lose out again.
At least Ena remains true to herself. No matter what Mio had answered, our aspiring photographer was still going to do whatever she wanted. So why did she bother to ask? Well, “…just because” isn’t really inaccurate. If you recall, Eita was barely responding to Ena in last week’s episode whenever she tried to talk to him. But of course, as soon as she sent him a picture of Mio, he quickly got back to her. As a result, Ena needed to know what her chances were. If she was going to pursue this guy, she needed to know what she’s getting into. She likes him, and he likes Mio, but how does Mio feel?
Still, I don’t think Mio has to worry too much, because Ena’s date with Eita doesn’t feel much like one. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to think a date should ideally involve two people getting to know each other on a more intimate level. Instead, the girl is busy taking photos left and right, and he’s stuck carrying her equipment. Despite this, he manages to see a new side of her. Her focus and devotion to photography almost makes her endearing to him: “She’s like a totally different person.” So maybe I’m wrong; maybe he does get to know her on a more intimate level after all. You could even say she knows what she’s doing.
On the other hand, she blushes a little too much around him. It’s what I had feared from the start: the strong-willed, assertive girl slowly turning into a puddle of “doki doki” emotions around the guy she likes. Ena’s not quite there yet, but every journey begins with the first step. I am still confident she’ll lose Eita to Mio, so I’m just awaiting the inevitable torrential pour of tears when the day comes.
Near the end of their date, Ena teases Eita: “Whoa, you secretly took a photo of me. Gross…” I wonder if she realizes the irony in her statement. I suspect she does. She then changes his phone’s background to that exact picture. For some odd reason, Eita doesn’t know how to change it back. Wow, is he really that clueless? I feel as though this is just an excuse to have Mio see the picture in a later episode, thereby causing more misunderstandings and tears. After all, we still have a month of episodes to go (knock on wood). We need to the set the stage for some heavy-duty drama to come.
Afterwards, Ena leads Eita back to her clubroom. Since he has only just moved here, she hopes that he might get something out of the school’s photo albums. Her intuition is dead-on as the guy takes on a wistful expression as he looks back on his friends’ cherished high school memories. Although I don’t consider this moment very romantic, it’s still a very sweet gesture from Ena. She knows what makes the guy tick and she knows how to make him happy. Can the same be said about Mio? In fact, what has Mio ever done for Eita?
When Eita walks Ena home at the end of their date, he’s in too much of a hurry. Naturally, she knows he’s desperate to squeeze in some studying time: “That’s how much you want to go to the same university as Mio-senpai, huh?” He sheepishly admits that he doesn’t have the courage to do much else. He studies and jogs everyday because he can’t confess his love. Well, at least he’ll get super smart and fit at this rate. Still, despite knowing his true feelings, Ena continues, “Then… if I win a prize at the competition, I’ll confess my love for you.” In a way, she just did. But what does she even like about Eita anyway? He’s in love with someone else, he’s always grumpy, and he never has much to say. He’s done a few nice things for her, but not enough (in my eyes) to make her fall in love. I don’t understand it. Oh well, I have to give her credit for at least being able to say “the most important things.”
Shortly after Ena departs, Haruka somehow appears. It’s almost too coincidental. Eita couldn’t recognize her at first, because she’s tweaked her style. Barely. I don’t see how her new clothes are any flashier than what she normally wears. Is it just the skirt? The coat is too indistinct, but it might be the show’s poor production values that’s preventing me from discerning the crucial difference. I do prefer her new hairstyle, but that’s only because I dislike straight, blunt bangs that she used to sport. Still, Eita vociferously approves of the new look. What is Haruka waiting for, by the way? She has yet to reconsider Haruto’s confession and give him a new answer. Does she feel she needs to measure up to Mio if she wants to date him? In the past few weeks, the show has always tried to end on an emotional cliffhanger. I’m not sure if Haruka’s new look qualifies.
Elsewhere, all Mio can do is sigh. Eita is still on her mind. Like Ena, all she does is think about him all day. When she gets up from her chair at cram school, she can’t help but wonder if those two are finally done with their date. Mio could always text him and ask, but that’s a little too direct and forward for someone with her temperament. Still, she cleared things up with Haruto in order to focus on her studies, and yet, she’s ironically back at square one. If she could be so brave with her first crush, then why can’t she do the same with Eita? Well, we know exactly why, don’t we? She had Eita’s support back then. Unfortunately, if she now intends to make things clear with Eita, she’ll probably have to do it on her own. Maybe Ena can even lend a hand when the girl finally realizes she can’t win Eita’s heart. In all likelihood, it’ll probably fall on Eita’s shoulders to “man up,” so to speak.
On her way home, Mio has an interesting talk with her sister. Mina tells Mio to pursue her own dreams. She doesn’t want her younger sister to feel as though the latter has to follow in her footsteps. Hearing this, Mio starts to reconsider. At the same time, however, Eita is still pouring all his energy into getting attending the same university. Wouldn’t it be sad if they both ended up at different schools because neither can ever say “the most important things” on their minds?
All in all, this episode is trying to set the stage for the series’ third and final act, so maybe that is why it feels a bit too low key. It’s not my favorite episode, that’s for sure. Just Because! is still my favorite show of the season (with Houseki no Kuni in second), but something just feels off this week.