A month. Eita and Mio did not speak for a month. In fact, she never even read his reply. Had she given up hope but intended to bump into him at Joei anyway? Or did seeing him on campus suddenly change her mind? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. Either way, the show gets the happy ending it wanted, but I’m not sure I’m satisfied with the way we got there. Eita and Mio becoming a couple always felt like a foregone conclusion. And yet, this finale thoroughly frustrates me. Or, to be more accurately, Eita thoroughly frustrates me. Well, who else, am I right? It’s always the hero in these romances who makes us want to bang our heads against a wall. Mio tries repeatedly to meet up with Eita; after all, she has a confession. You can’t say she doesn’t try. She sends him a message, which he doesn’t reply to. She goes looking for him, but finds him nowhere. She sticks around until the day is nearly over, and yet… nothing.
In a way, I sort of understand how Eita is feeling. Sort of. He had put himself on this mad quest to prove his love to her. Even though he has been slacking off for the past few months, he is going to cram for a little over a month and somehow pass Suizan’s entrance exams. If he can make it into her school, then it means that their love is meant to be…? I dunno, following a girl to college without telling her first seems a bit stalkerish to me, but maybe it’s romantic to others. Unfortunately, Eita fails his exams, and as a result, he is too scared and ashamed to meet Mio. He almost blows her off completely until he challenges Haruto to one last game. Haruto beat Eita twice in the past, and he’s always used these victories to summon up the courage to talk to Haruka. So now it’s his best friend to get that necessary final push. This time, however, Eita is up at the plate, and he’s got to swing with all his might. He takes a hack, the ball goes ping off the bat, the hopeful piano remix of the theme song suddenly kicks in, and Haruto screams at him to go. Just go, dude! There’s no time like the present. He’s loved Mio for so long, so who cares if he failed his exams? His heart never did!
A…and so Eita runs? He’s running to meet her, I’m sure, but he’s not going to, y’know, text her back? Let her know that he’s coming? Apologize for not responding earlier? Mio waits and waits and waits. Eventually, her friends tells her to join them already at the karaoke bar. And you can’t blame Mio for finally deciding to leave. For the past few months, she’s blown Sanae, Momoka and Mayuka off to either study or spend time with a different circle of friends. She’s given Eita more than enough of a chance to even just reply to her, and he hasn’t. How much longer is she supposed to wait with no response. She knows he’s read the message, too. Being ghosted sucks. She may as well call it quits for today. Maybe forever. I get all of that. But what exactly happens next? We simply get a timeskip. Haruka is getting used to her new campus life, but she still stays in contact with Haruto. Likewise, he’s getting used to his new professional life, but he’s doing alright himself. The topic then turns to Eita and Mio, and Haruto reveals that his best bud still doesn’t know Mio is attending Joei.
We finally see Eita on campus, and he’s just as full of energy as ever. He checks his phone and sees that Mio still hasn’t read his last message. Y’see, he did eventually respond and apologize for being late to their meetup, but she never even looked at it. She didn’t just not reply; she didn’t even bother to check the message at all. I’d be bugged as hell to see that notification on my phone for a month, but maybe she disabled it for added measure. Again, it’s been a month since they graduated. But all of a sudden, he gets a message from Mio. She tells him that she’s right behind him. She teases that she didn’t come to Joei for him, which is mostly true. But her smile goes away for a second when he doesn’t say anything in return. This is what makes me think maybe she had given up on the idea of them being a couple. Maybe she resigned herself to the fact that he didn’t like her when he failed to even respond to her that day. Maybe she just bumped into him today and wanted to catch up like old friends. She sure seems surprised enough when he suddenly comes out and confesses to her. Mio naturally responds in kind, and Eita also looks surprised.
I guess my issue is that the one month of no contact issue really stretches credulity. I feel like the writer had in his head exactly how he wanted the show to end. They’re going to meet at the university under the cherry blossoms, and he’ll finally confess his feelings. She’ll confess back, and it’ll be perfect! They’ll have their entire future ahead of them! All we’ve gotta do is make our way there. So in order to set this up, these two have to somehow avoid seeing and contacting each other. ‘Cause look, what would common sense dictate? Ah, we couldn’t meet up on the last day of school, so let’s meet up tomorrow! Oh, you’re busy tomorrow too? Let’s meet up sometime next week then! Great! Or if they can’t meet up at all, just pick up the damn phone and call each other! A love confession over the phone isn’t as romantic, but it still gets the job done — especially when you’ve been pining for the girl for years and years. Common sense, however, doesn’t get you that beautiful confession, so somehow — magically — Mio ignores Eita’s reply. And somehow, even though she couldn’t find him on their last day of high school, she finds him on a much larger campus, and they live happily ever after.
Well, most of them. Ena loses everything. Like Eita, she fails; she doesn’t win the photo competition. In fact, the photo that wins is submitted by her own club members. And the photo that that wins is, well, of her. Nobody cares about Eita tossing a pitch. They like — and Eita agrees — the expression on Ena’s face in the winning photo. We see Ena’s determination and dedication to her craft. Christ, that’s almost a slap in a face, isn’t it? In a way, her determination manages to save the photography club, but again, she didn’t take the picture. She spends weeks begging Eita to let her use his picture, and she still doesn’t win. She puts together a super sweet scrapbook for his graduation present, and she doesn’t win his heart either. She tells him that he doesn’t have to respond to her confession because he didn’t pass his test, but shit, he wants to get closure on this anyway. So for all her “determination and dedication to her craft,” Ena’s reward is a loss of innocence: you can’t always get what you want. Her painful cry in the clubroom that she has fought so hard to save is hard to watch.
You can’t force love, I suppose. It takes time for two people to truly fall in love with each other, and time has never been on Ena’s side. Eita only just moved here, and even though she’s spent practically the last couple of months with the guy, she doesn’t have the depth of history that he shares with Mio. So even though Eita and Mio barely spoke in the last few episodes, their love seems to be powered by the faded but undying embers of their middle school days. Those two have an unspoken connection, and Just Because!‘s biggest flaw is that this bond doesn’t come across strongly enough to the audience. Of all the shows that could’ve used more flashbacks, this is the one. If the anime’s going to have Ena work her ass off to win Eita’s love and still fail, then it needs to justify the strength of Eita and Mio’s love born from those far flung years. The implication here, after all, is that Mio never truly loved Haruto. She only had a silly crush on him, and when she finally reflected on who was truly there for her, it was Eita all along. But we got one flashback of those two together! One!
Ah well… I still like Just Because! I won’t lie; it is easily my favorite show of the season. Houseki no Kuni is certainly more thought-provoking, but the music, the atmosphere, the tone of Just Because! just appealed to me. Yes, even despite the pitifully bad animation. Ever since the fourth episode — the one where the music swells up and Eita tells Mio he’s always cared about her — I’ve been looking forward to watching the anime every week. I can’t say it turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, though. Of course, I prefer Ena to Mio, but I agree that Eita and Mio make more sense as a couple. In the end, however, I just wish Eita had been a little more courageous and a little less passive. I just wish we didn’t have to bother with the third-act misunderstanding which never really got resolved anyway. Mio mentions to Haruka in this week’s episode that she didn’t like seeing his phone’s wallpaper, but that’s about it. And most of all, although a confession at Joei under the cherry blossoms is ideal, the way the show reaches this climactic point is clumsy and a touch unbelievable (a month!).
If you like someone that much, grab the bull by the horns and profess your love! But then again, that might just be me projecting myself onto the show. I tell myself that’s what I would do in Eita’s situation, but I have the benefit of being a grown man with years of relationships under my belt. Most importantly, I don’t get those innocent crushes anymore. Life’s too busy now, and I’d feel silly having a crush on someone anyways. So I guess I’m a bit envious of Eita. I’m not envious of him and Mio, but more just the ability to have that butterflies-in-the-stomach crush on someone you know. I don’t see it happening at my age, so when I see him wasting his multiple opportunities to tell her that he loves her, of course it’s frustrating. But then again, if I was in his shoes — if I was somehow a teenager again — I’d probably be too scared to say anything either. Hell, I was too scared. There was a girl I used to like between fourth grade and… hmm, I’d say midway through high school. I never did tell her I liked her. So I guess can’t really blame Eita.
Final grade: B