You only get one shot. If the first episode of an anime doesn’t impress me, it’s getting dropped.
So, did Just Because! impressed me on its first episode? Boy, it was truly impressive.
Let me ask you older folks a question: Do you remember your final dayss of high school?
Reflect on this period of your young life for a moment. After years of dealing with bullshit from normie peers, popular kids in their cliques, preppy rich kids, obnoxious football jocks, and teachers who never taught you shit, all of that was coming to an end. You were deciding if you should stay in your hometown for college. Perhaps you desired to relocate to a new, unknown city to expand your education and see something different. Maybe you didn’t want to go to college. You were in school for twelve years of your life; adding four or six more years of school through college and university would drive you crazy. The very thought of more schooling right after high school pissed you off, so you just went straight the workforce, military, or whatever.
During these four years, you had a few people in your circle whom you grew close with and you formed a bond. Throughout these four years, you and your friends hung out after class. It’s possible that you might have skipped class to visit your friend. Hell, some of you even skipped an entire day of school to kick it with your friend all day a few times. Your crew were tight. As graduation drew near, you dreaded if bonds you made will soon break forever; as you and your friends aimed to go your own paths in life.
That’s Just Because!: Pine Jam’s original anime about four third year high school students entering the final period of their high school career. Eita (the main character) is one of these students. What makes him unique from the others is that he recently transferred to their high school (rather late, as it’s the end of the second semester). Yeah, he’s yet another typical anime high school student transfer into a new school. That’s nothing new in anime. However, what makes Eita, different from other “mysterious transfer students” in anime is the fact that this guy knows a few people at his new school – including his old friends, Haruto and Mio. With that fact, he isn’t that mysterious.
Ten minutes or so into Just Because!, we’re introduced to the cast, as well as insights to their lives and motives. We have Mio; a studious girl who spends her free-time prepping for her college entrance exams (much to the dismay of her less studious friends). Next, there’s Haruto; the school’s baseball captain. He’s deciding if he should stick with baseball after graduation, or enter the job force. Then there’s Eita (whom I’ve already talked about) Next, Hazuki; a third year band student who spends her time practicing with her fellow band mates. Finally, there’s Ena; a second year student fighting to keep her Photography Club alive (which is doomed to be disband by the school).
With the characters and their goals presented this early, we are given a chance to care and know a few things about about them. That alone hooked me in into Just Because!. I want to see the characters grow and evolve overtime. I must note that it’s highly possible that this anime will have a solid amount of characters. Given that there were at least six through ten main and supporting characters introduced in episode one, I can assume that there will be more as the series progress this season. I for one cannot wait to see these characters interact with one another; especially Eita, Haruto, and Mio (as they were friends back in middle school). Ena seems pretty interested in Haruto and Mio’s baseball game. She spends most of the episode snapping away at their one-on-one game.
This brings me to my next point: the music and amiation.
The animation of Just Because! isn’t horrible. It is fine for what it is. The visuals aren’t on the levels of say Kakegurui or Made in Abyss, but it’s not bad. Some characters’ faces did look weird in shots were they’re not moving or interacting. I do not know if they’re off model, or if the animators purposely made them look weird. It’s isn’t jarring but it’s noticeable (after maybe two or three rewatches like I did for this review).
The animation does however shine during Haruto and Eita’s one-on-one baseball game. From Eita’s building power for his pitch and throwing his body weight into it, to Haruto’s attempts to hitting the ball as his body swings with his bat, the animation feels fluid and even realistic. You can visibly see the momentum in their actions – may it from the speed of Eita’ pitching or Haruto’s foot digging into the ground as he twists his body into his bat’s swing.
I cannot forget the amazing brass and string music that carries this scene. The song is a strong, proud brass fanfare in B-flat Major (with a key change to E-Flat Major). It starts with horns playing the melody with flare and pride as it slowly fades. As the brass backs off, snares and band drums As Eita and Haruto’s game builds up, so does the music with crescendo in sync. The brass section backs off, letting the percussion section carry Eita’s and Haruto’s silent stare down. The brass melody returns after four measures of rest as Eita pitches furious strike after furious strike. This continues on for about twelve measures
The brass sections backs off once again and the strings are introduced during Eita’s and Haruto’s final stare down. Haruto steps and grinds his feet into the ground with confidence. Eita winds up his pitch, matching his opponent’s confidence. As the cellos and violas plays the melody, Haruto hits the ball with great force, sending it over the field. The piano finishes with gentle arpeggios an the strings holding a chord in unison as the cast watch in awe of Haruto’s out-of-the-park come-from-behind home run.
I love how the music helps tell the story of Haruto and Eita’s game. It enhances the scene’s emotion of two good, old friends recently reunited as they go against one another in a friendly batter vs. pitcher one-on-one game. There is much to be praise on how well the music went in sync with the game (such how the music build up as the game grew intense to the strings playing as Haruto landed a home-run). The music played in this scene should serve as a reminder on why it’s important to use music as a story telling tool in anime.
The first episode of Just Because! has me execited for the series throughout the Fall 2017 season. Its hard for me to be sold on most high school anime series in which the main character is a transfer student. However, given this transfer student knows a few people in his school alreay, this kills the cliché “mysterious transfer student” from the get-go. I’m also digging the premise of the main cast being seniors in the last few months of school as they plan their lives after high school. I have yet to see an anime that does this personally. Character motives where clear from this episodes, therefore you start to care for them a little bit. The animation, while a little weird at some points, isn’t bad. If they animators use more expressive, fluid animation for more scenes just like the basegame scene, then I’ll be happy. The music is this anime’s strongest point. It’s well produced, light-heart just like the anime itself, and it has shown its usefulness in carrying a story.
While I’m on the subject of the music, I must say that “In Unison” is the perfect song title for this scene (assuming that’s the name of the track). Haruto gets inspire to resume his baseball practice against Eita after he hears Hazuki and her band play the trumpet parts. There are shots of the school band playing the song, which gives the illusion that they’re playing in unison. Then we have Mio watching the two boy play the game, but more so she’s fixated on Eita (it’s theorized that she has an unrequited crush on him; a crush she held since middle school). Finally, there’s Ena as she snaps the action on her camera.
Truly in unison, especially since this scene connects our five main characters, directly or otherwise.
Overall, the first episode of Just Because! is highly positively impressive. It has everything I look for a first episode that makes me want to stick around for the series run. I really wish Pine Jam dropped the entire series on Netflix or something so I can marathon the show in one sitting to gain the full experience of the story. I can’t wait to see what they will do with their original anime.
First Impression Score: 8.5/10
+Transfer student won’t be totally mysterious
+Great musical score
+Great insight on the cast of characters and their goals
+Fuild animation in the baseball scene
+Has students as seniors, not freshmen
-Minor Animation issues
-Off model characters
Just Because ©2017 Pine Jam