What They Say:
It’s the last semester of high school and graduation is finally in sight for Haruto Soma and Mio Natsume. All they have to do now is keep studying and avoid any major drama until they get their diplomas. Unfortunately, that plan is completely derailed by the reappearance of their mutual friend Eita Izumi, who moved away four years ago and has suddenly transferred back. Now things are a bit awkward for all three.
They’re not the same people they were in middle school, and reconnecting will mean addressing old issues and unresolved feelings. It won’t be easy; it could be painful. And the results will change not only their futures, but those of their fellow students, as fate proves that it can alter the course of a lifetime in a single instant!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. I’m still surprised this show got a dub but I’m glad it did as it gives the actors a chance to do something different from the usual wacky and overdramatic pieces. This is a simple dialogue-driven show so it doesn’t really stretch either on the technical side or the performance side as there aren’t many scenes where voices get raised. It’s more standard dialogue with some hushed tones and a few moments where it pings upward a bit. But the encoding for both tracks handles things well as it all comes across clearly in a way that’s easy to understand and problem free. There’s some nice placement from time to time and the scenes are well set to utilize some good depth here and there. Dialogue is clean an clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format, giving it plenty of room to work with. Animated by Pine Jam, the show has a pretty good look to it, especially with all the real world elements animated/colored over to help blend it all together well. This is a very detailed and lived-in world through many of the backgrounds, especially outside, and the end result helps to give the show some real warmth. The character animation isn’t exactly distinctive but it goes for a couple of nice touches combined with a level of fluidity that may feel a little odd at times but makes it mildly distinctive. I liked the way it plays out because like a lot of slice of life projects it’s not something that has to be very active, it’s more about atmosphere and dialogue and this captures it well. Colors are quite varied and wonderfully solid throughout with a clean look that should please most fans.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs on the interior walls. This release feels a bit heavier thanks to the inclusion of a special leaflet comic which is an almost wordless piece for the most part. It’s a little small as one would expect but I love the artwork and it has a great look throughout it as it gives us a little more time with the cast. The front cover goes with the familiar key visual from before the series came out that features the main cast spread around in different interactions, not together, as the trains come and go. It’s a pretty haunting little piece when you think on it in some ways and it works well for the tale that’s being told here, especially in capturing the look and the kinds of details it wants to bring to life. The back cover has a really nice image that’s done as a great soft illustration while there are two strips of very fun shots along the top to give you an idea of the animation style. The summary of the premise covers things well and we get the standard breakdown of production credits along the bottom along with the extras. The technical grid lays out how the show is put together and that’s done clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menus for this release are kept simple as they’re done with static images and even the “thematic elements” aren’t really that here. We get a standard character shot for each disc along the left that looks nice but with the blue/purple filter that’s applied gives it a kind of odd feeling in general. The logo is layered over it and the right side of the menu uses the same coloring but goes darker. We get standard episode number/title selections here that don’t have anything that stands out about it but they, and the menu in general is solidly functional and easy to use and get around in – both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. It’s just kind of bland and doesn’t quite set the mood as much as you’d think it might.
The on-disc extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get a small selection of Japanese commercials along with the clean opening and closing sequences, which are always welcome.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Just Because is one of those original anime projects I was interested in for a couple of reasons when it hit in the fall 2017 season. Original works, in general, get a little more attention in my eye because they’re not beholden to the usual structure and pacing, though too many fall down that trap anyway. This one intrigued as it was written by Hajime Kamoshida, who was the creator behind a series I liked a lot with The Pet Girl of Sakurasou. He was also behind Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, which I haven’t seen yet. A month before this came out we also got a novel from Kamoshida for the show that added a bit more context to everything and provided for a good launching point if you wanted a little more before the anime.
Coming in at twelve episodes, Just Because is the kind of series that for me ends where I wish it would begin. The epilogue section for the show is pretty good and it works to show the paths that everyone is on. But what the shoe wants to do is focus on the winter period of a group of third-year high school students, not where they end up afterward. It is, admittedly, fertile ground for storytelling as there are always new graduates and people feeling a bit nostalgic about where they’ve been. The focus is on a relatively small group overall of five that are at different stages of their lives even though most are wrapping up their high school years here. The most interesting for me in a way is that of Eita Izumi, who is a transfer student that has come back because of the nature of his father’s work. His arrival isn’t exactly a spanner in the works but it changes the paths of some of the cast here, and his own life as well.
It’s been a few years since Izumi had transferred out but even back then he had quite the middle school crush on Mio Natsume. She’s the hard studying type that was the student council president for a while and has big plans for her future with college and what she wants to do. Izumi’s problem was that Natsume was interested in Izumi’s best friend, Haruto Soma. Soma’s your somewhat popular athletic type that has a bit more physicality about him which draws a lot of people in. He’s outgoing but not incredibly so as there are emotional depths that are plumbed and dealt with here amid this group. Mostly because he’s not interested in Natsume but rather has a crush on Hazuki Morikawa. Morikawa is the type that’s not exactly aloof but she tends to be a bit more of a wallflower, dong her thing and looking forward to what life has to offer once past the high school days. She’s not just trying to get through them, as she has a goal she’s working toward, but this isn’t a place where she’s looking for something like what Soma is looking for. She, at least, isn’t interested in someone else so that’s working in Soma’s favor compared to how some of the others are. The show also puts in a key play with Ena Komiya, a second year that ends up being interested in Izumi while dealing with her own club struggles, which lets her be a bit of friction in what Izumi himself is actually after.
Honestly, you can see how much of the series is going to go just by the general layout of things. There are interesting paths along the way that we see, with some small jealousies flaring up that have them questioning how they really feel since they were keeping things hidden, and a lot of semi-dating and the like going on. It’s definitely interesting to watch as this group interacts with each other because of the various interests spread out as they are initially, because it becomes more complicated with Izumi’s arrival. You get that moment of Soma being glad to see his friend back in his life and then the uncertainty from Izumi when he finds out that Natsume goes to the same high school. It really is kind of thing that you can’t be certain about because of the way so many kids do make wide-ranging choices in their high schools when they have a particular focus they want to pursue and end up not staying with the bulk of their class in the local school.
There’s a lot of exploration of the cast throughout and confusion along the way since you get Komiya interacting in ways that some of the others don’t expect since they don’t know her as well. It’s fun to watch, though Komiya takes us down some odd areas because of her photography, including a brief interaction with the police that Izumi rescues her from. But what I like about the show is that there are so many hanging uncertainties here as they go through their last few months, preparing for what comes next and, in a way, letting go of their high school years and what they wanted in terms of relationships with it. That’s not to say we don’t get relationships forming, but things change from what they were imagining and dreaming of for a while, and that leads us into the epilogue that I loved. I enjoyed seeing the cast throughout the show as they stake out their ground and we see how Izumi’s arrival does change things, but it’s seeing them outside of the usual uniforms and hitting college and work life, adulting a bit, and discovering what it is that they really want and going after it. It’s here that I wish the story began and the characters were really explored.
Though it didn’t give me enough of what I wanted, and I didn’t expect it to, I did enjoy Just Because overall. It plays to the more thoughtful side instead of wacky action and outlandish situations, though we do get some misunderstandings. Its characters are more realistic than not and they struggle with how they feel and figuring out what it is they want. They may be a little too mature at times for teenagers but at the same time, these kinds of situations and the emotional aspects of it can definitely make people of any age much more introspective and quiet as they try to understand how they’re feeling. Sentai’s release is surprising in a couple of ways. I was really surprised something like this got a dub, which is great to have, and I was surprised to get a pretty weighty little leaflet with some manga material from it. It’s a good show with some great production values that will click and have a lot of meaning to folks closer to situations like this than I, but it still resonates very well with me.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Special Leaflet Comic, Japanese Commercials, Clean Opening Animation, and Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.