Just Because! Anime October – December 2017
“At the end of the second semester of third year of high school, four students are prepared for graduation and feel the ending to their high school life. But that changes a little with the arrival of a transfer student.”
Walk past any high school in Japan, no matter how crammed into a maze of urban concrete and narrow streets and you will find at least a few sakura/ flowering cherry trees lined up near the entrance. These serve as warning that the entire high school rite of passage, culminating in the first steps towards the adult world is fraught with mawkish sentimentality laced with undertones of dread.
“the color of the sala flowers reveals the truth that to flourish is to fall. ”
Personally, I couldn’t wait to get out of high school. It was full of crazy people and I was sick and tired of dealing with their shit. University was cheap back then, and even offered the chance that one could actually find employment after securing a 3 year degree. My age cohort apologizes for screwing things up for those who came after us. Japan and America share a similar fascination with high school and high school graduation, I suspect because of similar class and income restrictions on opportunity. Usually, around this time I drop a link to the Slater article [ http://www.japanfocus.org/-david_h_-slater/3279 ] to puncture any Sakura petal-strewn idealized scenes of young love, ascendance to adulthood and ascription into the adult world of work but with Just Because! I don’t need to.
What the fuck is the deal with graduating from high school anyway?
You either are going to go work in a factory, drive yourself to karoshi by trying to ace an admission test for a prestigious state university, drive your parents into debt by ending up in a less prestigious and more expensive “private” university or trade school or lock yourself in your room never to emerge again except for late-night forays to the nearest kombini.
The idea that you will finally nerve up to confess to that special someone you had an unrequited crush on all through three years of school and end up in a parent-subsidized one room apartment with both of you attending the same university (…and her not getting booted when her wings pop out or having to drop because she did the BVM one better and got with child after she affectionately sunk her cute little fangs into your neck – as with a certain previously considered manga and anime) is a good set-up for an early Kio Shimoku drama but impossible to seriously imagine.
So Just Because! doesn’t… really. And that does not make it boring or slow-paced. It makes it nuanced and complex. You were not paying attention. You want Mechagodzilla x Godzilla or sumtin?
So the yougun’s will nerve up to confess or not and it really won’t matter because high school is ending and everyone will be scattered to the four winds – just like those idiot sakura petals. Then everyone will meet other people from other places and perhaps if they are lucky, make a good match that can afford to raise offspring in what looks like will continue to be a stagnant economy. Sociologists call this exogamy. It is also useful for avoiding inbreeding.and fortunately we as a species have of late, come up with less barbaric ways of pulling it off.
Otherwise Just Because! has Kamakura and Enoshima location porn – which means that I will watch it even if the writers drop in mahjong tournaments (no; I draw the line at mahjong). However they chose to limit the usual touristy vistas and instead go out of their way to emphasise pedestrian, work-a-day locations. The monorail ends right next to the famous narrow gauge Enoden rail line. Do we see any Enoden? Perhaps just a glimpse. The monorail is a drab commuter-clogged thing that no one really pays any attention to. Just Because! gives it a starring role for a reason.
Even when the young photo club girl scooters off to collect temple good luck charms we don’t get to see the temples. Roads, crowds, kombinis and quasi suburban residential tracts. No wonder the baseball fields are a place of magic and camaraderie. Everything else is drab.
And that is why the young photo-club girl is the most important person in the entire show. She still has a year of high school ahead of her before the inevitable end and she is determined to save the one thing that she can hope to remember fondly from her days at high school. Much better than puppy love or even the button off graduating sempai’s gakuran. Save the club.
Then get as far away from your old high school as you can.
Graduating from HS is important to the students and to a lesser degree the staff of the school. In Japan the old educational system taught you nearly everything a Japanese student needed to succeed. In the USA in the early parts of the 20th century and the latter part of the 19th Century a much more intensive curricculum was in force lending HS graduation a much greater significance. At the same time some professional apprenticeships were available in archetecture and other skills.
In Japan unless the student intends to go to college the ride on the parents is over, the world must be encountered, In Hourou Mousou the central figure finds part time work and rents his own apartment so that his passion for cross-dressing can be satisfied. He no longer has to appear among the unsophisticated students at his former school or before his sister who finds him unspeakable queer.
The heroine of Yawara and her girls friends find HS graduation significant as it will end their easy association. It removes the ease of encounter from at least one of her male classmates who will miss her presence intensely. Later he will meet the Love of His Life who will be a college classmate of Yawara but that is unknowable at the time of graduation.
In Whispered Words aka Sasameki Koto, the two girlfriends again must lose the ease of daily association which they have had since beginning HS. They are much in love but the karate mistress is going to go to college while the girl friend goes to work. The separation is inevitable but they intend to remain lovers though taking it painfully slow.
I had a few friends in HS but all in all I was happy to get away from the jocks and the clods, this was 1955 and I wanted naught to do with the local Community College where the jocks and clods would be attending…
High School graduation is an important milestone in a person’s life but so is graduation from pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school and if you are lucky enough to have one, middle school.