When Riki was young, a group of friends called the Little Busters helped him move on from a terrible loss and taught him how to smile again; but when their leader Kyousuke moved away, the group slowly drifted apart. Now in high school, the group is reunited once more when Kyousuke returns, and at his leader's request, Riki is charged with finding new members to add to their family. With an open heart, the boy must now search for others who’ve suffered similar hardships so that they too can find a place where they belong.
This is a review of both the first season as the second LB! Refrain. WARNING: BIG SPOILERS CONCERNING THE SECOND SEASON! The anime I’m reviewing today I was looking forward to for a long time, that anime is Little Busters! and its second season LB! Refrain. Why was I looking forward to it? Well LB! is another anime adaptation from a game coming from Key Animation and therefor another anime where Jun Maeda, my personal anime god has worked on. On top of all that LB! is made by JC Staff, one of my favorite animation studios. But enough intro, let’s get to the review. Also this review will be slightly different than usual being that I’m going to go chronologically through the anime instead of grouping my positive and negative points together. It makes more sense to do it that way here. For a video review, check out my Youtube channel. Link on my profile page. Negative *So let’s start at the start of the first season which were the first 9 episodes. I was so confused when I was watching these episodes. I had absolutely no idea what the fuck was going on. I couldn’t find an overall storyline in these first 9 episodes besides that they tried to recreate the baseball club and that thing with the tasks that Rin receives which proved to be important further on in the anime. But for the rest there was no interesting overall storyline, there also weren’t any arcs build into the start of the anime. The episodes made, to me, absolutely no sense. They were completely random and episodical and I was really wondering if this was a Key Animation anime because I was pretty bored during these first episodes. But somewhere I knew, by the high scores LB! receives, that it was going to improve along the way. Positive *And that improvement started at episode 10 where the anime starts to use arcs in its storyline. The following episodes going from 10 to 26 resolve around 3 arcs. One with Mio as the main character, one with Haruka and finally one with Kudryavka. To me the first arc with Mio was the most interesting arc of the three. *This is also where we get a first glance at the magic element of LB! Now at the time I found the magic element to be really odd but I had forgotten that this was a Key anime and if you watched some Key anime’s before than you know that every anime coming from them contains some form of magic or supernatural. The further we got into the anime and definitely in the second season this magic element got more and more abundant but more about the second season in the spoiler part of this review. *Now the arc around Mio was the most interesting one and besides a first look at the magic, we also get a first taste of the drama in LB! And that’s mainly the reason why this arc is my favorite. I found the story of Mio to be quite sad and it dragged me back into this anime which I was bored by before this arc. Mio was, to me, also the best girl in this first season, watch that I said first season I’m getting back to that later on. But you guys know that I have a weakness for kuudere’s and dandere’s and Mio is a tekstbook kuudere so that says enough. *Like that I can transist into the characters. While Mio was my favorite female character in the first season, my favorite male character was Kengo. I liked him throughout the entire anime. In the first part he was this very cool martial artist who was on the background most of the time. I wonder if that was on purpose because in the second season Kengo becomes really important and also shows what a true friend he is. And that’s what made me like him so much, the fact that he kept supporting Riki through everything that happens in the latter part of the anime. *Then there’s one more character that I want to discuss and that’s Kyosuke because he went through quite the roller coaster in my opinion of him. He started out as a neutral character to me. He didn’t have a lot of influence on the development of the storyline so he existed in this anime but I was nor interested nor bothered by him. But then in the second season, I hated him so much. Goddamn did I hate Kyosuke! What he did there was inhuman in my eyes but I’m going to get more into that in a minute. Now at the end of the anime I didn’t hate Kyosuke that much anymore. In fact he became a character that I respect which is proof that he was a well written character. I foresaw his ending differently than the one that actually happened but in the end Kyosuke was a good guy. For those of you that haven’t seen LB! yet, it’s time to skip everything else I’m going to discuss in the rest of this review. Because I’m going to start talking about the second season Refrain where shit started to hit the fan and where I have to tell SPOILERS. Positive *So let’s begin at the very start of the second season. If the first season kind of let me doze in, the start of the second season just gave me a bitchslap that woke me up instantly. What the actual fuck was with that arc around Kurugaya? Wow, I did not see that coming, not in a million years I expected some sort of romantical development between Riki and Kurugaya. Never! I was than also completely blown away and shattered by Kurugaya’s story and definitely by that ending. That ending was so freaking sad just seeing Kurugaya disappear, her knowing that her love for Riki won’t be answered. I was devastated by that. In the short time that we got to witness a possible relationship between the two, I really grew attached to that idea and than it got thrown to pieces. Where Mio was my favorite girl in the first season, Kurugaya was definitely best girl in the second. Not that I didn’t approve of the relation with Rin that Riki eventually got in. That was then also clear from the start of the anime that they would form a couple but maybe I would have liked to see that differently. So summarized this arc made me realize that the best of this anime was still to come and that’s quite the understatement. *Because the arc after that one kept slapping the feels in my face. That story of Rin and seeing her slowly collapsing and losing hope to live was heartbreaking. This was also the point where I really hated Kyosuke, what a fuckface was he in this story. I get that you want Rin to learn to stand up for herself and to take care of herself but this was just plain inhuman. Cutting her of of everything she relies on, especially Riki then and just leaving her, lying beated on the ground and saying she has to learn to get up herself. There are other ways, more human ways to get someone to learn to stand on their own two feet. And if the fact that he destroys Rin wasn’t enough, that psychological mind game that Kyosuke used to make Kengo miss his shot at the game made me wanna fucking kill him. Kyosuke just played with and manipulated the feelings of everyone: of Rin, Riki, Kengo and Masato. When later on Kyosuke got into a depression himself because he can’t succeed his mission was a treat to me because I just wanted to see him suffer. *Now with me hating Kyosuke so much that I wanted him to die I can get to the next part of the anime where we finally learn the truth about the world that our characters lived in. That was a bombshell, that’s for sure. The story about the bus accident and how Riki and Rin are going to be the only survivors was brutal. And then I’m not even talking yet about how we see everyone of the main characters disappear one by one. This was Angel Beats! all over again. Seeing every character coming to terms with themselves and then leave the others with enough emotional feels to make a whole town depressed for days. On top of that we also get the truth about what Kyosuke had been going through the entire time and after hearing that I couldn’t hate him anymore. I still don’t approve of his methods that he used on Rin but after all he did everything that laid in his power and beyond to save Riki and Rin, going through this same timezone ten times, a hundred times. This finale of the alternative universe story was on point and exactly what I expect from a Key anime. Negative *Than there’s one thing left for me to talk about and that’s the actual ending of the anime in the real timeline. I was a bit disappointed by that, I’m honest here. I was disappointed because the anime went for the cliché happily ever after ending. If the anime would have had the guts to end after episode 11, this would have been glorious. But JC Staff isn’t the kind of animation studio that goes for sad endings. Instead of that they choose to end the anime with everyone being saved and being friends forever. I expected at least one character, being Kyosuke, to die. Not that I wanted him to die anymore but that would have lifted this ending to a whole new level. Now it’s not that I completely disliked the happy ending but sad endings like for instance the one of Shigatsu have way more impact and are remembered for longer. Unfortunately, anime’s that dare to take this risk are scarce but that’s maybe a good thing so that they can surprise us from time to time. Conclusion So as conclusion, although not being the best anime from Key that I’ve seen LB! is a worthyfull member of the Key family. Now for the ratings, I’m going to rate the two seasons differently with a 3 star rating for the first season and a 4 star rating for Refrain. Overall you could say that I rate Little Busters! at 3,5 stars. It had some less interesting episodes but the ones that did matter were of the level that I expect to see from Key Animation.
Very nice touching story, togetherness and friendship. No matter what....but its undervalued..why? Such anime is rare.
This is my rant review of Little Busters! Story: I will start with an introduction to the typical formula for a Key VN adaptation. Little Busters!, like Air, Kanon, and Clannad (and Clannad After Story), is a visual novel adaptation. Unlike visual novels, anime cannot take a specific routes and then restart to try another. Successful adaptations must somehow combine scenes from all routes and have an overall conflict, in addition to the subconflicts in each arc. Kanon does this by combining Ayu's search for a lost belonging with the problems of every other damsel in distress heroine. It does have quite a few romance scenes with heroines other than Ayu (maybe more), but overall I accept it because it shows what the visual novel is like. The humor is interspersed evenly throughout the series, and it maintains the reader's interest. (One thing going for the series is that Yuuichi is the only main character of all Key works that doesn't have a tragic past begging for pity.) Clannad takes the format of Kanon, and makes it better. It starts off with the basic conflict of restarting the drama club. In addition, both Tomoya and Nagisa have flaws in their character, allowing room for character development. (Yuuichi barely changes throughout the entire series.) Then, as heroines are introduced, their problems are brought up and solved, like in Kanon. However, instead of completely disappearing (like in Kanon), the characeters still have some role in the plot. To justify romance scenes with girls other than Nagisa, the story is written so that all the girls (except Kotomi and Fuuko) have fallen for Tomoya, and they give up later in the series. (One bad thing about Clannad is that Sunohara is just an excuse for slapstick comedy. It's funny when he is beaten up, but that's usually all he is there for.) I'm not going to comment on Air (as no matter what I say about it, my huge bias against it would affect my statements; also I never played/watched videos of the visual novel). Now, let's take a look at Little Busters! I played the visual novel and loved it. I watched the anime and...well "hate" is a strong word and wouldn't be accurate but...I guess I was very disappointed. Even more disappointed than Umineko no Naku Koro ni. From the onset, the only objective of the protagonist and his friends is to create a baseball team, which is (more or less) accomplished halfway through the season. Every person they recruit has some sort of problem in their lives. (Who didn't see that coming?) Some problems are realistic, some...not so real. As much as I love Kud's arc, I have to say the conclusion was the biggest (and fastest) Deus ex Machina I've ever scene (and also the VN version was 1000x better/dramatic). Even bigger than Kirito in Sword Art Online (and that was a big one). In typical Key fashion, a characters' problems are resolved, and then she fades away (to varying degrees depending on which Key work you're referring to). All heroines come back for the filler episodes, but then disappear again whenever the story beings another heroine's arc. Sure, in a VN, it makes sense for other girls to disappear, but for an anime, YOU CAN'T DO THAT! Look at Clannad. They did very well in having heroines take on supporting roles. Also, there is no romance. Zero. Little Busters! is the same type of VN as Clannad. Clear all the routes to unlock an epilogue arc. "Clear" meaning "conquer" every girl (as Katsuragi Keima would put it). While I don't expect Riki to create his own harem, I felt something missing in LB. I do realize that focusing romance on a single heroine is impossible like they did with Nagisa in Clannad (can't explain that to people who didn't play the VN, because it would be a spoiler), but I did expect signs of infatuation, because the way the anime is right now, it feels like I'm watching a totally different story. I think the reason no romance lowers the quality of this anime, is because the way it is now, Riki just feels like someone who is just looking for problems to solve (and for some reason, he is the only one who can). Having some romance would make a little more sense. If the girl likes the guy, she will trust him and ask for help from him. It would seems natural for the guy to do everything in his power to save the girl. It would also seem normal that he is the only person doing anything about it. Also, some of the jokes are poor, some are repeated too often, and some have bad timing. Some episodes are meant to be 100% comedy, while others are 100% drama. While it is good to maintain a serious mood in serious times, I don't think viewers should be able to say, "This episode started with Masato being socked in the face, so it's going to be a funny episode," or, "This episode started off with a depressing flashback, so it's a serious episode." In other words, episodes shouldn't be classified into serious or funny. In my opinion, many of the funny episodes are unecessary, like the test of courage and the slumber party. Sure, they were fun in the VN, but in an anime adaptation where episodes are limited, the story should spend more time on covering the heroine's arcs than silly side stories. I will mention one thing JC Staff did right about the story. That's right, folks. JC Staff actually IMPROVED something!!! That is: Komari and Rin's friendship is emphasized more than in the VN, and what a beautiful friendship it is. Note: I'm not saying KyoAni could have done it better than JC Staff. In fact, it's completely useless to argue that KyoAni could've done better, because no amount of protesting will change the fact that JC Staff is making the show. Animation: Animation quality is nothing special. Some scenes (very few) are done very well, especially for the last few episodes, while others are evidently drawn with saving money in mind (a lot of them). JC Staff was probably thinking: "This story was made by Key, so people won't care how well we animate it, and it will still be a success." Well they're wrong about us not caring. Based on BD/DVD sales, it is somewhat of a success, which is both good and bad. Good because it means Refrain will be animated into a second season, but bad because it's like rewarding them for doing something wrong. Sound: The opening has a unique start, but turns into something generic. The dramatic build up in the song just isn't there. I liked the VN version of the song much better. Background music is pretty good, except for the fact that some tracks are overused. The ending is boring (never liked that song for some reason), and I've only listened to the whole thing a couple times. There aren't many places for voice acting to stand out in this season, so I can't really say much about it. It's up to par with the VN (same voice actors so that makes sense), and tones are realistic, I guess. I'm not really expecting much regarding voices until the Refrain arc (the epilogue arc), when there are some really dramatic scenes. Characters: Riki is a two dimensional character. I would go so far as to say he is boring. So is every other member of the cast. Some are likeable, but they are all flat. The development of Riki could have been done a little better if they hadn't tried to follow the VN so closely. Unlike the VN, Riki should have grown with every experience. (VN's have the player play one route at a time, but the anime is a linear story.) In the VN, Riki's development is only visble in Refrain (which is very long). It is impossible to have significant character development in the VN, because each route is related to each other in a special way, and the order of routes taken is determined by the player. Thus, if route B has more character than route A, and the player chose route B before route A, that would cause problems with continuity. To those who haven't played the VN: Turn your brain off right now. I said that to make a point, but if you keep thinking about that "special way" the routes are related, you might spoil yourself. Anyway, back to characters. Every heroine has her problem solved. Masato is a muscle maniac/idiot. Kengo is a loner. Kyousuke is a charismatic but random leader. None of them really develop. Rin is probably the girl who shows the most change. She changes from shy to somewhat socialable, and even the viewer slowly gets to know her caring nature more throughout the series. Overall: It's tough to remain objective on my rating of this show, considering I loved the visual novel. I really don't think Little Busters! was meant to be made into an anime. If I hadn't played the VN, I'd say the story is a meaningless slice of life anime with flat characters. The animation and voice acting are acceptable, but that's about it. Would I recommend this anime to others (who haven't played the VN)? No, unless you desperately want your fix of dramatic heroine arcs made by Key, and have already seen Air, Kanon, Clannad, and Angel Beats. To those who have played the VN, I would say it's interesting to see the story you read animated, but the outcome is depressing. I would recommend it, but don't go in with high expectations. Note: My opinion on whether or not I recommend this anime may change based on how the second season goes. (I'm assuming there will be one, or this truly will be the worst adaptation in history.) However, my opinion on the quality (story, animation, sound, and characters) will not change.
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