Little Busters! is based on a visual novel by Key, similar to Kanon and Clannad, and as such similar things can be expected from it. It follows a high school setting about a group of close friends as they who try to enjoy themselves as much as they can before life takes them onto separate paths. In the process, more friends are made (pretty much all girls, as expected of a VN). Then, what starts out as a comedy/slice-of-life series turns more serious as it dives into the stories of each of the characters in various arcs, showing many elements of friendship and strength of the heart.
Having played through all of Little Busters! EX, (in Japanese and through all of the possible routes), this season focuses on mainly on the common storyline and through 5 of the character arcs (Komari, Mio, Haruka, Kanata, and Kud). While this season contains 26 episodes, there is still much to be uncovered, so expectations of a 2nd season are high. I would like to note that the remainder of the story is probably going to be heart of the series that ultimately determines how good it will be.
To begin with, I will be writing this review focusing on the story as it has played out so far, giving little tidbits of the anime compared to the VN on the side. However, none of the comparisons will have any bearing on my score. I realize that a lot of people that played the VN had high expectations, but then felt very disappointed that stuff was missing or that it wasn’t what they imagined it to be (For example, not KyoAni). As a result, this review comes from two viewpoints, since I watched this anime with my wife, who knows nothing about the VN. There will be some SPOILERS of course, so skip down to the Overall section if you want to avoid them.
The story focuses on the main characters: Riki and Rin. Along with their childhood friends, Kyousuke, Masato, and Kengo, they form ‘Little Busters!’ who go out to defeat evil, but really just try to have fun doing whatever. Knowing that they will part in the near future, they set out to do something big together; in this case, play baseball (mostly due to Kyousuke’s love of cliché mangas). Realizing that they don’t have enough people to form a team, Riki sets out to recruit more members to join Little Busters (enter the rest of the cast). Along the way, more about the new characters is revealed as complicated pasts and sudden problems are shown. This requires Riki to step up and solve their problems, through the bond of friendship. .
The beginning of the series focuses on establishing the roles of the original Little Busters members, through silly games and fighting. Along the way, future members are introduced through some pretty basic events. Comedic events (mainly having to do with Masato’s horrible luck and lack of brains) are peppered throughout the beginning. Part of the humor though could be lost due to the numerous Japanese word puns that are used. To a normal English speaker, like my wife, these points are more confusing than funny.
The story takes a big turn when the arcs for the individual girls start, providing much more depth into the characters. The story becomes more serious as it explores the problems of some of the girls, and it starts putting in a little of that Key magic. The heart of this season is the individual arcs of each of the new girls. Bits of foreshadowing that Riki encounters are done really well, signaling that something big will happen later. Unfortunately, that leaves you with a big desire to know what will happen next, which you will have to wait until the next season. Comedic events still occur at these later points, but feel much better executed. Both of us found ourselves laughing through much of the later humor and then tearing up at the heart-wrenching parts.
Personally, I found Komari’s arc to be only ok, even in the VN. The following arcs after that appeared to be big improvements. Mio’s arc is beautifully done. Haruka’s and Kanata’s arcs are still rather good, despite it feeling a bit rushed. The background story was really good, but I felt that more of the switcheroo was needed. (In comparison to the VN, it almost feels that there was not enough time for the emotional conflict to sink in before the problem was solved. Personally, I was disappointed that Kanata’s final scenes in the VN were skipped.) Kud’s arc made me fall in love with the character all over again, and also seemed to have much more background than the VN. (I’m guessing that some of this may have been pulled from Kud Wafter, but I haven’t played it. Also note that Kud’s final scenes are exclusive to LB EX.) The season finishes up with the return of Kengo and his dramatic entrance to the team. The end of this season culminates to a final event, the baseball game between the captains of the other sports clubs. Frankly, I think this was a very good choice as to where the season cuts off. Clannad does this in a similar way with Nagisa’s play. Ultimately, this leads to a passing of the torch, where Riki finally steps up and assumes the lead role.
Aside from the main plotline, I was pleasantly surprised that the little fun points that made the VN enjoyable were not excluded. The ‘missions’ were done in an amusing way, though some of it goes unnoticed unless you went through the VN. (I find it funny that they decided to include the funnier, botched choices, such as ‘Oliver Sauce’.) The battles, which were a bit difficult to imagine in the VN, were done pretty well. Scenes with them playing baseball were scattered around, but not drawn out. The baseball scene at the end was pretty well done. Overall, I feel pretty satisfied with the plot so far. My main concern with this series was how the script would deal with the ‘cycles’, but the transition appears to have been done rather decently. (Likely, because Key played a big part in the script.) Overall, much of the anime is rather entertaining to watch and leaves a strong desire for more.
While many people had concerns about KyoAni not doing this series, I found that the animation quality is rather impressive. While the drawings are visually bolder in Clannad and Angel Beats, the artwork for the anime is pretty good compared overall. The slightly different style of artwork still seems to work beautifully no matter how many times I go back and look at it. (The look of many notable scenes in the VN feels almost identical.) The motions and expressions of the characters are pretty dynamic, and the backgrounds are drawn in detail. Presentation of the scenes is very well done and shows a wide range of style. Really, the only problems I notice are that the lighting feels a bit too bright at times and that the rain looks too fake. On another note, I did like the re-design of Masato and Kengo. (They looked too wide and block-like in the VN.) The baseball sprites during the episode preview are a nice touch as well. The level of detail overall is quite good, so I can’t see how people can be so unhappy with JC Staff tackling this project.
There isn’t much to say here, since all of the background music and songs are from the VN. There’s nothing wrong with that, since the original music was really nice. Much of the original cast remains, except the ones for Riki, Sasami, and Mio. Even then, there isn’t much difference. You may find some voices annoying like Komari’s, but the voice acting and lines are pretty spot on.
At first, all the characters seem to fit some kind of generic stereotype. However, the depth of the characters grows with each passing arc. By the end of the season, I find that pretty much all of the members of Little Busters create good chemistry, while still standing out on their own. From Masato’s muscles dance to Kud’s ‘Wafu’ cries to Kurugaya’s love of cute things, almost every character has some memorable aspect to dwell on.
The two main characters, Riki and Rin, are characters with flawed personalities. As such, they do not seem like the typical leads that you would expect. (For many Key series, the male lead actively solves other’s problems.) Instead, Riki is defined more by those that surround him rather than his own initiative, and as such makes him feel like a weak lead. His actions take on the feel of ‘What would Kyousuke do?’, but at the same time he serves his role well in narrating the world to the audience. Only at the very end does he start coming out of Kyousuke’s shadow and start acting for himself. Rin’s development, on the other hand, is apparent as she becomes more comfortable around new people.
One of the biggest improvements in the anime vs. the VN is that character interaction is done better. Not only Riki, but the entire cast moves to help out with the various situations. Even during less important scenes, the character interactions feel more natural and entertaining. Whether it’s the guys fighting over games or figuring out how to cheer someone up, these scenes really make the characters stand out. (I would argue that this is another major difficulty in transitioning from VN to anime, especially when you are used to character stills.)
One major difference in this Key series versus others is the lack of romance. My wife kept wondering who Riki would end up with. However, I would like to point out that the central theme for this anime is about growing up and becoming independent. (This is not a typical VN where the main character hooks up with any particular girl. Every character gets a chance to shine because the group as a whole is central to the plot.)
Little Busters! as an anime is pretty solid so far. Having completely played through the VN, I can’t help but find some things missing. As such, there will always be disappointment that certain things aren’t included. However, I’m not comparing this to the original source, but to other anime in general. The biggest flaw may be that the series doesn’t establish any kind of strong goals. Make friends, do silly stuff, and then serious stuff just kind of happens. In the end, strong bonds are formed between all the characters, making this 1st season feel like this was all one big introduction. This makes it very difficult to judge it until you’ve seen all of it. However, the solid flow of the storyline and wonderful interaction of the characters make it more and more interesting with each episode. As an anime adaptation, it is very good so far, and I cannot think of too many things that you would gain by playing through these parts in the VN. On the flip side, there are some scenes that are done even better than in the VN. Even if you have played the VN, I would still recommend giving the anime a try, because it reminded me how much I really loved the characters. Given such, I can’t wait for the rest of the series to be completed (A 2nd season has been announced already.), since I expect it to get better and better as it starts going into the heart of the VN. Especially for anyone that is a Key fan, this series will not disappoint. Heck, anyone that loves slap-stick comedy or an interesting storyline or lovable characters should at least give it a shot.
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.
*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.
*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.
*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.
*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.
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.
Okay, so for starters, I have played the original version of the visual novel, and have played through all of the available routes on that version. Now, the overall story of the visual novel is a heartwarming one, filled with many elements including friendship, hardship, and first love. In question to the anime and how it's adapting the story so far, I am a little concerned. For those of you who have played through the visual novel like I have, you will know that there will be some points within the story that will be quite challenging to adapt well into something that can be watched.
(SPOILERS: I specifically mean the transition from Rin 2 to Refrain, which happens to be one of my favorite points within the story, so I'm definitely concerned.)
Other than that, there is also the fact that the anime has been confirmed for a 26 episode run. It makes me wonder just how much will make the cut for adaptation (There are 8 routes in the original version, and 11 in the EX version of the VN). When Clannad got an anime adaptation, it recieved 55 episodes, plus various OVAs to include extra stories as well as the routes for Tomoyo and Kyou since they were unable to be adapted into the anime due to their need of romance with the main character to progress the story. Asuming that Little Busters! will follow that same format, I can only be concerned that too many things will get compressed or cut from the adaptation. But so far, as it has only been following the common route storyline for now, I am thouroughly happy enough for the job that JC Staff has been doing, for now.
The animation is decent enough for a JC Staff anime. I know that there were a lot of disappointed fans who were expecting for Kyoto Animation to take up the anime adaptation, but things simply worked out this way. I am actually a fan of several JC Staff anime, and although the visuals aren't quite up to par with the VN, it isn't terrible either.
Sound and music is a big thing for me when watching an anime or playing a VN. It's sort of a make or break thing for me when listening to the OP and ED themes, BGM, sound effects, and the voice acting. Fans of the VN will be pleased to know that the game's soundtrack will has returned for the anime as well as many of the game's seiyu cast. The opening theme "Little Busters!" and the ending theme "Alicemagic" performed by Rita also make a return with a remix for the anime, which definitely got me looking forward to purchasing the CD to be released on Halloween day. As a fan of the VN, I expect for the other ending themes, "Clear Weather After the Rain", "Song For Friends", "Little Busters! ~Little Jumper Ver.~" to appear in the anime, as well as the insert "Haruka Kanata".
Although people may whine and complain that the characters are just old staples that have been reused and reincarnated from the older games by Key, I tell you that I'm just fine with the characters as I found them so damn lovable! In fact, Rin is probably my favorite character of all time anywhere. Why change something that works just fine? Well, everyone has their roles to play in this story with the main focus being on the main protagonist, Riki Naoe, the main heroine, Rin Natsume, and the leader of the gang, Kyousuke Natsume. And of course, all of their friends will utilize their problems and personalities to help progress the characters in their development in someway, so just have trust in the characters and stop complaining.
I'd give Little Busters! a solid and well deserved 10/10 as a VN player. This is easily one of my favorite visual novels of all time, and it is well deserved. But this is not a review of the VN, but of its anime adaptation. Although I did utilize my knowledge and experience of the VN in this review, I have good faith in the adaptation so far. All that is left is to sit back and watch have things play out. So, for now, I give the anime adaptation a 8.5/10. This is subject to change as the rest of the anime airs, and especially when the climax and turning point of the story is revealed.
First of all I'm giving it straight 10/10 on everything because of the visual novel. If you haven't read it yet you should. Just like with Clannad and Kanon and Air the vn is way better than the anime.