Earlier this year I did a series of editorials ranking my favourite Key heroines all the way from 40-1. If you have read through at least the Top 10, you’ll know Rin Natsume, main heroine of Little Busters!, came out as number 1 so I thought it was a good time to get around to reviewing Little Busters!. Little Busters! is set up similarly to Clannad with 2 seasons, 1 focuses on all the heroines while the 2nd focuses on the second. I will not be doing separate reviews for a few reasons. 1. While you could watch either Clannad or After Story without the other Little Busters! and Refrain need each other to understand quite a few events so I will rank them together. 2. I would like to review EX as well but it doesn’t fit with either series and really doesn’t deserve its own review. EX won’t play a role in the scoring as they are side stories but I want to give my thoughts on it. I will also mention that I have still not read the visual novel so this will be a review on the Little Busters! anime series and not how good of an adaptation was made. If you are looking for that you’ll have to look elsewhere. Now let’s get on with the review.
Little Busters! starts off in a dark forest. We see a figure appear, seemingly out of air, where he smiles over the town and someone yells out “Kyousuke’s returned!” where we cut to a Boy’s Dormitory and the main character Riki Naoe wakes up to this yelling. Kyousuke is the leader of a group of friends called the Little Busters which consists of himself, Riki, Kyousuke’s shy sister Rin Natsume, a muscle-head Masato Inohara and the school Kendo champ, Kengo Miyazawa. We start off with comedy right away with a fight between Masato and Kengo which is solved the way any fight should be, Kyousuke tells onlookers to throw random objects at them and whatever they catch is their weapon of choice. Kengo gets a water gun and Masato ends up with one of Rin’s cats, Lenon. Rin saves her cat and starts fighting Masato as he wants to continue the fight with the weapon he got. Rin gets a Three-Section Staff and Masato ends up with an Eel pie. These fights happen a lot and I think you can tell someone is going to end up with useless items. Afterwards Kyousuke decides as he’s graduating soon he wants to throw one final “hurrah!” and forms a baseball team called The Little Busters! and all but Kengo join meaning they’re 5 members short. The job falls on our protagonist Riki to recruit new members and since this is based on a dating sim, I think you can tell the gender he’ll be focusing on.
Little Busters! has 6 heroines (with 3 additional in Little Busters! EX) including, Rin Natsume, Komari Kamikita, Mio Nishizono, Haruka Saigusa, Kudryavka Noumi and Yuiko Kurugaya with the series covering all their routes (Komari, Mio, Haruka, Kud and Rin 1 in Little Busters! and Yuiko and Rin 2 in Refrain). The routes are something I think were well done in the anime. Komari is a “moe” girl who is obsessed with sweets, she does appear to have befriended Riki at some point before he tries recruiting her. Her route actually reminds me of something out of Clannad as it features a family related tragedy and actually feels out of place in Little Busters!. There are family struggles in other routes but Komari’s just seems out of place, it’s hard to talk about without spoiling. Mio is the “shy/quiet super intelligent” girl Key likes so much. Comparing her to Kotomi or Minagi though she is by far the weakest of this type. I found a lot of her dialogue to be boring, which I didn’t find with Minagi or Kotomi and her route was probably my least favourite. It features Mio having a sudden personality change and being loud and outgoing until Riki finds out the truth. If you’e seen/read Grisaia no Kajitsu, it’s basically a poor man’s version of Michiru’s route (even though this came first Michiru’s was much better). Next is Haruka who we learn is being bullied by the disciplinary committee because it is run by her twin sister, Kanata Futaki and they were twins born of separate fathers in an old fashioned family, 1 of the fathers snaps and goes on a rampage causing the family to judge which twin was the criminal’s child and treat them poorly. This was one of my favourite routes in Little Busters! and I’m not exactly sure why. I didn’t even like Haruka and Kanata all that much but I just like the events that happen and the feelings displayed by those two, I guess. Next is Kud who we learn was training to become an astronaut like her mother, she sucks at English which it turns out you need so she runs away. Now her mother is about to go into space and they’re watching a broadcast on TV and the spaceship explodes giving no indication on is the crew lives or not. Kud goes back to her home country and gets kidnapped by the rebel group claiming responsibility for the attack. This was another route I liked, only because it’s so different with Kud not being with the rest for a lot of it. Kud being an extremely lovable character also helps.
Now the Refrain routes. Yuiko’s is a little weird as it comes in kind of 2 separate parts. The first is Kyousuke, Masato and Kengo get this idea that Riki has a crush on Yuiko so they set up a romantic fireworks party for Riki to ask her out (he doesn’t) the next day starts going by then it repeats over and over, Riki and Yuiko appear to be the only ones aware of this even when it ends up snowing in the middle of summer. I found it a bit hard to understand exactly why time was repeating. Yuiko says it’s because she never wants that day to end but as we learn in the Refrain arc, they have a pretty strict time limit that Kyousuke has set up (that would be affected). Now our main heroine, Rin, who has a total of 3 routes between Rin 1, Rin 2 and Refrain.
Rin’s route actually has an interesting take that I don’t recall happening in other VN adaptations, events from it take place during the entire anime. At least I assume so or I’d be kind of annoyed with the VN if we get decently far into these “What is the Secret to the World?” missions only to find out they’re not going to be explained until the route you’re likely to play last. What are these? Rin’s previously mentioned cat, Lenon shows up one day with a message tied to its tail for Rin and Riki that says if they want to know the secret to the world to follow these instructions. The instructions end up being vague hints like “Cure some dude’s love sickness” or “save the cafeteria” then it turns out something happens that Rin and Riki need to do and whoever is sending this messages seems to be able to perfectly predict. They might seem like fun little side things for the story but they all lead up to the last one which leads directly into Refrain. Obviously to avoid spoiling Little Busters! I can’t get into how but just know, they all have a point and if you pay attention to character behavior, you’ll see how.
Little Busters! has my least favourite soundtrack by Key. In all their other VNs and anime I can name quite a few songs I like but in Little Busters!, we have the intro and that’s it. I’ve seen the entire series twice and really can’t recall any tunes, all other VNs/anime have at least 1 or 2 non intros I can find myself humming. I’m not saying it’s a bad soundtrack I just don’t find it very memorable. I’ve also seen people complain the colour pallet used was too dark. I don’t really see this as a problem personally and didn’t even notice until I saw it was a common complaint. I’d say look at the pictures I’ve used in this review and look up others (try avoiding spoilers obviously) and make your own call as I’ve seen some downright refuse to watch based on art style.
One last thing I’d like to mention is the comedy. We have Kud’s failed English “I wash for world happiness”, Yuiko’s, more, perverted approach to cute girls, and of course the fight scenes. I mentioned the first 2 earlier but I just want to get into these now. One of my favourite is Haruka Vs. Masato (he’s in pretty much all of them) she gets a toy box and he gets a camera. Masato thinks he has this in the bag and runs up to her and starts taking pictures. Haruka starts posing and making comments and for some reason I always find myself laughing at the last comment, in English, “hey boi”, I think it’s mostly the voice she uses while lifting her skirt a bit that just makes it so funny. All the fight scenes are great that just happens to be one of my favourites.
Now EX. EX takes an interesting approach as Saya’s route is before the events of Refrain, Sasami is during and Kanata is after. Saya’s route is basically Angel Beats! put into Little Busters! as Saya acts like Yuri, shares a voice actor (Harumi Sakurai), uses guns, and appears to be immune to death (not a spoiler, it’s revealed pretty quick) I really like her route as it makes you think quite a bit (probably a reason I like Rewrite so much as all the routes make you think a lot). One complaint I have is Riki, Kyousuke, Kengo and Masato are the only main characters featured in her route. It feels weird to have none of the heroines show up until her route is over (episode 4 out of 8), not even a brief cameo or anything. Sasami’s route is another I like because of how out there it is. Basically Sasami turns into a cat whenever anyone except Riki is around for some reason which causes her to end up living in his dorm. One of my favourite scenes from the entire series is when Riki comes in and Sasami’s made him dinner and there’s a whole husband/wife gag going on with their dialogue and actions. Going into Kanata’s route at all would spoil Refrain and going into it a tiny bit would be spoiling Haruka’s route as it’s a similar “her vs her family” concept except from the other side. You’d know how this is possible if you’ve finished Refrain.