Little Busters!: Refrain Review

This is review number two hundred and sixty two. This anime is part of the Fall 2013 lineup. This is also the most voted show on my “Review Poll”. It’s an anime called Little Busters Refrain. The second season of a Fall 2012 show. I remember that anime because I was rushing to end the 2012 lineup back then and I plow through five or six 24 episode anime that left me a bit scarred. I do not recommend that you do it. Anyways, this is a thirteen episode anime about a group of friends that decided to play baseball. It’s a decent show. Let’s read on.

Story

Taking the Pants Off

The first season of Little Busters was decent at best. It had its fair share of good moments and a few bad ones. The various arcs about the different characters all had an interesting setup and a story you can tell has that undeniable Jun Maeda style to it. The problem was execution and I think JC Staff just had too big of a hurdle capturing the awesomeness of the visual novel. It hurriedly presented the arcs without properly developing the characters and the fast paced style of the story made various important moments a bit hollow. It’s safe to say that I was personally not impressed. I knew the problems and I do understand that visual novel adaptations are just really damn hard to do right. I wasn’t really excited with the second season. A lot of people said that it was a tear jerker compared to the first season and that everything was set right at the end of it all. I was doubtful. Twenty six episodes weren’t enough to give the first season justice so I doubt twelve more can do any difference. I did want to watch the show for just one thing though and it’s been nagging me since this annoyingly voiced girl showed us a story about a bunch of elves. The show left out one important bit in the first season which was an arc involving the main character, Riki Naoe. He is the dude that just happened to recruit a bunch of girls to join their baseball team and then experienced a lot of dramatic stuff as he got closer to them. The first season didn’t give us his arc. Now I never played the actual game but the ultimate end of the first season pretty much hinted at this one. The second season is now about our main character, Riki. Is it a story that is worth waiting another season for? I’m not really sure about that. Do I want to watch it though because I’m a stupid perfectionist? Yeah. That’s about sum me up. The truth behind Riki and the Little Busters is revealed in the second season.

So let’s do a quick rundown of the first season. This dude named Kyousuke came back from his long journey and his close childhood friends welcomed him with a big celebration. Kyousuke then decided that he wanted to create a baseball team called the Little Busters. There were only four of them though so they needed to recruit more. This duty was appointed to Riki, the mild mannered person of the group. It was basically pushed onto him but he accepts nonetheless. Throughout the course of the first season, Riki met with a bunch of girls with the intent of inviting them to join his baseball team. These girls all have their personal problem though that prevented them to join the team or pretty much enjoy their life. Riki wants to intervene. He helped a girl overcome her grief over her brother’s death, helped another reconcile with her twin sister, helped another gather up courage to visit her country during its civil war chaos and also helped another make peace with her imaginary friend. He has certainly been busy. In the end, he got six girls to join and the final episode of the anime was about the eventual baseball game Little Busters had. They lost but still enjoyed the experience. They then took a photo commemorating the event. In the final episode as well, it was constantly brought up that Riki must take over Kyousuke’s position as the leader of Little Busters. Riki promised that he’ll try to be strong enough to do so.

In the game, Refrain is a mode unlocked after you successfully finish the six different routes available in the game. This is what we did in the anime minus the actual gameplay experience. The Refrain route is served to give the show a proper ending. It was the route that will give closure to the game as it ties everything together. The various routes and the little things left unmentioned are finally revealed as part of this one final route. The Refrain route is about our main character Riki. Rather, this one is about the original members of Little Busters.

The anime started out as a jumbled mess. It did mention the baseball team formed but slowly wandered away from that. It dropped the main goal of the first season and pursued something else. The whole show is basically about figuring out what that goal is about. It’s certainly a bit hard to watch since you’re really out of the loop as you watch this show. Anything you’ve learned from the first season did not matter in the second season. Most of the characters you’ve grown attached to did not appear much in this show. It was certainly an interesting experience. The whole show basically had one thing in mind and that’s to give us one shocking revelation that needed a lot of episodes to setup. I must admit that it was a pretty decent payoff but only if you can manage to go that far. Anyways, I’d equate the experience I had with this anime with opening a present. There are three steps. You gaze at the pretty ribbon on top and then unlace it. Then you take off the wrapper and reveal the box. Then you opened the box and smile ear to ear at the item inside it. This show had one story but was divided into three parts. No, not plot points. They’re acts or chapters that all had different contents but ultimately lead to one conclusion. It’s all building up to the moment the secret about the Little Busters are revealed.

The first act is well after the events of the first season. Little Busters is formed and they’re all celebrating this moment. They held a hotcake party where they do their usual fair of idiocy. Riki then noticed that he is stuck on June 20. For some odd reason, Riki is the only one that notices it. The same events keep on happening with minor differences. Time seem to progress. It rained then it snowed but the date never changes. Riki is freaked out and he asked comfort for only one person. He immediately came running to this girl named Yuiko Kuragaya. It seems that Riki has been doing that all this time. June 20 keeps on happening and he finds himself being close to Yuiko. With his narcolepsy and the unexplained event of time rewinding, it seems that Yuiko is the only one that can help him. The first act is basically about Riki getting close to Yuiko. In the first season, she wasn’t featured much so I guess the show was tacking on her arc in the second season. Yuiko and Riki seem to have a close relationship. It’s something important to both of them but Riki can’t quite remember it well. He has flashbacks of waking up next to Yuiko in the broadcasting room but all of this looks vague. Does Yuiko have something to do with time rewinding or is it all in Riki’s head?

While the first act is basically about Riki and Yuiko, you are also a getting a glimpse of the big red ribbon that adorns this little present. I’m not going to spoil it but this particular act lays the groundwork for the story later on. This act is also pretty damn lackluster. The pacing is a bit fast and it lacks certain crucial elements to truly make sense of every situation. I’m guessing that’s how it’s supposed to be but the show already have poor characters so it’s only to its detriment to also have a poor story. The first season knew how to present the arcs despite not effectively connecting them together. This particular act of the second season felt a bit out of place though and this forced relationship between the main character and a side character, that had little importance in the first season, didn’t really cut it for me. The whole thing felt a bit forced and it was not the kind of start you’d want to have in an unlockable route of the game design to make sense of it all.

The second act is about “the secret of this world”. This is about Riki and his childhood friend, Rin doing a bunch of missions given to them by a cat with messages attached to his tail. These are pretty mysterious messages but they seem to predict scenarios that will happen in the future. Riki and Rin decided to do the missions just to figure out the secret of this world. In the second season, the cat finally gave them the final mission. It was supposedly the last one and the sender of these messages will then reveal the secret of this world. The final mission involves Riki and Rin doing a particular job that requires two people. It’s an easy job but it seems to hold a lot of importance for the two of them. The second act also focused on one important thing: the relationship of Riki and Rin. Apparently, these two childhood friends have a lot of feelings for each other. Towards the course of the anime, the idea of romance was suddenly brought up and Riki suddenly can’t stop thinking about Rin. It was then suggested that Riki will soon confess to Rin but does he really have the balls to do that? Facing the final mission together, I guess it won’t be a bad idea to do it as an item. Then again, the sender seems to have the ability to predict the future so does this blossoming romance also has significance towards his mysterious plan?

The second act is mostly a heavy hearted story of Riki and Rin but the wrapping to the present was revealed as well though. The “secret of the world” is the big veil that makes up the story of the second season. Even though it feels more like conjecture that really doesn’t mean anything, it surprisingly holds the entire story together. Yeah, that’s right. The secret of the world relates big to the story of Riki and the Little Busters. If you can get this far in the show, and trust me the show is a bit boring, then you’ll notice as well that there is something not quite right with this whole setup. It’s that one nagging feeling that made me watch the second season and it’s being fueled once again by this whole “secret of the world” thing. There are certain things that feel a bit off about the story and the characters but you aren’t really sure what it is. It will all the revealed though in the final act of the show.

The third act is really the main focus of the anime. It’s about Riki and Little Busters. You might wonder why it took two unrelated chapters to reach this far. The answer is pretty simple. You can’t open a gift without taking out the ribbon and the wrapper first. Gawd, I sound like an elitist douche with that statement but let’s not lose focus. The first two acts revealed some important things about Little Busters and now the third act connects all the dots. The main focus of this act is about the five childhood friends. It is about their relationship now and back when they were children. They didn’t really know each other back then. It was the efforts of Kyousuke that brought them together. He was persistent and he looks every adversity right in the eye. He would take a punch and then smile afterwards reassuring the other person that they have a special place next to him. Kyousuke is out of mission for now though. He has grown depressed and he would rather spend his time in a gloomy dorm room than with the people he cherishes the most. Riki thought this was odd. It wasn’t the Kyousuke he grew to love and admire. To make matters worse, Little Busters has broken up. Without Kyousuke leading the pack, the members have strayed from one another. Riki is then forced to bring the team back together. It’s easier than it seems. The rest of the members don’t want to have anything to do with Riki. He is basically gum in their shoe and they only look up to Kyousuke. Riki must find a way to bring Little Busters back together the way Kyousuke did it. He’ll approach them one by one then convince them that their special place has always been with Little Busters. Is Riki up to task though? Can he really force himself to take the role of Kyousuke? Riki isn’t really as wild as the guy and he’s mild mannered at best. He’s a guy that was used to being protected. Can he really now be the one that protects others?

The final act takes up most of the second half of the show and this is really where the anime started to shape up. This is also the one part of the show that actually makes a whole lot of sense. Everything up to this point didn’t really feel clear. There were a lot of things that felt out of place and that nagging feeling that something isn’t right. The final act was about Riki and Little Busters but it was also revealing every little thing that the show previously left out. The significance of June 20, the ”secret of the world” and every single occurrence that happened in the first season finally makes a whole lot of sense as the final act slowly opens the box to reveal the gift inside. I was honestly a bit surprised at how smart the whole story was. Don’t get me wrong. The final act was rushed and tremendously forced that it was almost vapid but the concepts presented is pretty damn impressive. There was a lot of foreshadowing in both seasons that really gives you the nagging sense and the final moments was satisfying because of how it managed to hook you for that one big shocking reveal. It was smart. I bet the visual novel packed a stronger punch. The anime was a bit disappointing for me. A lot of people claimed that the second season saved the anime because of how dramatic the whole thing was. It wasn’t. It was vapid. It pushed the story abruptly that it wasn’t able to create a really sad mood for the viewers to tear up on. It tried. There were episodes that I felt like I want to cry and, trust me, I wanted to cry but I can’t. The show wasn’t giving me a big reason to. I think the anime had everything setup right but ultimately missed on one important detail that makes the whole thing dramatic. Four words. Properly fleshed out characters.

The characters in the anime are one dimensional. This was the biggest downside of the show. It was apparent for both seasons, actually. It just didn’t have engaging characters. You’re always relying on one single aspect of the characters to carry you throughout the show and that proved bad for this particular anime. I’m not surprised though. Visual novels are rich with amazing characters and adapting that takes a lot of time. In this case, more than twelve episodes. The characters of Little Busters are fleshed out through various flashbacks and monologues. This proved effective because of how attached you are to the characters. Every moment they spend with Riki helped in making you comfortable with the characters. In the game, you have all the time in the world to do that. In the anime, you only have twenty two minutes to work with. However, the monologues and the flashbacks serve as a reward system for the game. You have achieved in befriending the character and making them open up to you. You will now have a chance to see why this character is the way he/she is. Yes, an energetic character is rowdy for a reason. A reserved character is timid for a reason. A dumb muscle head is obsessed with muscles for a reason and the game rewards you with the backstory to understand them better. You cannot do this in the anime. All you have is the plot to work with. So if the characters are needed to do a monologue in this scene then they will do so. Most of these monologues are bad. They are hollow and forced. It’s a bit annoying because this is where you are cued to cry and feel sorry for the characters yet you can’t. It’s simply because the show never gave you a chance to do so.

refrain21

The drama aspect of the show was a bit bland. It sucks, really. I really wanted to cry as I watch this show. There are characters that I like and I was waiting for that one big heartbreaking moment to make it all worthwhile yet it just didn’t happen. I think the story just proved too complex. There was a distinct balance in the show that I think was just ultimately messed up. The story itself has a bit of mystery, comedy and then drama to it. This is a bit hard to present so the show needed to focus on it to capture the appeal of the game. The story relied on the characters to make every single component work though. You’ll laugh because of the characters. A sad story is sob worthy because the characters make it heart wrenching. The mystery aspects are effective because of how the characters act out the story. The story needed the greatly fleshed out characters to make the complexity not overwhelming but the characters are fleshed out because of the complex story. I do not envy whoever adapted the script of this show. It was a hurdle and they sadly did not overcome it. So, the result? The show was lacking. The sad moments weren’t as effective. The characters are all bland and there were no decent pay off in the end.

It does beg the question though. Would Little Buster fare better if JC Staff did not handle it? I’m not one of those whiny asshats that think that KyoAni should’ve adapted the show but it does make me wonder. Would it make a difference? I think it does. Let me be clear though. If KyoAni, the one that released K-On and became a moe empire, did this show then it would suck a whole lot more. If it was KyoAni, pre-K-On, then I honestly think that the experience would’ve been different. Jun Maeda stories are a b*tch to adapt. He ultimately creates a story that fits the boundaries of a visual novel. Its complex but you have all the time in the world to work it out to your understanding. The way he puts importance on monologues to bring out the themes of his story is already a bad sign that his works are too hard to adapt. Add in the fact that he uses “magic” in his story to make it even more complex just makes it all the more harder to translate into an anime. Seriously, how do you make sense of a girl that gets sick whenever she gets a friend without it being ridiculous? Jun Maeda ultimately convinces people through the characters. No, it’s not ridiculous that this girl is sick because she made a friend. It’s sad. It’s sad because we’ve grown attached to her and anything done to her would just be too cruel. Now imagine a girl that is being haunted by her imaginary friend or a girl that can’t smile around people unless their children. JC Staff tried and you can really see how much of a hurdle they faced. But then you think back at how KyoAni made Clannad a titan anime. How did they do it? How were they able to capture the Jun Maeda charm? The visual novels they adapted were subpar adaptation as well. Let’s be honest with that. KyoAni didn’t focus on the story though. Yeah, Clannad has a lot of intricate details that needs to be addressed but it was second on their priorities. KyoAni ultimately focused on the drama. This is what makes JC Staff and pre-K-On KyoAni different. JC Staff focused on the complex story to give us the full feel of the game. KyoAni, on the other hand, made us cry. They simply focused on making us cry and I think that’s how they can overcome the VN hurdle. This is all just an assumption on my part though. I want to understand Little Busters more so I will play the game to get a better idea of things. On the idea that KyoAni could’ve made a better adaptation though, I think this one is something worth pondering over.

Sight and Sound

It feels weird doing this section because Itaru Hinoue has a Wikipedia section that generally talks about her unique art style. She is the person that basically handles all the character designs of Key Visual Novels. She is known for generally making cute characters. The emphasis is usually on the head of a character. Her style usually starts here. She used to have this weird style of putting the nose and the mouth together but this was not evident in the Little Busters. Itaru still over emphasizes on the head though. Girls usually have big wavy hair and a lot of accessories attached to them. This grabs your attention. You’ll notice how distinct each hairstyle of a character is and the things they put on it. From cute ribbons to star shaped hair clips to even a hat, the hair introduces a character to the viewers. This is even more effective when all the female characters have different hair colors. It not only matches their personality but also helps in identifying with the characters. The hair grabs you attention then you’ll notice how cute a character looks. The face is particularly detailed. From the way a character smiles, you can see how every mouth and nose adds detail to a character. It’s hard to describe it but it basically rounds up the cuteness of a character without distracting from their personality. The outfit is pretty great as well. The uniform is looks great on a character. The black and red colors look great. The skirt on the girls is nicely done as it accentuates their figure. The characters have different things attached to their outfit though. From a sweater to a cape, you can tell how much detail is given to a character to add variety to the design. I bet these characters look even better in the visual novel.

The male characters are nicely designed as well. They’re you’re typical bishie characters but the way they look also compliments their personality. I love how Kengo looks stern with his hakama on and the way his face rarely display emotions. I also love how Masato looks. The headband and the unbuttoned shirt tell me he is a delinquent. Add in the messy hair and his fierce facial expressions and I think the design captures him well. Kyousuke and Riki just have their uniform on but I think it’s enough. Kyousuke has a great facial design because it captures his mischievousness but the eyes tell you that he is a very serious character. Riki doesn’t have much going though. It’s not surprise since you play him in the game and the idea is to make him as normal as possible.

Animation is pretty decent. The way a character moves was nicely translated by the anime. The craziness of the interaction was given justice by the show. The various important scenes of the visual novel were nicely captured by the anime. I think this is where they were truly able to adapt the visual novel to a tee. The movements are nicely animated and the facial expressions are pretty decent. Every sad and vulnerable moment was set just right. Every comedic moment was truly funny and every normal conversation was given a great look. The action scenes are also nicely animated. A lot of characters hurt each other in this show and I think JC Staff did a great job on it.

Let me just say that I hate the voices of some of the characters. No, I do not like hearing “wafu”. I get the appeal but I think I personally have grown out of the fascination over it. I do admit to liking “gau” once but f*ck it. Not anymore. The one thing that gets the dramatic moments truly powerful was the soundtrack and I love that aspect of the show. Even though the whole show was mishandled, the right kind of sad music can really make a difference. I love this one song the anime play at every sad scene. I think its “Song of Friends” and it had a bittersweet appeal to it. The lyrics are really happy but the rhythm can really make you cry. It’s deceivingly complex that I often want to cry because of it. The show is really rich with some awesome soundtrack. From nostalgic piano pieces to solemn ones, it really makes a big difference on the show. It elevates a rather bland experience into something better.

The anime’s OP is “Boys be Smile” by Suzuyu. This was a decent song. I love Suzuyu’s voice but I think it didn’t compare to the wonderful OP of the first season. This one felt a bit gloomy despite having such wonderful lyrics. It was just a bit too tame, in my opinion. It didn’t feel like a good OP song. I think it relates to the game but I just didn’t think it fit well. Surprisingly though, the song spoiled the events of the second season. I’m laughing hard as I write this but every single detail was in the song. The lyrics are about people joining together then disappearing as lonely awaits them. I think the line “After the festival, only loneliness awaits” pretty much told us one crucial point of the show. See if you can spot it. The OP features all the characters and a more heavy focus on the five main members of Little Busters as it goes into a montage. It ends with Riki and Rin together. It’s a decent OP as well.

The anime has a lot of ED. The common one is “Kimi to no Nakushi Mono” by Ayaka Kitazawa. This was a more vibrant song that the OP. I think they should’ve switched. Anyways, this was a really cute song. It felt personal with the wonderful lyrics but the upbeat rhythm really gives the song a nice charm. It’s about a weak person trying to look up to the person that they cherish. It has a hopeful vibe that does feel closely related to the show. The ED sequence is simply all the members of Little Busters gazing up at a sunrise. It’s a really cool ED despite the animation being just a scrolling picture.

Overall Score

5/10 “The payoff was unsatisfying and the poor characters ultimately brought the show down.”

Is this something worth two seasons to watch? I’m not really sure. Personally, it’s not. It could’ve been better and I think that is fairly obvious. It was a decent attempt by JC Staff so there’s no harm done. If you saw the first season then you should check the show out. If you like some good mystery in your show then I think you should try this one out. As someone who saw both seasons though, this one is fairly unsatisfying.

11 thoughts on “Little Busters!: Refrain Review

  1. Well, if this was the Kyo-ani that did a masterful job at Hyouka, and the Kyo-ani at it’s very best during Chuunibyou, then yes, I think they would have done much better to capture the idea of character nuance which the anime… really, really lacked. Vast swathes of the Visual Novel, especially the Common route, which laid the groundwork for character was basically passed over.

    I’ll also be quite honest here on the subject of Voice acting: it really damages character. One example would be Komari. Komari’s voice acting did her character and role in the story immense amounts of disservice – were you to go by just dialogue alone, there’s nothing particularly grating about Komari, and actually reveals an interesting character. That’s more or less turned into a torture to listen to, thanks to that Nail on Chalkboard voice acting.

    Honestly though, I wonder what if the anime had the guts to devote whole episodes to the “bad ends” mentioned and briefly shown during Refrain. Not that any studio would probably choose to go down that route.

    And the final problem is that Little Buster’s story only really makes sense on hindsight.

  2. Do let us know if the game is more rewarding. I haven’t tried a visual novel before, and I honestly don’t think I will ,but I’m curious to know how different the experiences are. I’m sure, like you said, the game gives way more time to grow attached to a character, so I think it’ll be good. I mean, that’s the main reason I find anime so great and superior to movies. There is a lot more time for great character development and attachment. You’d think the show would focus on that aspect more considering it had two seasons to work with. I’m not sure if I want to give it a chance. I normally enjoy everything I watch to some point, but bad characters seems like a huge mistake to me. The third part of the story sounds especially intriguing, but is it worth going through the whole first season.

  3. Oh well I will try to tell you how the game is superior to the anime from what I saw and what I read from other people.

    Firstly the sound on the anime was misplaced a lot of time and the anime goes too fast, seriously 22 min? with opening and ending? the sound was totaly misplaced and misused because of the anime format.

    Secondly the story, it was rushed to the begining to the end while the visual novel had a nice pace most of the time.

    Thirdly how its totaly different the visual novel and the anime. The visual novel have multiple ending while the anime is linear so already they had to take out the romance in the anime and they had to format it FUN TIME—>SAD TIME—>FUN TIME and so on for the anime completely. For the visual novel you had the FUN TIME in one go which doesnt let a bittersweet taste in the anime. But also they could hide thing which made sense once you know the secret of the world, most of the time in the visual novel once you get to know some stuff other will clear up, in the anime it was different. Also Masato character was horrible in the anime I dont know who had the horrible idea of him having a higher voice which was annoying -_-; and even worst his arc in REFRAIN which was ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONAL got scraped in the anime. One epsode, bad choice of music, rushed.

    Im sure there is more I forgot but I will tell you if i remember them, all I can say is that the visual novel can show you thing that the anime can’t. And its even more fun since you feel like you are riki in the anime you just look at a bunch of friend and there is even fun minigame in the visual novel which is a plus.

  4. I disagree with quite a lot here since I thoroughly enjoyed Refrain personally. Usually it seems like I’m harsher on a series than you are but it looks like I have a lot more love for this one.

    I for one felt Refrain was an absolutely powerful story. It is true that it suffered from pacing issues and from what I’ve heard about the VN, there’s quite a bit that was left out of the adaptation, and that makes me sad since the story could’ve been even stronger. That said, however, I don’t feel like it ruined Refrain at all. Keeping up with the series weekly and dwelling on the secrets behind the Little Busters world was captivating for me and I absolutely loved finding out even the slightest bit more about the truth behind it all. Seeing Riki grow up and take hold of his own future instead of being stuck in Kyousuke’s shadow alone was worth it for me and while there were a lot of things that I feel would’ve contributed a lot to the story if included, Refrain was still powerful for me all the same, and episode 11 of Refrain remains one of my favorite parts of any Key story. It may not be After Story level for me, but it’d be unfair to expect that of just about anything out there.

    More than anything though, I REALLY disagree about the characters being one-dimensional. Quite the contrary, I felt the characters had a lot of depth, and while one-episode arcs for the bros didn’t help pacing much and probably meant cutting out some material that would’ve helped, I don’t think any of them were one dimensional in the slightest. Riki may be a pretty simple character, but I felt he grew quite a bit throughout, especially considering how desperately he asked Kyousuke for guidance in season 1. What we got from him in the anime is pretty limited, I didn’t feel it was any worse than, say, Yuuichi from Kanon was, and if anything I felt Riki had more development. Rin is also a pretty straightforward character but I wouldn’t call her one-dimensional either. She definitely struggles on a social level and, like Riki, is hugely dependent on Kyousuke, yet she’s determined, caring, and able to make important choices when it counts, and I felt that her conversation with Komari in the second to last episode really highlighted the nature of her character and her growth from the beginning. If Masato was ever one-dimensional I’d say that was only true of S1, but Refrain really built on his character. Masato initially seemed like the goofy, idiotic muscle guy of the group, yet he turned out to be one of the more mature ones that took on quite a bit of the burden for the sake of Riki and Rin, trusting Kyousuke and doing his best to hide his true feelings to do what needed to be done. Not to mention his struggles with feeling inferior, isolated, or downright bizarre when apart from the Little Busters. Kengo is quite the opposite, appearing to be the stoic, decisive member of the group determined to rebel against fate yet actually being the most childish in some ways and wanting to accept himself without the need to present himself as being the strongest. Then there’s Kyousuke, who I can’t justify as being one-dimensional on any level whatsoever. Kyousuke’s the man behind it all, the one who took on the role of the demon, risked his own life, and even created the world itself to make Riki and Rin stronger, and seeing how his own thought process progressed as Riki developed was something quite worthwhile. These may not be the most convincing of descriptions for these characters and I suppose they may not be the most stunning or original characters in existence, yet I’m very much hard pressed to consider them weak or one-dimensional.

    All said though, I loved Refrain because I did care about these characters, and their stories hit me on an emotional level. Regardless of what I say, it really comes down to whether or not you care for the cast, and I think this is true of every single Key series. Even in the case of Clannad, if you have no reason at all to care for the characters or if you personally don’t have attachment toward them, nothing that happens will be of any importance to you, and the same applies here. Clearly you didn’t love the characters in Refrain, and I think that’s the biggest reason why it wasn’t a fulfilling experience for you. As for me, however, I really did like the cast of LB, and it’s for that reason that Refrain ultimately ended up being one of my favorite anime of 2013, and while there were a number of things it could’ve done to improve and a great many things it didn’t have that might have made it a 10/10 for me, I do not at all regret keeping up with it and I loved every minute of it.

    • I get it. You’re not the first person to enjoy Refrain but it seems we’re just not on point in terms of preference. You find the story pretty magical and compelling. I appreciate that. A lot of people are being introduced to the Key visual novel style thanks to Little Busters. The mystery is entertaining on your end. For me, it was lacking simply because I’ve seen it done better before.
      Little Busters Refrain felt like it just threw the ending out there. It gave us the “gist” of what the story is about. It was lacking, what I believe, to be strong emotional components derived from the characters. It had an interesting story but the characters just felt a bit forced. The show spent the first season on different characters then introduced different ones on the second season. Sure, they managed to present whatever “story” the routes we’re supposed to contain but it really isn’t enough to give the characters justice. I agree. Little Busters has great characters but it wasn’t fully showcased in the anime. The sad story of the group that survived a bus accident just didn’t feel as emotional as it should’ve.
      And you said you shouldn’t expect an After Story level kind of thing from Little Busters. I disagree. I can tell that LB is even better than After Story. Heck, the first Clannad anime was infinitely better because the character build up was great and it made the dramatic moments masterful. Little Busters had the same thing going. It had characters far more interesting than any of the Clannad cast yet you can easily tell Clannad did it better. Why? LB has twenty four plus twelve episodes to work with. Clannad had less than that. Why is Clannad’s story more compelling than the richer and broader stage Little Buster had?

      I think “depth” is a good term for the characters. I do think they are well rounded enough that even Masato can make me cry. However, the characters in the anime weren’t. They were bounded by the story. Again, we’re seeing just a “gist” of the characters. They have way much more to offer than the slight monologues and flashbacks the anime gave us. It was missing growth and the anime just couldn’t waste time fleshing them out. I think the ultimate reason they were one dimensional is because this particular drama anime couldn’t make me care for it. The characters should’ve done that. They could’ve easily presented a sob story that would make anybody cry but the rushed pacing and the forced moments didn’t really make any character that special. Sure, they had some good “gist” of what the characters could’ve been but it really wasn’t enough. They were the same people as they were in the first season and I think that’s not fair to the characters after undergoing such personal changes. I think Riki grew but only to the point where the story needed to advance to a point that required him growing. I’m sorry. They were badly lacking characters.

      Again, Clannad. I do not remember half of the cast in that show but I can still say without a doubt that every single dramatic moment was on point because of how smart the character build up was. You’re right. It’s about connecting with the characters and Clannad did it in one season. LB had two and it clearly wasn’t enough. I couldn’t cry for any moment in Little Busters but that story about the bear in the briefcase could still make me cry easily. It’s a testament to how impressive Clannad is. Did you cry in any of the scenes? I think the best one that almost made me cry was the one about the twins.
      And don’t mistake it, I’m not writing out of spite. I was cheering for Little Busters all the way. The first season had potential but I guess I could just see how bad the adaptation was and I can easily tell why. I respect that some people like LB Refrain but I’ve seen way too many drama and notable Key visual novel stories to know LB was greatly lacking.

      • This is exactly what I thought but I’m too bad in english to write like that, so I’m going to use your post for argument since, no matter how people like it, we who saw the original can say without any doubt that it was really lacking and didn’t live up to his potential.

        • I can’t really say your argument is invalid, largely because I have never played the visual novel as a point of comparison and thus have nothing insightful to say on the matter. However, it sounds to me like you’re assessing it solely as an adaptation, in which case you’re bound to be disappointed. I won’t argue with you about the adaptation quality of LB, and if I’d played the VN first I wouldn’t be surprised if I was disappointed myself. The problem is that it sounds as though your disappointment with how it was adapted equates to it being bad as an anime rather than solely as a VN adaptation. I really can’t attempt to argue with your points until I’ve played the VN, but do try to consider my perspective: I have yet to play a single Key VN (LB included, obviously) and have only the other adaptations I’ve seen as a basis. As a Key anime, I found LB powerful, engaging, and heartbreaking. Did it miss out on VN material? I’m sure it did. Did that ruin the anime? Perhaps for you it did, not so with me. But one thing I really dislike is when VN fans paint the anime as terrible to those who have not played the VN solely on the basis of their own personal disappointment (something that Fate/stay night in particular suffers from).

          Perhaps LB wasn’t sufficient as an adaptation of the VN, but frankly I prefer for my experience not to be marred by the disappointment of those who’ve already come in with established high expectations. It’s not as though I’m free of bias myself, but it’s clear that your attachment to the VN and hopes for how it would be adapted are the reason you disliked it, and quite frankly that is not an issue I can make noteworthy observations on and so it’s unfair to dismiss my thoughts simply because they aren’t chained to your own experiences and resulting expectations. Your opinion isn’t superior to mine simply because you’re acquainted with the source material, and I don’t appreciate the fact that you dismiss my thoughts simply because you personally don’t agree with them. Do I need to have played Little Busters to have an adequate, valid opinion of the adaptation that doesn’t rely on its source material to be understandable and enjoyed? Better yet, do you know any anime adaptations of VNs that actually DO match or surpass their source materials? Rhetorical questioning aside, I’d actually be more pleased if you do know them and I would gladly watch them to verify for myself as I’m sure I would quite enjoy such an adaptation.

          • So LB should be enjoyed not as an anime but also not a VN adaptation? I have seen too many anime and I guess it’s just easy to know when a story is being badly forced. The transition of the events, the characters utilized and developed, and the use of the genres would feel off and disjointed when you know the story is being rushed or badly executed. It’s then easy to assume that some parts of the VN wasn’t carried over to the anime adaptation. It’s also not that hard to understand that playing a VN takes all the time in the world. An anime runs for 22 minutes so the lush narrative may not fit into the 22 minute runtime so you can assume something was cut, edited out, and most events even skipped. I have seen great adaptations and you can tell it by the way the story flows. The way the characters develop. Whether it’s VN or LN or manga or even a video game adaptation. If you watch too many, you realize a pattern on how most adaptations are handled.

            For the case Little Busters, understanding the limited runtime and the editing of the lush narrative, is it a good visual novel adapted anime? I say no. I say this because the story flows rather forced. Certain dramatic events are presented without the proper buildup. Characters go from bland nobodys in a large group to someone interesting but then returning back into bland nobodys afterwards. The story itself did not feel satisfying. The drama elements felt forced as well. The show managed to give us the entire story of the VN perhaps but it lacked any emotional component to make the experience worthwhile. Now if some cried during forced dramatic scenes then that’s fine. I cry on forced drama as well. While my reviews are solely a personal opinion, please don’t think that I have it out for Little Busters. I do not. I simply think, after having seen too many badly mishandled anime adaptation that LB falls in the same category. Playing the game or otherwise matters not, it has too many negative aspects that I think warrants it to be a bad adaptation.

            Also, I have never played the VN. It seems you’re taking my opinions too seriously. You like Littl Busters, that’s fine. I’m not affected by it. I’ll still eat oatmeal cookies in the living room when I want to. So please don’t let my comments affect you too personally.

      • I get what you mean, the adaptation does go pretty quickly (something a lot of people remarked for the first season as well, but probably even more applicable to Refrain) and it does seem as though there are dimensions of the characters that weren’t completely displayed. Such is to be expected with a one-cour adaptation, and it’s too bad there wasn’t a more complete look at each character, but I felt it was more than enough to get a grasp of their mentalities, inner struggles, and the basis for their characterization and development. Not perfect, but nothing ever is. I suppose there could’ve been more emotional impact, but it still hit me pretty hard.

        I don’t think it’s fair to compare LB and After Story, partially because AS already has quite a reputation among the fanbase but also because they really aren’t similar stories beyond having the Key formula behind them. LB revolved around the mystery aspect of the story and the supernatural element was woven much deeper into the narrative than in Clannad, which did have it as a relevant plot point that was foreshadowed but it didn’t dominate the plot progression until later in the game. Clannad was always more about family and the characters’ struggles in relation to more realistic situations, whereas the foundation of LB is the supernatural aspect itself. I would say I preferred even Clannad S1 to Little Busters, and it’s true that I found its handling of the characters more satisfying, but again, using Clannad as a basis for comparison is pretty much a sure way to be disappointed in Little Busters. I suppose LB does have a more versatile cast and it’s easy to see why someone would be more inclined toward it, but I wouldn’t call it “better”, both casts fit to the form of their respective series and frankly it’d be nigh impossible to swap them and expect one to do “better” because they appear to be a “stronger” cast. I wouldn’t say LB’s cast is “far more interesting” than Clannad’s cast, the Clannad characters may be a lot more down to earth and perhaps less colorful simply because of the natures of their stories, but even in their simplicity they’re well-written and likable. I suppose your complaints are understandable, and when you compare the adaptations of Clannad and LB it’s a lot easier to point out the flaws in LB, but I don’t think that automatically makes LB terrible. Considering even Clannad S1 is something I would personally give a 10/10, almost any other VN adaptation would disappoint me in comparison. Even with all that said, LB may not be the greatest adaptation but I found it more than functional as an anime.

        The cast was definitely limited by the runtime but that doesn’t equate to being one-dimensional. Perhaps to having less dimensions than the original visual novel characters, but that’s applicable to just about every VN adaptation out there. I don’t believe this is your intention, but it almost sounds as if you’re saying “I’m not attached to the characters, therefore they’re one-dimensional and badly written.” It could be that the fact that they weren’t fleshed out is why you don’t care for them, but it seems as though you’re saying that your lack of attachment to them is the reason that they are bad characters and that just doesn’t sit well with me. And aside from Riki, I don’t think a lot of the characters were meant to develop as much as be fleshed out. It’s not that Masato or Kengo are bad characters because they never grew, it was never about them growing but rather seeing the other facets to their personalities and seeing how Riki resolved the conflicts stemming from them. Did it change a whole lot? Maybe not, but that’s not the point, and I imagine that at least this is true of the VN as well. I’m sure the VN does a better job of fleshing them out, but that’s not quite the same as development.

        There’s probably not any point to me saying any of this really, and I can’t really say any of your complaints are invalid. But all the same, it seems like your enjoyment of LB was heavily hindered by your own expectations, and that can’t be helped because it really is all a matter of personal taste. It’s fine if you didn’t like it, you didn’t connect with the characters and I did, and so you didn’t enjoy it while I loved it. The problem is that it seems like your stance is “It’s nice that you enjoyed it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it sucks” and that just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not what you’re saying but how you’re saying it that I don’t especially like. If you didn’t enjoy it then that’s that, but I feel as though you’re dismissing the validity of my opinion largely because it doesn’t align with yours. I don’t believe you’re trying to do so and it’s probably more me being picky about what I’m reading than anything else, but such things should be clarified when discussing an anime. Discussions never end well when one side assumes superiority, after all.

        • that’s what I’m saying. You do get a gist of what the characters are but it lacks a more emotional approach that would make the whole experience more meaningful. Too many scenes relied on the circumstances and the events that it lacked the emotional component for the characters.

          Oh no, not AS. Just the first CLannad. I’m comparing LB to the first Clannad. While supernatural elements might lean more to LB, I think it’s fair to compare them because Clannad also had themes of family and togetherness that could’ve been easily muddled much like the supernatural element of LB. I also admit that some family matters in Clannad felt forced like the supernatural elements in LB but all in all Clannad delivered a more satisfying show. I never fully compared them in my review. I only pointed out that KyoAni made me cry with Clannad while LB, with seemingly the same opportunities to deliver some drama like Clannad, ultimately did not. I was pointing at the fact that maybe the argument that KyoAni could’ve made a better show is a valid one.

          But I dare say the two should be compared. I can’t accept the fact that KyoAni did a masterful and powerful piece in 24 episodes that made me cry with its solid execution while JC Staff couldn’t do a better adaptation in 24 and 12 plus episodes. I’m not critical with the cast. Frankly, I don’t care about the Clannad cast. I only remember the girl with robot anyways. LB might have a better cast but I remember the bear and the suitcase, the wedding, not because of the characters but because of the well executed drama. People need to know that LB deserves a better adaptation and KyoAni could’ve possibly gave it to us. I’m not just blindly comparing Clannad to LB. I’m comparing one well executed Key visual novel to a least impressive one. There is a plausible argument to be made here.

          Why can’t I be critical with character development? A one dimensional character is someone that does not change, doesn’t see growth.and mostly sticks to a singular role. While the show might give us life changing events, it does not automatically mean that our characters benefit from it. It’s not just being fleshed out. One dimensional characters stays the same throughout the entire run of the series. LB characters are such. Even with the emotional conflicts being resolved, they all resume their part in the group and barely does anything else afterwards. And being attached to a character does mean he is not just one dimensional. I understand that you like Little Busters but the character development is pretty bad. I also did not say Masato or Kengo are bad. My complaints are mostly directed at the main characters who doesn’t really do anything remarkable. Such vital characters not being good enough for the audience to be invested in is something I would call a one dimensional character.

          Oh no, while I was expecting the second season to be satisfying, I do find think the first season was better. I don’t expect much from an anime and I would be a bad reviewer if I did. I simply believe, as an impartial reviewer, that Little Busters is an unsatisfying show. The first season was decent since the arcs had some decent conflict and resolution to them but ultimately, it’s a bad adaptation. We’ve already seen how something as ambitious as LB can turn out good in the form of Clannad so LB just didn’t stack up.

          I mean no offence with my comments. You’re a fan and I respect that. You express your opinion and I express mine. You come off as an overly defensive fanboy and I take no harm in that. We like what we like. The thing is, I haven’t really read anything that would change my opinion of the show. I’m firm to my belief that LB is not that good. You’re firm on LB being good. That’s all right. I don’t try to be superior so maybe you’re just reading too much into it. I counter argue everything you express as your opinion and I am sorry if I take it too far. I guess, this is also why I don’t try to be active as much in other blogs or forums. Peace.

  5. Well I loved episode 11 in little busters second season. It just made me cry. Kyousuke had planned all this from the very begining only to make Riki and Rin strong;-(. That was awesome. He’s super as an elder bro…:-D. His voice actor Hikaru midorikawa was filled in emotions too. After reading this you can say I have a little bit of crush on Kyousuke Natsume:-P

Thoughts~

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