Little Busters! – 03

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Three episodes in Little Busters! seems incapable of being less than likeable, but this week’s episode had something of the feel of a placeholder.

Little Busters - 03 - Large 01I suppose it’s unavoidable to compare LB to its predecessors in adaptation from Key, especially Kanon (which I loved) and Clannad (which I liked).  I’ve mentioned it before but in a funny way, LB has the feeling of being the earlier work even though it was written afterwards – it’s much more innocent in tone, and frankly a little less sophisticated in narrative structure (though perhaps that’s more the result of how it’s being adapted).  For me Kanon is clearly the most mature work from a dramatic standpoint despite being first, though that’s directly linked to who the main writer was – it almost feels here as if Maeda Jun made an intentional choice to step back from the heavy tone of Clannad and create something more simple and direct.

Little Busters - 03 - Large 02The result of all this for now is that the anime version of LB – whether it be the product of Maeda-san’s writing or that of the adaptation – thus far lacks something of the narrative flow you’d expect to see from an anime after three episodes.  More than any other Key adaptation LB so far feels like the VN it is, and sometimes that’s charming – but there’s a reason anime are different from VNs, and this one feels a bit adrift to me at the moment.  Routes are being introduced and checked off dutifully, plot points are being foreshadowed (though less so this week than last) and the comedic patterns laid out in the premiere are being followed predictably.  It’s a pleasant world to inhabit, but it all seems a bit dutiful at the minute.

Little Busters - 03 - Large 03This episode saw the introduction of two more heroines, genki girl Saigusa Haruka (Suzuki Keiko) and seemingly the more important, Kurugaya Yuiko (Tanaka Ryouko).  While Haruka’s interaction with Riki is strictly comedic this week, Kurugaya is a more interesting addition and seems likely to impact the story more directly.  A bit of an ojou-sama in temperament, she seems much older though is apparently in Riki’s class – and speaks openly about the elephant in the room, that Riki is effectively a moe main character.  One might almost be tempted to call Kurugaya a Mary Sue as she’s physically invincible and among the top 10 in the nation in test scores, but she redeems that by being a bit of delinquent – she rarely shows up for class, carries a katana (perhaps hoping one day to waitress in Hokaido) and has an odd and perhaps the most edgy sense of humor in the cast.  I didn’t find the broken chair gag especially funny (I don’t know why anyone would laugh at that joke in this day and age) but her interactions with Riki are interesting.  She’s somewhat mean towards him, but there’s a sense that there’s no malice behind it – that there’s an underlying core of affection that goes beyond her admitted predisposition towards cute things.

Little Busters - 03 - Large 04I continue to get most of the biggest laughs from Masato, though his humor is definitely of the lowbrow (and repetitive) variety.  I mentioned last week that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed the ep as much as I did, and that applies to Masato in  a way as well – I mean, he’s hardly an original creation and his role as the comedic schlemiel of the Little Busters is strictly vaudeville.  But it works for me, because he has the feckless sincerity that makes him likeable and because the underrated Canna Nobutoshi is doing a nice job with the role.  Mangled wordplay and pratfalls aren’t exactly the stuff of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, I admit, but what makes us laugh makes us laugh.

Little Busters - 03 - Large 05I’m still undecided about where the big picture for Little Busters! is headed.  Is this really a kinder and gentler Maeda Jun, or simply a more elaborately staged calm before the storm?  We all know that even the most dramatic Key works start slowly, and “marathon, not a sprint” definitely applies.  But even so, I’m ready for things to go to the next level and for the anime to start acting more like an anime and less like a VN.  It’s not as though I can simply press on in one sitting until things heat up here – I have to wait a week after every 22 minutes.  One could speculate that because this is a J.C. Staff team of less renowned talent than the KyoAni staff who worked on the likes of Clannad and Kanon they’re being too reverent and faithful in adaptation to avoid giving offense, or even that Key and Maeda have too much influence creatively for the same reason – but it’s too early to reach that conclusion yet.

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  1. D

    With all due respect for LB and SAO fans (including Enzo) out there: I, unfortunately, find these two shows way too immature. Ditto for Chuunibyou.

    Probably it's the simplistic/recycled moe new-girl-of-the-week setup and gags (seriously how many times do I need to give a pity chuckle at not-that-funny fight scene with baka-kun getting silly props?). Also similar to the reason why I never could stand watching Clannad, these particular character designs plus all tired tropes just leave me cold. I understand LB is an old source (similar to SAO), so many shows could've easily copied this, but at the end now that I've seen LB for 3 episodes, this isn't clearly not for me and it gives out too much puerile vibes, so dropped it has.

    I'd just go back to watching Jormungand, SSY, PP, Btooom, CB, Tonari, Zetsuen, and Sukitte plus Uchuu Kyoudai and polar bear cafe. Man, there are so many now that I've listed them.

  2. D

    well I didn't mean to put a double negative on "this isn't clearly for me" up there. Ah ha ha ha.

  3. J

    I'm in that same boat Doddle, though clearly I'm not watching as many shows as you are ^^'

  4. G

    I gotta agree with you there. I've never been a fan of Key's work to be honest. The character design is definitely part of it, but I just don't connect with the story, the drama or the humor.

  5. L

    I concur with the sentiments regarding Key works. I have never understood why they were considered the Holy Grail of source material. Works to be given the highest production values (Kyoto Animation) above everything else.

  6. S

    You could say the same thing about a lot of celebrated material. Generally speaking though – KyoAni was never in the right mind to tackle something a big and ambitious as Clannad.

    Thankfully the heavens opened up and gifted us JC Staff this time.

  7. K

    I must be about the only person that really isn't seeing that much of a difference between say early Clannad vs early LB episodes in terms of IMO teeth grindlngly unfunny slapstick and repetitive comedy. I mean I guess taking away the Kyoani factor and their glitzy over the top animation flourishes was all it took to get people to see KEY comedy a little more the way I see it, but it's kind of telling that it's happening now and not earlier. Truthfully probably the biggest barrier between me and Key adaptations is that in order to get to the drama that I find can be pretty decent at times albeit overwrought I'd have to typically endure almost a full cour of "comedy bits" that I find all but insufferable. I've always questioned why this approach, maybe the comedy works better for the target audience in Japan I don't know, but I couldn't make it through more than an episode of this and to be honest when Clannad aired and I was experimenting with it to see what all the hype was about I did tend to opt for 2x speed through a lot of the early episodes.

    One area where we definitely seem to differ is I absolutely cannot stand the main characters dumb ass friend who acts as a punching bag for the shows female cast trope. I couldn't tolerate it when it was Sunohara in Clannad (one of the most loathsome just flat out irrating anime characters I have ever encountered if I'm being honest) and I didn't have a much easier time with Masato even though I find him a lot less annoying than Sunohara in general. These characters are probably the most off putting for me in the Key adaptations because they're just doomed to play this same old schtick and barely function as actual characters and again just annoy me to no end.

  8. D

    While I'm not all hot for some of the cast (komari), the characters in LB feel far more authentic and interesting than the Clannad ones. Air and Kanon benefited from an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue and a fairly dynamic casts. I feel similar (and better) things from LB.

    Just enjoy the moment Enzo, you know shit will hit the fan sooner or later.

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